Two people were taken into custody Monday over the killing of two youth congress workers in Kasaragod, as the flash hartal to protest the incident was marred by violence at many places. Two people have been taken into custody and they are being questioned, police said.
Two motorcycles, suspected to have been used by the those responsible for the attack, have been seized, they said. Describing the incident as "extremely unfortunate", Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said strong action would be taken against the accused.
The State DGP has been instructed to bring all the accused to book as early as possible, the Chief Minister's office said in a statement. DGP Loknath Behara has sought help from neighbouring Karnataka to nab the accused, who are believed to have escaped to the neighbouring state soon after the crime.
Terming the "brutal murder" as "shocking", Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the party would not rest till the murderers are brought to justice. "The brutal murder of two members of our Youth Congress family in Kasaragod, Kerala is shocking.
The Congress Party stands in solidarity with the families of these two young men & I send them my deepest condolences," Gandhi tweeted. Kripesh (24) and Sarath Lal (21) were waylaid and hacked to death at Periya in northern Kasaragod district while returning home after attending a local function Sunday night.
While opposition Congress in Kerala pointed fingers at the ruling Marxist party,state CPI(M) secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the killings cannot be justified. "There is no justification for such murders. If any local CPI(M) activists had a role in this, action will be taken against them. The party will not protect them," he said, adding that those having political conscience would not do such things.
Meanwhile, normal life was affected and incidents of violence reported from various places during the dawn-to-dusk hartal. Stones were hurled at buses and roads and National Highways blocked in several places as the hartal was called despite the Kerala High court banning such lightning protests, making it mandatory for a seven-day prior notice.
Police said two cameramen of two news channels were attacked in front of the state secretariat at Thiruvananthapuram and have been hospitalised. Protesting the attack, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists, in a statement, asked police to take action against those responsible.
Taking a serious view of the hartal, the court issued a contempt notice to Youth Congress president Dean Kuriakose, who called for the hartal, and two other local UDF leaders. The court had in January this year banned calling of hartals at the drop of a hat, making it mandatory to give seven days notice.
The hartal was called past midnight by the Youth Congress leadership through social media, hours after the two activists were hacked to death. According to the FIR, political rivalry was the cause of the murder and a three-member gang which came in a jeep was suspected to be behind the crime.
Both the slain activists suffered injuries all over the body. Sarath Lal suffered a 23 cm-deep injury on his head, the inquest report said. Relatives alleged that the CPI(M) was behind the killings and the two had received threats.
State Congress leaders, led by leader of the opposition in the assembly Ramesh Chennithala and KPCC President Mullapally Ramachandran visited the bereaved families. Former Union minister and CWC member A K Antony alleged that people of the state should give a "shock treatment" to the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF by defeating them in the coming Lok Sabha polls.
Only then would there be an end to such political violence being unleashed, allegedly by the CPI(M), he told reporters in Delhi. Chennithala alleged that the CPI(M) was trying to destroy the party using its goons.
He also alleged that the killings were a conspiracy hatched by the Marxist party as the Lok Sabha elections were around the corner. Expressing shock over the incident, former chief minister and Congress leader Oommen Chandy said the attack was "pre-planned" and there was conspiracy behind the crime.
Though the Congress and the party headed-United Democratic Front was generally against hartals, the present one was a natural response to such a cold-blooded killing, Chandy said. Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan, who hails from Kasaragod, described the killing as "gruesome." "We have lost two valuable lives...it was gruesome," he said, but parried questions on the CPI-M's alleged role in the incident.
Mullapally Ramachandran alleged that with the latest killings, 29 political murders has taken place after the Pinarayi Vijayan government, which is celebrating 1,000 days in office, came to power. Youth Congress state president Dean Kuriakose said both activists had been facing threats to their lives for some time.
He also alleged that police had ignored the complaints on the matter. The funeral of the two activists was held Monday night after hundreds of party workers bade them a tearful farewell.
The two, who were friends, belonged to poor families, and their mortal remains were consigned to flames at pyres lit adjacent to each other..