Protest march against corporate retailers turns violent in Kerala

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Marches taken out by activists of All India Youth Federation (AIYF), an affiliate of the Communist Party of India (CPI), to outlets of retail majors across the state yesterday ended in clashes with the police and destruction of property. The marches – ostensibly peaceful – were taken out to outlets of Big Bazaar, Reliance Fresh, Fabmall and Spencer’s across the state.

Big Bazaar outlet in Thiruvananthapuram has put the damage at approximately Rs 2 lakh. The agitators destroyed signage, lamps, glass panes and other fittings outside the shop.

“The march to a Big Bazaar outlet at East Fort in Thiruvananthapuram ended in a clash with the police. The shopfront was damaged in stone pelting, and two cops were injured. Police arrested 19 activists including two women activists,” a Malayala Manorama reporter who witnessed the episode told Indiaretailing.

In Thiruvananthapuram, CPI state secretary Veliyam Bhargavan, accompanied by Food Minister C Divakaran, forced the release of 19 arrested activists after threatening a sit-in at the Cantonment Police Station.

“The police arrested as many as 19 AIYF activists in connection with the violence at the Big Bazaar outlet in the city, but had to let them off after CPI state secretary Veliyam Bhargavan threatened a sit-in at the Cantonment Police Station,” the witness added.

When contacted, C Divakaran said: “The marches were against the establishment of monopolies in the retail sector. We will continue with our protests against the corporate giants who are alarming the running of small traders in the state.”

In Alappuzha, the march to the Fabmall outlet in Mullakkal turned violent. This is not the first time that the FabMall outlet is at the centre of a violent controversy. On July 11 last, a protest march by the CPI(M) against the retail network, owned by the Birla Group, had turned violent. That was a week after the supermarket had commenced operations in Alappuzha. Associations of retail merchants, too, had supported the strike then.

The AIYF march to Spencer’s in Kozhikode town also culminated in some violence. Window panes of Spencer’s and the VLCC fitness centre in the same building were shattered in stone pelting.

– Vishnu Rageev R, Bengaluru Bureau

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