An hour-long stand-off between the police and Communist Party of India (Marxist) workers at a Municipal ground in Jagathy on Saturday seemed to have set the tone for the Opposition’s indefinite siege of the Secretariat scheduled to begin on Monday.
The much televised altercation occurred when the police asked the organisers of the community kitchen if they had authorisation from the Municipality to appropriate public space for a political purpose. The police also objected to the temporary constructions there and asked whether the organisers had taken any fire safety precautions.
The CPI(M) workers produced a photostat copy of an authorisation they had received from the Municipal authorities. They took umbrage when the police asked for the original. The former Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac questioned the police about their intentions. He said the police action seemed strange and aimed at stifling the democratic right of the Opposition to protest peacefully. He declared that no policeman would be allowed into the community kitchen.
The television flash news of the incident prompted scores of CPI(M) workers from across the city to congregate at Jagathy. Soon, the police withdrew to prevent any further escalation of the situation.
The CPI(M) has made elaborate arrangements to provide food and boarding to their cadres, expected to be an estimated one lakh from across the State. The CPI(M) units in Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam would sending three members from each of its branches for the indefinite stir. The number of CPI(M) activists from these districts alone would be an estimated 25,000.
The CPI(M) units in other districts would send two members each from every branch. Office-bearers of the Vanchiyoor area committee, which was in charge of the accommodation and food of CPI(M) members from Thrissur district, said they expected 4,800 party workers to arrive here on Sunday night.
The menu at the community kitchens would be uniform on most days.
The CPI(M) has launched a major State-wide fund collection drive to provide for the protesters. A second batch of protesters, numbering almost the same, will relieve their party colleagues on August 18.
Local-level party office-bearers said it would be a litter and plastic-free protest. Garbage, including food waste and paper plates, would be disposed quickly and scientifically.
The influx of more than a lakh people for an indefinite period of time is likely to stretch the already strained municipal resources of the capital to the maximum.
Lack of adequate public lavatory facilities is likely to create a public health hazard. Several residents were apprehensive whether the stir would impede their daily routine.