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Four CPM Men Arrested for Blocking Houseboat of Nobel Laureate in Kerala Backwaters During Bharat Bandh

The four are said to members of the ruling CPI(M)'s union outfit CITU, one of the 10 trade unions, which were on strike.

PTI

Updated:January 9, 2020, 3:38 PM IST
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Four CPM Men Arrested for Blocking Houseboat of Nobel Laureate in Kerala Backwaters During Bharat Bandh
Nobel laureate Michael Levitt. (Image: News18)

Alappuzha (Kerala): Four workers of CITU, the ruling CPI(M)'s union outfit, were arrested on Thursday for blocking the houseboat carrying Nobel laureate Michael Levitt in the backwaters here during the nation-wide strike against the Centre's "anti-labour" policies.

The arrests of CPM Block secretary Jolly; former secretary Sabu; Sudheer, a convenor of KSKTU that is an organisation of agricultural workers affiliated to CPM ; and a local CITU leader identified as Aji Kumar, were made on Thursday morning, police said.

CPM district secretary R Nasar also apologised after the arrest of the four. "Disciplinary action will be taken as early as possible as it involves branch secretary of the party too," he said.

Levitt, who won the Nobel Prize in 2013 for Chemistry, was taking a houseboat ride across the scenic backwaters in Alappuzha when the four protesters stopped the boat near Kainakary here for nearly two hours.

"Kerala is beautiful. Backwaters are wonderful and the people are very good," he said on Thursday morning adding he had no issues with regard to Wednesday's incident when his boat was blocked by protesters.

However, in an email sent to his tour agent on Wednesday, Levitt had said "Being stopped by criminals on the backwaters sends a very bad message to tourists. It is as if a bandit stopped us at gun point and delayed us under threat of force for one hour."

He had also stated that the person who blocked them "ignored all arguments that tourists were exempted" from the strike.

"This person, who did this ignored all arguments that tourists were exempted and that I am a VIP guest of the Kerala government. He is obviously acting knowing that he is safe from prosecution. Sadly this makes me fear that India is sinking into lawlessness," he added.

Meanwhile, the Kottayam Collector said he had met the Nobel laureate when he reached Kumarakom in the morning after their boat cruise.

"The state government has expressed its grief and concern in the matter. We have also informed Levitt that the government has taken the matter seriously," Kottayam Collector PK Sudheer Babu said.

Earlier, tourism minister Kadakampilly Surendran had said strong action would be taken against anti-social elements who blocked the boat. "Levitt was here as a state government guest. We will also look into whether there were any lapses in providing security to him," he had said.

Ten trade unions, including INTUC, AITUC, and CITU had called for the nationwide strike to protest against labour reforms, FDI, disinvestment, corporatisation and privatisation policies and to press for a 12-point common demands of the working class relating to minimum wage among others.

(With inputs from Chandrakanth Vishwanath)

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