The day-long fast organised by People’s Action Council attached to Mallappuzhasserry Palliyoda Karayogam, protesting against the proposed private airport project at Aranmula on Sunday turned out to be an occasion for the local population to express their angst over the alleged Governmental indifference towards their right to live.

Hundreds of people, including women and children, attended the mass movement addressed by people from different walks of life. Political party leaders and socio-religious workers of all hues addressed the nine-hour public meeting held at the venue of the fast that began at 9 am.

Unlike various other protests where shouting of full-throated slogans form a main thing, Sunday’s public protest attained a special significance with `Vanchippattu', songs in praise of Lord Krishna the presiding deity of the centuries’ old Sree Parthasarathy Temple at Aranmula, rented the air.

The meeting was inaugurated by the Communist Party of India acting district secretary, A.Padmakumar and Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee(I) member, K.K.Royson, lighted the ceremonial lamp.

Communist Party of India Assembly mandalam committee secretary, A.K.Muraleedhara Kurup, presided the inaugural function and Mr V.V.Rajesh, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha State president, inaugurated the valedictory function. K.V.Sambadevan, president of the Palliyoda Seva Sanghom (PSS) that organises the Aranmula snakeboat regatta in river Pampa; Fr Sam Shine, parish priest at the St Sebatian’s Catholic Church and V.N.Gopinatha Pillai, All-Kerala River and Wetland Protection Council office-bearer; were among those who have addressed the meeting.

Addressing the meeting, Mr Royson alleged that the airport project itself was a humbug as nowhere in India such a project with 100 per cent private participation has been permitted, so far.

The KPCC(I) member said there was no question of permitting this project in Aranmula as would be highly detrimental to the humble interests of the common people in the region and not to speak of its hazardous impact on the environment and eco system.

BJYM demand

Addressing the meeting, V.V.Rajesh, BJYM State president, alleged that the private company had reportedly managed to obtain various important clearances for the project, violating all the prevailing laws of the land.

The Union Defence Ministry that had denied clearance for the project saying that the proposed airport comes in the flying zone of the INS Garuda in Kochi, earlier, had reviewed its decision, later, granting clearance following pressure from the higher-ups, the BJYM leader alleged.

Both Mr Rajesh and the action council leaders have called for a just probe by a Central agency into the alleged irregularities, corruption, violation of laws and financial sources of the promoter company in connection with the airport controversy. He also called for a clarification in this regard from Defence Minister, A.K.Antony.

PSS concern

Mr Sambadevan and Mr K.Appukuttan Nair, PSS representative, said the most revered heritage sites of Kannangattu Madhom, Aringottukavu, Thettikkavu and Kanakkunnu hill are situated within the area earmarked for the proposed proposed private airport. There is no question of the PSS permitting such a development project that destroys the native culture and heritage, they said.

CPI(M)-CPI demand

The CPI(M)-CPI leaders and BJP district president, V.N.Unni, said there was no question of permitting the airport project in Aranmula and that their parties would stand united in protecting the interests of the common people of Aranmula.

They have called for stern action against the illegal conversion of paddy fields made in the name of the airport project and effective steps to reconvert the land with out any further delay.

The All-Kerala River and Wetland Protection Council leader, V.N.Gopinatha Pillai, said the so-called propagators of development should better understand that destruction or damage to the wetlands, rivers and other natural water sources would lead to a catastrophic impact on the environment and the eco system, posing alarming threat to the human existence itself.

Humanitarian perspective

Mr Nair said the private airport issue should be viewed in a humanitarian and socio-environmental perspective. Though the promoter company have promised that no family would be forcibly evicted in the name of the airport project, no saner element could believe their words as it require displacement of not less than 3000 families from the project area, he said.

Catholic Church expresses solidarity

Addressing the meeting, Fr Sam Shine, parish priest of St Sebastian’s Catholic Church, said the Punalur Bishop, Sylvester Ponnumuthan, had entrusted him with the duty of expressing solidarity with the ongoing agitation against the controversial airport project at Aranmula.

Fr Shine said the Church members would remain firm with the action council in its fight for justice. He said the Government should take immediate steps to withdraw the notification declaring 500 acres in the Mallappuzhasserry, Aranmula and Kidangannur villages as industrial area.

K.S.Suresh, action council convener; Pradeep Ayroor, Prakruti Samrakshana Vedi president; K.P.Soman, Hindu Aikyavedi district president; Prasad Verumkal, Usha Gopalan Nair, Roy George, Rema Bhaskar, Santhamma Gopinathan Nair and Sasikumar Kurunthar, grama panchayat members, also spoke.

Protest march

The day-long protest came to a close with a massive march, later, in the afternoon. The protesters also burnt the model of a plane carrying effigies of the local MP and MLA, giving a vent to their anguish against the active support extended to the project by the Government as well as the people’s representatives.