Arrest of Kerala Youth Congress chief Rahul Mamkootathil in early-morning raid sparks protests across state

Kerala Youth Congress chief Rahul Mamkootathil was arrested for assaulting policemen and using women as a shield during a protest.

ByK A Shaji

Published Jan 09, 2024 | 9:39 PMUpdatedJan 09, 2024 | 9:39 PM

File photo of Kerala Youth Congress president Rahul Mamkootathil

The early morning arrest of Kerala Youth Congress chief Rahul Mamkootathil by the Thiruvananthapuram City Police on Tuesday, 9 January, has deepened the rift between Kerala’s ruling CPI(M) and the Congress in the Opposition.

Rahul was arrested on charges of assaulting police officers and using women activists of the Youth Congress as shields.

Rahul was arrested from his residence in the Pathanamthitta district, and was subsequently remanded in judicial custody till 22 January.

According to the remand report, Mamkootathil was arrested based on a tip-off.

Despite local Congress workers rushing to his house and protesting after learning about the development, the police removed them and took Rahul to Thiruvananthapuram.

Also read: Kerala Congress seeks ‘breach of privilege’ proceedings against police

The arrest and court proceedings

Rahul in police custody. Photo: Supplied

Rahul in police custody. Photo: Supplied

Rahul said the arrest and confinement would not deter the Youth Congress from undertaking intense struggles against the Vijayan government and the brutal police under it.

The police, meanwhile, said in the third Judicial First Class Magistrate (JMFC) Court in Thiruvananthapuram late on Tuesday evening that Rahul was arrested for attacking police with logs and sticks while taking part in an anti-Vijayan government protest organised before the state secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram in the last week of December.

After finding his health condition fine, the court remanded Rahul in judicial custody.

Earlier, the court had directed the police to present the Youth Congress leader after a detailed medical check-up.

The remand order was issued after a medical examination conducted at Thiruvananthapuram General Hospital determined that he had no serious health issues.

Earlier, Rahul told the court that he was suffering from a serious illness and that he was hospitalised before he returned home a couple of days ago.

However, the police opposed bail for Rahul, claiming that the Youth Congress state president would repeat the offence and challenge the legal system if released.

The cops said that it would send a wrong message to society if Rahul was granted immediate bail.

Rahul had been arrested during the protest in front of the state secretariat, but other Youth Congress activists forcibly extricated him from the police vehicle, the cops told the court.

Also read: Police book 3 Cong MLAs, 1 MP for laying siege to police station

The police contentions

The secretariat march was organised to highlight alleged atrocities against Youth Congress workers during the state government’s Nava Kerala Sadas programme led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

According to the police report, leaders, including Rahul, and around 300 Youth Congress workers protested in front of the secretariat with flags and wood logs in their hands, and obstructed officers from performing their duties.

The activists damaged fibre shields, helmets, and fibre lathis, police said, causing a loss of ₹50,000.

In the melee, Poojappura Police Station’s Station House Officer (SHO) Raj’s hand was fractured. Three officers of the Industrial Security Force guarding the secretariat were seriously injured.

The police also released the video of the Youth Congress activists breaking lathis and shields.

According to the remand report, the Youth Congress state president is a suspect in two additional cases that the Cantonment Police have opened.

Besides him, the police had registered a case against Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly (LoP) VD Satheesan, making him the first accused in the case of the violence during the secretariat march.

The Congress leader was charged under non-bailable sections of the IPC for allegedly attacking the police and participating in the destruction of public property during the march on 21 December.

Around 300 Youth Congress activists, including Rahul, former president Shafi Parambil (MLA), and M Vincent (MLA), have also been implicated in the incident.

Also read: Vijayan rewards Kerala cops for security during his yatra

Youth Congress protests

The early morning arrest of Rahul Mamkootathil led to massive protests across the state on Tuesday, and Congress leaders in unison warned Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan of dire consequences if he continued with what they perceived as his politics of hate and revenge.

The Youth Congress organised protests in many districts against the abrupt arrest of their newly-elected president Rahul.

Protest marches were organised in Thiruvananthapuram, Palakkad, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Kannur, Malappuram, and Alappuzha.

Congress activists clashed with the police during a march to the Palakkad Town Police Station and to the Alappuzha collectorate.

Protesters blocked the National Highway in Kollam’s Chandanathoppu and KP Road in Kayamkulam. The police arrested the activists who blocked the highway at Kannur’s Caltex Junction.

Chief Minister Vijayan was burned in effigy at Malappuram.

In a statement, the Youth Congress alleged that Rahul was present in Thiruvananthapuram for 20 days after the secretariat march. Still, the police chose to arrest him only on Tuesday morning in front of his mother.

After the police action, his mother said Rahul attended a public function even on Monday, and that this early-morning arrest from the house was a “trap”.

“The majority of the police personnel who came to the house didn’t know what was happening. Some of them just said that they had a directive from the top to arrest Rahul from home,” she later told reporters.

“Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan decided to arrest me in front of my mother, but I won’t stop my fight here,” said the Youth Congress president, sitting in the police vehicle.

Also read: Kerala Police lob teargas shells ‘unprovoked’ at Congress rally

Senior leaders weigh in

There were sharp reactions from senior party leaders, including KPCC president K Sudhakaran and Leader of the Opposition Satheesan.

In a statement, Sudhakaran said that the Congress would respond strongly to Rahul’s dramatic arrest, alleging a “clear-cut conspiracy” between the CPI(M) and the police.

Criticising the arrest, the KPCC chief said there was no need to treat the state president of the Youth Congress like a criminal by arresting him in an early-morning raid, and that he could have instead been served a notice and summoned to the police station.

Satheesan also said Rahul was neither a criminal nor an anti-national terrorist.

“The same government and police that allowed a person accused of raping and killing a six-year-old child to escape justice have arrested Rahul from his house early in the morning,” Satheesan said.

The LoP was referring to the recent acquittal of the accused in a case of rape and murder of a minor girl in Vandiperiyar in Idukki.

(With PTI inputs)