Congress and BJP continued their protests seeking the resignation of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan over the allegations made by Swapna Suresh, a key accused in the gold-smuggling through diplomatic bags case, by waving black flags at him in various parts of Malappuram and Kozhikode districts of the State.
While the police had put in place elaborate security measures, including ensuring no one wears black masks or clothes to the Chief Minister’s functions in the two districts, TV channels showed visuals of protestors in small numbers waving black flags at Vijayan’s cavalcade at some places as he sped from one location to another.
TV channels showed also members of the public, who had gone to attend an event in Kozhikode where the Chief Minister would be present, being asked by the police to remove their black masks and wear the yellow ones provided by the agency.
When asked why such elaborate security arrangements for the Chief Minister and why a prohibition on black apparel, LDF convener E P Jayarajan, while speaking to reporters, asked ”why the insistence on wearing black masks or shirts?” ”Were you wearing black masks till now? Shouldn’t a Chief Minister have proper security, especially when people are walking around with sticks and swords” were his response?
He said that during the UDF regime, then Chief Minister Oommen Chandy did not require such elaborate security as they knew LDF would not resort to violence.
Chandy, on the other hand, said there was no elaborate security for him when he was Chief Minister and also faced stone-pelting.
”In a democracy, people have the right to protest. It is not appropriate in a democracy to say black flags or apparel or masks cannot be shown to a Chief Minister,” he added.
State Minister of Local Self-government M V Govindan said while ”there was no problem with wearing black masks, it was being used as a mode of protest.” However, Leader of Opposition in the State assembly V D Satheesan said in a tweet that the Chief Minister should approach a court instead of inconveniencing citizens by stopping pedestrians and vehicles and banning black masks and dresses.
”Black dress, masks are banned. Pedestrians and vehicles are stopped. All in the name of security for @CMOKerala. Fearful of further damage in the dollar, gold case Kerala government is acting ridiculously, why don’t you approach a court CM, instead of inconveniencing citizens,” Satheesan tweeted.
Later, while speaking to the media at Kochi, he said the Chief Minister appears to be scared of the color black.
He said it would be good for the public and Vijayan if he stays at home and does not step outside.
As part of the security arrangements, police used also water cannons, barricades, and a large number of its personnel to prevent Youth Congress and Youth League workers from coming anywhere near the Chief Minister’s cavalcade and raising black flags at him when he went to inaugurate the Tavanur Central Jail in Malappuram.
Several of the protestors were later seen on TV being bundled onto a police bus as they raised slogans against the Chief Minister.
Later in the afternoon, Youth Congress workers wearing black shirts disregarded the heavy rains and took out a protest march in Kannur, where the Chief Minister is expected to reach from Kozhikode, seeking his resignation.
On Saturday, both BJP and Congress waved black flags at Vijayan in the districts of Kottayam and Ernakulam where he had gone to attend a few public events.
Amidst Opposition parties’ clamor for his resignation in the wake of fresh revelations against him in the gold-smuggling case, Vijayan on Saturday hit back at detractors at an event in Kottayam, saying the allegations were not going to affect him nor his government in any way and that they still enjoy the complete support and confidence of the people of the State.
Without mentioning the recent disclosure of the gold-smuggling case key accused Swapna Suresh against him and his family, Vijayan said there was a flood of similar allegations against his government before the State election but the people rejected the charges and gave the mandate to rule the State again with 99 seats.
The Chief Minister also did not hide his displeasure with the media for giving so much importance to news related to the statements of the gold-smuggling case accused.
Triggering a political storm in the State, Suresh, earlier this week, claimed that she disclosed before the court — in her statement under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code — the other people allegedly involved in the smuggling cases and their ”degrees of involvement.” She said she had given statements against the Chief Minister, his family, former Kerala Minister K T Jaleel, and some other top bureaucrats.
Suresh, a former employee of the UAE Consulate here, was taken into custody by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) along with another accused Sandeep Nair from Bengaluru on July 11, 2020.
The NIA, Enforcement Directorate (ED), and Customs conducted separate probes into the racket that was busted with the seizure of gold worth Rs 15 crore from the diplomatic baggage of the UAE Consulate at Thiruvananthapuram airport on July 5, 2020.
Several people, including M Sivasankar, the former Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, and another ex-employee of the UAE Consulate here – Sarith – were arrested in connection with the case.