Public furore against the State government’s decision to fix the width of National Highways (NH) in the State at 45 metres drew blood in Kozhikode district when the police assaulted protesters — many women and senior citizens — who converged in protest against the measuring of land near Vadakara town.

On Wednesday, a contingent of the police resorted to physical force on the protesters. Six persons, including a woman, were hospitalised with injuries allegedly suffered in the police action near the Moorad bridge. One of them, Narayanan Nair, 64, a retired Defence employee, claimed that he was assaulted by the police.

“They (the police) used abusive language, arrested, and removed women protesters in police vehicles. I was standing on the footpath and they grabbed at my private parts and pushed me into the vehicle. We are local people. We are anxious about what will happen to us. We were protesting peacefully, the police action was unwarranted,” Mr. Nair told The Hindu from his bed at the casualty of the Vadakara Government Hospital.

At medical college

Vadakara police at the hospital counter said Mr. Nair was “throwing his weight around with the police, saying he was ex-military.” He has been charged under Section 283 (Danger or obstruction in public way or line of navigation) of the IPC.

Mr. Nair was referred from the Vadakara hospital to the Government Medical College Hospital, Kozhikode, for “surgery consultation for expert opinion.”

“These are people who live in three and four cents of land. Now, the measuring for the NH widening has started even without making any proclamation on the land acquisition and rehabilitation packages for the affected people,” A.T. Mahesh, convener of the Vadakara branch of the National Highway Action Council, which coordinated the local protest, said.

He said widening was in two stretches of the NH from Vengalam to Moorad and from Moorad to Azhiyur. Protesters say over 4,500 families would be affected by the widening, not to say of schools, religious institutions, business establishments, and small shops.

“People who protested here on Wednesday were mostly senior citizens and women. They are not hardened agitators and could not talk back to the police. None of them was carrying even a stick. What was the threat the police saw in them to propagate this violence?” Abbas M.T., a representative of the Nandi-Chengottukavu By-pass Action Committee, said.

Kozhikode District Rural Police Chief P.H. Ashraf strongly rejected the allegation of excessive force used on the protesters.

Police reject allegation

“We used reasonable force to remove the protesters as per the orders of the Executive Magistrate present at the spot. In the case of this one man (Mr. Nair), the police officer could not get a grip on his shirt and finally they had to hold him by his belt. There is no injury to his private parts as per the medical report,” Mr. Ashraf said.

The police chief said an inquiry would be conducted and a full and fair hearing would be given to Mr. Nair on his allegations.

Continuous protest

Local protests have gained strength in the past few months after statements by the State that the National Highways would be widened to 45 m through BOT (build, operate, and transfer) process.

In November 2013, a large group of people from Malappuram had protested outside the League Office here, waylaying Minister for Public Works V.K. Ebrahim Kunju to voice their grievances.

This was after Mr. Kunju’s statement that the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had not agreed to the State government’s push for 30-m width in view of the hurdles for land acquisition.

More In: Kozhikode