Kochi: Hugely outnumbered and blinded by pitch darkness, police officers who responded first to the call by the security personnel of Kitex Group were taken by surprise when the clashing workers turned their ire on them.
Stones rained through the darkness, even as rioters surrounded the officers. Several officers fell injured after being hit on their head and hands, recalled V T Shajan, inspector of Kunnathunad police. Shajan himself suffered serious injuries.
The police team that reached first did not anticipate such a development and hence were without riot shields, which could have protected them from the stones, he said.
Even as some of the officers fell bleeding, others who were in the vehicle were prevented from rushing to their aid. Around 40 workers surrounded the vehicle, and forcefully kept its doors closed. They shattered the windshields using sticks and stones and assaulted the officers inside the vehicle.
While some of the workers stood atop the vehicle, a few others recorded the scenes on their mobile phones, Shajan recalled.
Those in the police vehicle managed to kick open the doors and alight, but they were surrounded and assaulted.
"At one point, I felt the workers would set the vehicle ablaze with the policemen inside. They hit the officers, including the sub-inspector, on their heads with big stones. The mob attacked the injured officers even after they had fallen," the inspector said.
The security personnel at Kitex had sought police help after two groups of workers clashed past midnight. The clashes broke out when a group of workers objected to the disturbance caused by the Christmas celebrations of the other group.
A vehicle from the police control room was the first to reach the scene around 11 pm on Saturday. On being informed that the team was under attack, a skeleton team of officers from Kunnathunad police station rushed to the scene in front of Kitex. Several police officers were on Christmas holiday when the incident occurred.
On seeing the law enforcers, the clashing groups joined hands and attacked the police. The vehicle was set ablaze minutes after the officers had fled. The rioters did not spare even the local residents who were recording the incidents on their mobile phones. Residents in the locality were also pelted with stones.
Realising that the situation had spun out of control, about 300 policemen under rural police superintendent rushed in. By 5 am, more personnel arrived from the police camp, and the rioters were ordered to surrender.
Rejecting the order, the workers returned into the quarters, and the police followed.
Those who attempted a second assault on the cops were dealt with force, pushing the workers to go on the defensive. Some fled the scene. Police detained others from their rooms and shifted to the vehicles. The violence that broke out by midnight was quelled after six hours.
Police association blames employer
Thiruvananthapuram: Strongly condemning the "first-ever organised" assault on police in the State, the Kerala Police Officers' Association demanded to know what had encouraged migrant labourers to target the police.
Police went to the scene after local residents reported the clash in the labour camp. The police personnel were attacked and two vehicles destroyed. The employer cannot wash his hands of the incident, the association's state general secretary C R Biju said.
Incident being politicised: Kitex MD
Reiterating that the lawbreakers would not be protected, Kitex MD Sabu M Jacob said the unexpected incident was being politicised by those who have been incessantly trying to get the company down its shutters.
He claimed that the company authorities themselves identified the main culprit in the arson by checking CCTV visuals and handed him over to the police.
Jacob said about 40 guest workers were behind the incident. A section of workers questioned a group that sang carols around 9 pm, which led to a clash. The workers targeted the security personnel and supervisors who tried to intervene, and the incident was immediately reported to the police.
Police were attacked when they arrived at the scene. Jacob expressed suspicion that the workers were under the influence of narcotic drugs.
He clarified that a police verification certificate was necessary for guest workers, and the firm has been submitting their details to the Kunnathunad police.
He complained that even the MLA representing Kunnathunad has been talking provocatively over the incident.