Equipment could not be taken to the plant in Thiruvananthapuram as ordered by court
The power of organised protest prevailed over the Thiruvananthapuram district administration which, after a futile police action here on Friday morning, gave up its attempts to take a truck laden with equipment for a leachate treatment plant to the city Corporation’s solid waste treatment facility here.
Defying prohibitory orders, hundreds of local people and activists of the Vilappil Janakeeya Samithi had gathered in front of the Sreekanda Sastha Temple here right from Friday morning to prevent the movement of machinery or garbage to the treatment plant.
The samithi representatives want an immediate and permanent closure of the plant citing the suffering caused to the local people. The government’s stand is that this was not possible and would only lead to a garbage crisis in the capital city. The Kerala High Court had asked the State government to give police protection for the corporation to ensure smooth functioning of the plant. The Supreme Court too declined to interfere with the High Court’s decision.
Women lined up to offer ‘pongala’ in earthen pots as a mark of protest as Samithi leaders held aloft a 31-day-old-child Mohammed Gulal in front of press and TV cameras, announcing that the infant was the ‘leader’ of Friday’s agitation.
The spirits of the protestors soared when Deputy Speaker and local MLA N. Shakthan arrived on the spot and declared his support for the agitation. He told presspersons that the city Corporation had misled the High Court on this issue. “I respect the Court but the sentiments of the people here cannot be ignored,” he said.
Even though announcements were made over the public address system that the children of Vilappil would welcome police officers with flowers, the situation turned violent once police moved in to arrest the protesters shortly after 10.30 a.m. when the lone truck laden with leachate treatment plant equipment reached Vilappil junction under police escort.
The ‘pongala’ pots quickly became missiles hurled at the police. Two sub-inspectors Anitha and Rasia Begum suffered burns when protestors hurled the scalding contents of the ‘pongala’ pots at them. Minutes later, protestors lit three huge bonfires in the middle of the road. Logs, tree branches, pieces of broken furniture and tins kept some distance away were quickly brought to the spot and thrown into the fire. The flames were eventually doused by a police water cannon truck.
By 12 noon, P.K. Girija, the Additional District Magistrate holding charge as District Collector, gave the order for the withdrawal of the 2,000-strong police force that was stationed in the panchayat. Soon after the cessation of the police action, a group of miscreants went on the rampage here stoning and overturning vehicles.