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Friday, September 28, 2001

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Police storm University College

By Our Staff Reporter

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, SEPT. 27. Scores of students and policemen were injured when a large police posse stormed the University College after SFI marchers hurled country-bombs and stones at the police and CPI workers near the Government Secretariat today.

Among the injured are the CPI leader, Mr. Mangode Radhakrishnan, MLA, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, several police constables, University College Union office-bearers and SFI district leaders.

The CPI(M) has called a dawn-to-dusk hartal in the district on Friday to press for a judicial inquiry into the alleged lathi- charge on SFI activists.

As many as seven KSRTC buses, three Government vehicles, police vans and two private cars were damaged in the stone-throwing. News photographers and camera teams of the `Asianet' and the `Surya TV' were targeted by the SFI activists at the Spencer Junction. The police action inside the college came after the protesters sought refuge inside the college after unleashing violence on the streets.

Police fired tear-gas shells into the college and advanced under the cover of smoke in a pincer movement by two large squadrons of lathi-wielding Special Armed Policemen in full riot gear. The majority of those who bore the brunt of the police action were innocent students including girls who were attending classes.

Ignoring the protests of teachers, policemen barged into classes and inflicted lathi blows on students. Mr. Ashique Nishad, a Chemistry student, fractured both his legs when he jumped down from the top floor in an attempt to flee the police action. The Geography Department laboratory and the Geology library were damaged in the melee.

The chain of events started at 11.30 a.m. when SFI activists took out a march to the Secretariat to protest against `KSU aggression' in the Nilamel and Dhanuvachapuram colleges. At this time, the CPI leader, Mr. Veliyam Bhargavan, was addressing a rally against `the Central Government's neglect' of the State. The SFI workers hurled stones and sticks at a police party stationed near the Accountant General's Office gate. A chunk of the missiles fell on the CPI workers who charged the SFI march in retaliation. The police formed a human wall and prevented a street battle between SFI and CPI workers.

The retreating SFI activists stoned KSRTC buses, smashed the windscreens of Government vehicles, private cars and sought refuge inside the college from where they engaged the police in a pitched battle. The exchange of stones and sticks was followed by the hurling of three country-bombs in quick succession. One bomb was aimed at mediapersons positioned at the Spencer Junction.

Soon, a distress call came over wireless from inside the University College where eight policemen under an Assistant Sub- Inspector were stationed as per the written request of the Principal, Mr. Varghese. In a coordinated action, two police squadrons led by the AC (Cantonment), Mr. Wilson K. Joseph, and CI (Cantonment), Mr. Rajagopalan, rushed to the campus. They were soon joined by the Commissioner, Mr. Rajan Singh, and the DIG (Thiruvananthapuram Range), Mr. Hemachandran.

The CPI(M) State secretariat members, Mr. T. Sivadasa Menon and Mr. Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, and the former Mayor, Mr. V. Sivankutty, reached the college and asked the police to clear the campus.

On the request of teachers, Mr. Rajan Singh asked his men to retreat and arranged a safe-passage for students including girls who were attending classes at the time of the street violence.

When contacted, Mr. Singh said there was not a `shred of truth' in the allegation that girl students were lathi- charged. He said the police action was to arrest those who exploded the country- bombs and protect policemen who were on the campus as per the Principal's request.

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