The police in Kerala arrested five people, including a former worker of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, on Saturday in connection with a shutdown in the state on April 16 against the rape and murder in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district, Mathrubhumi reported. The shutdown had led to several incidents of violence across Kerala.

The former RSS worker, 19-year-old Amarnath Baiju, was the key conspirator, according to the police. After being expelled from the RSS in 2017, the Thenmala resident had started criticising the organisation on social media and earned a significant following, Malappuram Deputy Police Superintendent Jaleel Thottathil said.

Baiju allegedly formed two WhatsApp groups – “Voice of Truth” and “Justice for Sisters” – after the Kathua rape and murder and asked people to stay away from work on April 16 in protest. Members of the Muslim outfit Popular Front of India, its political arm Social Democratic Party of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress had supported the call for the shutdown, The Hindu reported.

The police said the Social Democratic Party of India had spread the message further, but the outfit has denied the charge.

“After receiving overwhelming response to their call for a hartal [strike], the team created district-level WhatsApp groups across Kerala and launched an aggressive campaign,” Thottathil said, according to The Times of India.

As the call spread further, Baiju and his team developed cold feet and tried to alert the media, the police said.

Violence was reported from the districts of Kozhikode, Malappuram, Kannur, Kasaragode and Wayanad during the strike. The police have arrested more than a thousand people since then.

The Bharatiya Janata Party said neither the party nor the RSS had any role in the call for the shutdown, The Indian Express reported. “The political links of those arrested in the case should be looked into,” said Kerala BJP President Kummanam Rajasekharan.

Earlier, the party had blamed Muslim outfits for the call for the shutdown and had sought an inquiry by the National Investigation Agency.