The State government has deployed an estimated 4,500 policemen to regulate the LDF’s indefinite siege of the Secretariat scheduled to commence here on Monday.
Ten companies of Central paramilitary forces, currently camping in University, Arts, and Sanskrit colleges, will be held in reserve, to be deployed only in the event of large-scale public disorder. One company of the Thunder Bolts Kerala, the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit of the State police, has been put on ‘stand to’ for rapid deployment. They were camping alongside the central forces. Another 12 companies of central forces were expected to arrive in the city soon.
The three colleges, all considered to be strongholds of the CPI(M) student’s wing, the Students Federation of India (SFI), resembled military garrisons on Sunday.
Classrooms were converted into barracks and bell-of-arms. Scores of assault rifles, shields, and batons leaned against the walls. Crates of non-lethal ammunition (teargas shells, rubber bullets and smoke grenades) were seen stockpiled.
The SFI set the tone for the Monday’s agitation by staging a belligerent protest in front of the Secretariat on Sunday evening.
Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan and CPI(M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan attempted to imbue protestors with enthusiasm by sharing rice gruel with party members at community kitchens.
A few party workers from Kozhikode, who had arrived here early for the protests, felt that they were on the brink of a political change and privileged to be part of it. “Only two members were allowed from one branch. All of us volunteered and finally we had to pull lots to decide who would be part of the historic struggle,” one said.