The vandalism that occurred at iPhone manufacturer Wistron's facility in Karnataka Kolar last week has been traced to the Students' Federation of India (SFI), an affiliate of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the police have arrested local SFI activist. 

Kolar Rural Police on Thursday formally arrested SFI's Kolar taluk president Srikanth for allegedly instigating and the employees of Wistron, who were angry over non-payment of salaries, for the attck. Srikanth was detained earlier on Wednesday by the police. 

Why SFI taluk president held?

The Kolar Rural Police officials, who are investigating the case, said Srikanth mobilised the employees, instigated them for protest and brought outsiders into the Wistron factory for the protest which turned violent. 

Disgruntled over non-payment of salaries and payment of overtime work, employees of Wistron had approached Srikanth, seeking help to organise a protest. Srikanth curated a WhatsApp message that was circulated among the employees, according to local reports.

The police also said Srikanth and several other SFI activists allegedly entered the premises of Wistron on the morning of December 12 and were involved in organised violence and vandalism. 

What happened on Dec 12?

On the morning of December 12, over 1,000 employees gathered outside the manufacturing unit of Wistron Pvt Ltd, a Taiwanese firm contracted by Apple for making iPhones in Karnataka's Kolar district, demanding outstanding salaries and overtime payment. 

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First, they met the HR Department and senior officials of the company with their demands. They staged a protest after the talks with the management failed and started pelting stones at the building, ransacking furniture and torching cars at the premises. 

Over 150 people including employees and SFI workers have been arrested for the rioting. The police have registered an FIR against 7,000 unknown people, including 2,000 contract workers of the company. In the FIR, the company said it suffered losses and damages worth over Rs 437 crore. 

What is SFI?

Students' Federation of India is the student wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) that is active on many campuses. SFI has won many elections of students' unions in several universities across the country. SFI's Aishe Ghosh is the current president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU) and another student leader Abhishek Nandan is currently the president of Hyderabad University Students' Union. 


In a Facebook post on Wednesday, SFI said Srikanth had nothing to do with the violence and was arrested based on "a politically motivated charge by Kolar BJP MP Muniswamy."

"Although the Wistron incident and student organization had nothing to do with it (the violence), student leader Srikanth has been arrested on a politically motivated charge by Kolar BJP MP Muniswamy, who is protecting the interests of capitalists. This was done to conceal the heinous violation of workers' laws in the company of Wistron. The release of student leader Srikanth will be heard soon," it said.

History of violence

This is the first time that the SFI has been accused of indulging in violence. In July last year, Kerala Police arrested at least four SFI activists in connection with the near-fatal knife attack on a student and fellow party member Akhil at University College in Thiruvananthapuram. In the same college earlier this year, a third-year student was stabbed in the scuffle which broke out after student union leaders disapproved of students singing in the canteen.

Earlier this year, A student of Cochin University of Science and Technology was attacked by two SFI activists. The police had filed an attempt to murder case against them.