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Kerala: Migrant workers attack police, set vans ablaze after Christmas party turns violent, 24 arrested

The labourers first clashed among themselves around midnight after a Christmas party turned violent at the Kitex Garments workers’ camp in Kizhakkambalam, police said.

Kerala police have arrested 24 migrant workers on Sunday, December 26, after several clashed and pelted stones at the police, set police vans ablaze as the police attempted to quell a riot among the workers during Christmas celebrations on Saturday, December 25. The incident took place at the labour camp of Kitex garments located in the Kizhakkambalam area in Kochi, Kerala.

Earlier in the day, the police had detained 150-odd migrant labourers to identify who amongst them attacked officers and torched police vehicles on the night of the incident.

Police sources said that at least five policemen including Kunnathunaadu CI VT Shajan sustained injuries in the incident of stone pelting. Initially, clashes broke out between the migrant labourers, who were in an inebriated state, over the conduct of a Christmas Carol in the area. The police, who went there to gain control of the situation, fell prey to the wrath of these labourers, who eventually started pelting stones and assaulting the police team with sticks and batons. The labourers also hurled stones at the locals who reached the spot.

Video clips emerged showing a mob smashing police vehicles. Some of the workers allegedly tried to lock the doors of a patrol car before setting fire to it, but the policemen inside managed to escape. The patrol car was destroyed.

According to the police, the rioting lasted several hours, with many of the employees flinging stones from inside their camps. The situation was eventually brought under control by a heavy number of riot police. 151 migrant workers were apprehended after six hours of violence.

According to police, the conflicts erupted after the labourers became drunk and got into a verbal brawl. To deal with the crisis, about 500 police officers led by Aluva Rural SP Karthik arrived on the scene. The accused were arrested by around 4 in the morning.

The labourers are among the 3,000 workers of Kitex Garments, one of the top exporters of Kochi, Kerala, who reside in camps surrounding the factory.

Speaking about the incident, labour minister V. Sivankutty told the media, “Two police vans have been completely damaged (one of them burnt), 151 workers have been taken into custody and 10 policemen have been injured in the incident.”

“Preliminary reports suggest the incident happened during Christmas celebrations,” he added.

Sabu M Jacob, the managing director of Kitex Garments, agreed that the workers were under the influence of drugs, but said that they may have done so inadvertently.

“I feel someone delivered the drugs to them. Perhaps they consumed it inadvertently. They did this (rioting) under the influence of drugs.

I doubt they would even remember what they did if you ask them now. It’s an unexpected incident and not a planned criminal attack,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Congress and the CPI(M) party in the state blamed Kitex for the violence. Local CPI(M) legislator P V Sreenijin said the company management cannot evade responsibility for the incident.

Congress’ Lok Sabha member Benny Behanan described the rioters as “goons” nurtured by Twenty20, a Kitex-sponsored political party that runs the Kizhakkambalam panchayat.

Twenty20 began as a non-profit organisation in 2013 and was transformed into a political party two years later by Kitex Garments and its sister company, Anna Aluminium. It then swept 17 of the 19 seats in the local panchayat election. Twenty20 retained Kizhakkambalam and won three neighbouring panchayats in December of last year.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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