After Arnab Goswami, Pinarayi Vijayan becomes the next in-flight target of maverick protesters

Pinarayi Vijayan
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. PHOTO: Manorama

The only incident that can even remotely compare to what the two Youth Congress workers did inside a flight carrying Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday is stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra's attempt to shame journalist Arnab Goswami in a flight on January 28, 2020.

The most obvious similarity is the domestic airline involved: IndiGo. The other is that before they boarded the plane neither Kamra nor the two Youth Congress workers, though one was wearing a black shirt, aroused any serious suspicion of the trouble they could create inside the flight.

The black shirt had indeed prompted the policemen to block one of the Youth Congress workers but he said they were flying to meet a relative at the Regional Cancer Centre in Thiruvananthapuram and so was humanely cleared.

Most importantly, both were trying to embarrass high profile personalities. If Kamra's target was journalist Arnab Goswami, the Youth Congress members were after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Kamra, it is said, was angry at what he perceived as the insensitive manner in which Goswami referred to Rohith Vemula, the PhD scholar of Hyderabad University who committed suicide in 2016, in his television debates.

The Youth Congress leaders, Mattannur block president Fardeen and Kannur Youth Congress district secretary Nivin Kumar, were after the Chief Minister demanding his resignation.

Otherwise, the styles of Kamra and the Youth Congress workers differed. Kamra had begun to disturb Goswami even before take off. The Youth Congress workers began their slogan-shouting only after the plane landed in Thiruvananthapuram.

Whenever the seat belt restrictions were off, including before take off, Kamra came over to Goswami's seat and taunted him. Goswami kept ignoring him. Finally, Kamra could make his now famous video when the plane was on air.

"Here I'm asking coward Arnab Goswami questions about his journalism and he is doing exactly what I expected him to do. He's being a coward," Kamra is heard saying. "He's not answering my questions, viewers. Viewers today want to know if Arnab is a coward or a nationalist," Kamra says.

He provokes him without let. "Are you a coward or are you a journalist," Kamra keeps repeating. All this while, Arnab sits quietly in his dark sunglasses and earplugs, staring down at what looks like a mobile or a laptop, as if trying to solve some difficult puzzle.

Kamra tells Goswami that this is for Rohith Vemula's mother whose caste he had discussed in his show. He uses a derogatory epithet for Goswami's show, saying he was ready to go to jail for using the word. He asks him to go and read the 10-page suicide note that Rohith had written so that he becomes someone with a heart.

The two Youth Congress men could not get anywhere near the Chief Minister. It is not even sure whether they even got to see the Chief Minister. The video that has now gone viral shows these two men walking down the aisle, from the front row to the back, perhaps towards where the Chief Minister was, shouting 'Chief Minister should resign' slogans.

Unlike in the case of Goswami, these two men were not met by apathy but by force. LDF convener E P Jayarajan, who was with the Chief Minister, came towards them and forcefully pushed both of them down into the seats. They did not fight back, just complained why they were being manhandled for merely raising slogans.

After he was done with shaming Goswami, Kamra had apologised to each crew member personally, and to both the pilots, for the inconvenience he had caused. He stayed till the last passenger left the plane.

Youth Congress workers attacked after raising slogans against Kerala CM in flight

Leave alone an apology, the Youth Congress members were apprehended by the CISF (Central Industrial Security Force in charge of airport security) before they could utter another word.

Goswami had then called Kamra "mentally unstable". E P Jayarajan made more serious charges against the Youth Congress workers. He said they were drunk and would have attacked the Chief Minister had he not prevented them. "They were so drunk that they could not even mouth their slogans properly," Jayarajan told reporters later.

At this point, it is not clear what action will be taken against the two Youth Congress workers. As for Kamra, IndiGo banned him for six months. IndiGo also advised passengers to refrain from indulging in personal slander whilst onboard, "as this can potentially compromise the safety of fellow passengers".

Since Goswami was known to be close to the BJP, then Union Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri asked other airlines to follow suit. "Offensive behaviour designed to provoke and create disturbance inside an aircraft is absolutely unacceptable and endangers safety of air travellers. We are left with no option but to advise other airlines to impose similar restrictions on the person concerned," the minister said.

Soon, Air India, too, suspended Kamra from flying on any Air India flight until further notice. It is now heard that the police have already slapped non-bailable sections on the two Youth Congress workers.

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