Fight between Kerala Youth Congress and actor George refuses to die down

The party leaders have taken their spat with Joju George to the entire Malayalam film industry, saying they won’t allow shoots that lead to road blockade

Leading Malayalam actor Joju George has been targeted by Congress workers because he questioned their protest that blocked the Kochi-Thiruvananthapuram highway for several hours on November 1.

The Youth Congress (YC) in Kerala is apparently cutting a sorry figure as its all-out ‘war against actor Joju George’ turns counterproductive by the day. The Congress party’s youth wing trained its guns on the Malayalam actor who objected to their road blockade against fuel hike. The party workers have been interrupting film shooting schedules on the ground that shoots in public places obstructed traffic flow, apparently a response to Joju George’s objection to their road protest on the Kochi-Thiruvananthapuram highway about 10 days ago.

Though the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president and the leader of opposition in the House have said they are against targeting the film industry, the Youth Congress members seem to be in no mood to listen.

The ‘fight’ between Joju George, a leading Malayalam actor, and Youth Congress workers started when the former questioned the road blockade organised by the party on the busy Edappally-Vytilla highway, on the outskirts of Kochi, on November 1. Joju George, who was driving on the highway then, got stuck in the traffic. Irritated by the endless wait, the actor got off of his vehicle and confronted the protesters. The enraged protesters, in return, vandalised his car. News channels recorded the argument and also the attack on the actor’s car.

A total of 12 Congress men were slapped with non-bailable offences for damaging George’s Land Rover Defender SUV. In their defence, Youth Congress protesters argued that Joju was drunk. A medical examination on the actor confirmed he was not. So, no case was filed against Joju, whose complaint led to the arrest of six Congress leaders, including Tony Chammini, the former Kochi mayor.

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This incident unleashed a series of protests against Joju George with marches being taken even to the actor’s house. The protesters took the ‘fight’ to the entire Malayalam film industry. The YC declared it won’t allow film shoots in public places if they “create hurdle in people’s freedom of movement”.

Youth Congress also staged a protest in front of a movie theatre at Ernakulam where George’s new film, ‘Star’, was being screened. On Sunday (November 7) a group of Youth Congress activists marched to the shooting location of ‘Kaduva’ at Mundakkayam in Kottayam and tried to interrupt the shooting. Senior party leaders intervened and sent the protesters back, but a few of them refused to go back. The next day, another team of Youth Congress leaders marched to the location of film ‘Keedam’ and repeated the drama.

Meanwhile, efforts were made to bring about a compromise and make actor Joju withdraw a case against Youth Congress leaders, but it did not work out.

The Malayalam film industry has expressed concern over the turn of events. Many came out in support of Joju George, including directors and producers like Ashiq Abu and B Unnikrisnan. Actor turned MLA Mukesh raised a submission in the Assembly on the matter and the Chief Minister replied that Youth Congress is violating the fundamental rights as the freedom of expression and one’s right to occupation.

The Youth Congress does not seem to be in a mood to listen, not even to their own leaders. KPCC president K. Sudhakaran has asked the party men to refrain from protests against film shoots. He warned them not to target the entire film industry. However, Sudhakaran did not ask them to stop going after George.

N.S. Nusoor, the state vice-president of Youth Congress, declared on Facebook that the party’s protest against film shoots in public places and actor George would continue.

Also read: ‘How can highways be perpetually blocked?’: SC on farmers’ stir

The Mahila Congress also played its part. The women workers took a ‘police Station march’ in Ernakulam on Wednesday (November 10) for not lodging an FIR against Joju. A Mahila Congress activist had lodged a complaint saying Joju ‘misbehaved and abused women verbally’ during the road blockade in Kochi. However, the entire drama was captured in videos and police found no evidence to prove Mahila Congress workers’ claim.

Social media was awash with trolls against the Congress. Some of the trolls said the actor should immediately ‘reduce petrol prices,’ an apparent take on the Congress braking up the wrong tree.

However, not all of Youth Congress’ efforts to implicate George have gone in vain. The Motor Vehicle Department has registered a case against the actor for replacing the high security number plate (HSRP) on his car with a fancy one.

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