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Kerala: 4 held for blocking Nobel laureate's houseboat

Source: PTI
January 09, 2020 16:35 IST

IMAGE: Michael Levitt, who won the Nobel prize in 2013 for Chemistry, was taking a houseboat ride across the backwaters in Alappuzha when four protesters stopped the boat near Kainakary for nearly two hours. Photograph: Stephen Lam/Reuters

Four people were arrested on Thursday for blocking the houseboat carrying Nobel laureate Michael Levitt in the backwaters in Alappuzha during the nation-wide strike against the Centre's 'anti-labour' policies.

The arrests were made on Thursday morning, police said.

The four are said to be belonging to the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist's union outfit -- Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), one of the 10 trade unions, which were on strike on Wednesday.

 

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 in Alappuzha 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 P K Sudheer Babu told PTI.

The Alappuzha police chief told PTI that four people have been arrested in the case and charged for obstructing a public way or line of navigation.

"We have arrested four persons in this matter. A case has been registered them," K M Tomy said.

The accused have been charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including causing obstruction in public way and wrongful confinement.

10 trade unions, including Indian National Trade Union Congress, All India Trade Union Congress, and CITU had called for the nationwide strike to protest against labour reforms, foreign direct investment, disinvestment, corporatisation and privatisation policies and to press for a 12-point common demands of the working class relating to minimum wage among others.

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