A minor fire in the Kerala Secretariat's General Administration Department (Political) on August 24 has created a major political controversy in the state, with the opposition Congress demanding a National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe into the incident, according to reports.
Both Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have alleged that the fire was a deliberate bid to destroy files related to the gold smuggling case.
The Opposition has been attacking the Left-led Kerala government over the seizure of around 30 kg of gold smuggled in a diplomatic baggage addressed to the UAE consulate. The NIA, customs and the Enforcement Directorate are probing the case.
BJP state president K Surendran had reached the secretariat along with other workers and demanded that they be allowed inside.
"Many important files were destroyed. Many files related to the gold smuggling case have been destroyed, as also those related to VVIP designation. We have decided to observe a black day on Wednesday and demand an NIA probe into the matter," Leader of Opposition (LoP) in Assembly Ramesh Chennithala said.
Youth Congress activists and Yuva Morcha workers also organised protest marches to the secretariat which turned violent with police using water cannons to disperse them. The activists burnt tyres and effigy of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in front of the secretariat.
On its part, the state government has alleged that the fire was in fact the handiwork of opposition parties. It has also appointed an expert panel to look into the incident and asked it to submit the report within a week, while the crime branch will also probe the matter.
"A special team headed by Disaster Management Commissioner Kaushik has been appointed to probe the technical reason behind the fire that broke out in the secretariat, and to file the report within a week," the chief secretary's office said in a release.
"Both Congress and BJP have planned to unleash violence at the state secretariat. That the leaders have come to the secretariat with a mob shows that they had prior knowledge about the fire," Industries Minister E P Jayarajan said.