To help State police manage LDF’s Secretariat siege

The State government has requisitioned Central paramilitary forces to help the Kerala Police manage the Opposition-sponsored indefinite mass stir scheduled to commence in front of the Secretariat here on Monday.

The large-scale protest, arguably the first of its kind in the State post-Independence, is to force the resignation of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on the Team Solar financial fraud issue. More than a lakh of Left Democratic Front activists, most of them Communist Party of India (Marxist) cardholders, are expected to lay siege to the Secretariat till their stated political aims are achieved.

Senior police officers say at least two companies of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), currently stationed in Kannur, will move to the capital this weekend. The deployment of the CRPF at the demonstration venue will be a tactical decision taken on the merit of how the protest unfoldd, they say.

The State police, who will be deployed in strength around the Secretariat, are likely to become the focus of the wrath of the protestors, the police intelligence wing has warned.

(The Opposition’s main accusation is that the police had colluded with the political executive to protect high-level government apparatchiks from the embarrassment of a criminal investigation into what has come to be known as solar scam.)

Hence, the police are likely to integrate the CRPF men with their resources to ensure that the protest remains peaceful. The mass stir also coincides with the annual Independence Day celebrations. The Central government has issued an advisory to the State police to be vigilant against possible terrorist attacks. Central and State intelligence agencies have postulated that the large-scale event could offer an opportunity for saboteurs.

The government has mobilised the entire State police on the basis of an intelligence prediction that any police action in the capital could result in spontaneous protests resulting in public disorder in other parts of the State. As many as 2,000 men and 60 officers drawn from other districts are likely to augment the strength of the city police constabulary.

Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan told The Hindu that the nature of the Left Democratic Front’s stir is inherently undemocratic and unethical. The Opposition is attempting to topple a democratically elected government through undemocratic means. They plan to hold the entire government hostage.

State Police Chief K.S. Balasubramanian held a series of meeting with his senior officers to strategise how to enhance the law enforcement’s preparedness to police the mass demonstration. The law enforcers will be required to keep the peace and also defend the rights of citizens to protest peacefully without impinging on the democratic rights of others.

The public expect the police to protect them from unlawful behaviour, if any, on the part of the agitators. The police will also have to decide what level of force they will use, if the situation warrants. They will be also tasked with the protection of a large number of legislators and Opposition leaders who are expected to participate in the agitation.

The influx of more than a lakh of people for an indefinite period of time is likely to stretch the already inadequate municipal resources of the capital to the maximum. Lack of adequate public lavatory facilities is likely to create a public health hazard. These are the many issues the government will have to reckon with when the protest commences early next week.

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