The police are concerned about mischief mongers who mingle with the crowd of students
The recent agitations unleashed by students of various colleges in Madurai and the suburbs not only displayed their concern for the Sri Lankan Tamils, but also tested the patience of the police.
Considering the political stand of the State government and the emotional nature of the Sri Lankan issue, it was for the first time that the city police allowed the agitators to take out processions through the Albert Victor Bridge and the Kalpalam.
"Even political parties and trade unions are not permitted to take out processions on these routes. But we respected the sentiments of students and allowed them to take out processions on these two bridges, the lifeline of city traffic," a police officer said.
He recalled that in recent years, even the processions for Thevar Guru puja were allowed through the causeways and vehicular traffic was permitted through the Goripalayam junction to minimise inconvenience to the public. Sufficient police had to be deployed on the procession route to protect Central government offices and banks during the recent agitations.
The police allowed the agitators to take their time to pass through arterial roads. The processions that moved at a snail’s pace took almost three hours to cross around 5 km under a scorching sun.
Though no major incident has been reported so far, the police are concerned about mischief mongers who attempt to create trouble by mingling with the mass of students.
The police officials had been instructed to keep a vigil in this regard, Commissioner of Police Sanjay Mathur said.
On the first day, the police were shocked to find a bottle of petrol in the hands of a youth who was walking among students in what was supposed to be a peaceful procession.
Only the previous day a youth had committed suicide. When the police tried to snatch the bottle, he set himself afire in the middle of the road. "Many students, including girls, ran helter skelter on seeing the sudden ball of fire. We were more worried about the life and limbs of innocent students in the procession," Assistant Commissioner of Police A. Ganesan said.
The police have the responsibility of protecting the life of every citizen, as well as public property, and to regulate traffic and maintain law and order.
"We are not bothered about walking under a hot sun, but when the students are adamant to take a route that is not permitted, we are worried. Despite allowing them on the route of their choice, they tend to deviate further and also block the traffic on the other side too," another officer complained.
Though the Tamil Nadu Special Police and Armed Reserve police personnel were present with anti-riot gear, they showed utmost tolerance when abused by a section of students, the officer added.