Ward passes resolution in favour of quarrying; over 120 held

The stand-off between residents of the Pallichal panchayat and quarry owners operating in the Mookunnimala hills took a twist on Thursday when a grama sabha convened by Ward Two of the panchayat passed a resolution in favour of the quarrying activity. Protests by residents, alleging that the resolution was manipulated, ended in chaos after the police effected a preventive arrest of over 120 people.

The series of events began unfolding in the morning when a Bharatiya Janata Party ward member moved a resolution stating that there was no need to stop the quarrying activity as it would render several persons jobless.

This was in stark contrast to the general stand taken by the residents of the panchayat, and contradicted the resolution passed by a special grama sabha of Ward 20 in the same panchayat that had called for a complete stop to all quarrying activities in the region.

Bail granted

Thursday’s resolution triggered widespread protests, with the residents alleging that they were not allowed to participate in the Sabha and blocking K. Rakesh, the president of the panchayat.

The police intervened, arresting and removing over 120 people, including several women, from the spot. They were let off on bail later.

Members of the joint action council that has been spearheading the anti-quarry agitation over the past several months alleged that the manner in which the Sabha was held was against the norms laid down in the Panchayati Raj Act for such meetings. They also alleged that instead of the people of the ward, quarry owners had brought in their henchmen to vote in favour of the resolution that supported quarrying, which was why many of the residents were restricted from entering the venue.

‘Revoke resolution’

The residents, they said, were now planning to approach the higher authorities to get the resolution revoked.

An elderly woman was injured in the melee. The protesters also accused the police of supporting the quarry owners.

However, P. Anilkumar, Deputy Superintendent of Police (Neyyattinkara), who led the police action, said the arrests were made to prevent a flare-up of tension. The police intervened following requests from the panchayat authorities to prevent violence.