People clash with police, protest turns voilent

It was February 13 all over again at Vilappilsala junction on Friday morning. Echoes of that day’s standoff with the police and with the Corporation of the capital city were very much in the air as the local people started gearing up to stop in its tracks the power of the State.

Even small children carrying flowers for the policemen could be heard saying that not even one grain of garbage from Thiruvananthapuram would make it past them to the corporation’s solid waste treatment facility, seen by the people here as a 11-year-old nightmare.

Imparting a certain ‘religious’ edge to Friday’s protest were rows of earthen pots lined up in front of the Sreekanda Sastha Temple at the Vilappilsala junction. “Women are going to offer ‘Pongala’ to the presiding deity of the temple to seek divine assistance for the protest,” the public system repeatedly announced. The clock was still a few minutes shy of 7 a.m. and there was almost an air of festivity.

By 7 a.m. when the ‘police line’ took shape, the numbers of the protestors also swelled. Shortly afterwards there was a brief hubbub when someone shouted out through the public address system that police personnel had entered the temple. Perhaps, it was then that the tone of the protest became strident.

The arrival of Deputy Speaker N. Shakthan was a shot in the arm for the protestors. In deference to the prohibitory orders, Mr. Shakthan did not make a public speech. He, however, said he was with the local people.

In a scathing criticism of the Corporation, Mr. Shakthan said the civic body treated the solid waste treatment plant here as the “goose that lays the golden egg.” “If an inquiry is conducted, it will become clear why they want to continue running the plant,” he said.

Mr. Shakthan also went into a huddle with the rural SP A.J. Thomas Kutty and the P.K. Girija, the ADM holding charge as District Collector, to discuss the upcoming police action. Despite repeated avowals of the Samithi leaders that Friday’s protest would be peaceful, things took a violent turn the minute women police personnel moved in to arrest women protestors.

As the protestors moved backwards leading the police forward , some persons suddenly threw pots high in the air causing their scalding contents to come splashing down on two women sub-inspectors. Other women police personnel rushed to empty bottles of drinking water on the neck and chest of one policewoman as she gritted her teeth in the pain.

The protestors had ample time to get bonfires going on the road as the police water cannon truck got stuck in the gridlock of police vehicles in the ground. By the time the truck sped forward, three bonfires were raging on the road. Soon after this, it became clear that the police did not intend to use any further force on the protestors who by then had declared a ‘lunch break’.

Even as she ordered the pull back of the police, Ms. Girija was at pains to point out that the government had not issued any directive on this count. As the corporation truck quickly made its way back to the city, it was time for the people here to celebrate yet another victory.