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Strike brings Kerala to a halt

Kozhikode, May 3: The general strike called by Hindutva organisations in protest against last night’s communal violence in the Marad beach area in Kozhikode brought life to a halt throughout Kerala today.

All government and private institutions remained closed while cars and other vehicles stayed off the roads.

The strike — called by Sangh parivar organisations, including the BJP, the RSS and the VHP — was generally peaceful barring stray incidents of stone-throwing by Hindutva activists.

Marad was calm but the atmosphere in and around the beach continued to be tense.

A heavy police contingent has been deployed there and in nearby areas like Beypore.

The death toll in last night’s violence rose to nine with the discovery of one more body this morning.

The condition of three injured persons at the Kozhikode Medical College Hospital is said to be “critical”. Eleven people with serious injuries were admitted to the hospital last night.

Over 60 people have been taken into custody so far in connection with the violence that broke out around 7 last evening. Most of them were picked up from a mosque in Marad.

The police say they are yet to gather definite clues as to who engineered the violence or what was the immediate provocation for it. According to them, the violence was probably provoked by past rivalries.

Marad is one of the most communally sensitive regions in Kerala, though the state has little history of communal riots. The region had witnessed communal violence in January 2002 that resulted in the death of five persons and widespread loss of property. More than a 100 houses were torched during that violence.

This time, four state ministers are camping in Kozhikode to monitor the situation. Chief minister A.K. Antony is expected to visit Marad tomorrow.

District officials said a new peace committee would be formed with representatives of all communities and socio-political organisations to bring back harmony in the region. A peace committee had been formed in the region after last year’s riots.

By all indications, last night’s violence was the handiwork of certain sections that refused to abide by the decisions of the peace committee.

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