Police undecided on getting restraining order under Section 144 issued

More Central paramilitary forces are likely to arrive in the capital to help the State’s law enforcement personnel police the Opposition’s indefinite siege of the Secretariat scheduled to commence on Monday.

Ten companies of the Central Reserve Police Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) have bivouacked in various college campuses, including the University College and Arts College, near the Secretariat. Ten more companies are expected.

The police are yet to take a call on whether or not to request the district magistrate to issue a restraining order under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code to prohibit assembly of more than 10 people in at least five police station limits here. A senior official said it was a tactical matter that would depend on how the protests would unfold on Monday.

Other police measures such as stopping the vehicles of protestors from entering the district, checking lodges and preventing residents from accommodating outsiders on their premises, scaling down public transport operations, and conducting flag marches would depend on whether the restraining orders were put in force or not.

The Central forces will be held in reserve. They will operate under the direct command of the Station House Officer concerned. Nearly 1,500 policemen drawn from other districts will augment the city police constabulary.

Divided into zones

The police have divided the main staging area of the LDF protest — the Secretariat and its immediate neighbourhood — into different zones. An Assistant Commissioner of Police will be in charge of each zone. The police have stocked up non-lethal ammunition, chiefly tear gas canisters and smoke grenades. They have also requisitioned an extra truck-mounted mobile water cannon.

An official said the Fire and Rescue Services Department has been put on the standby in anticipation of destruction of public property, chiefly arson attacks against State vehicles.

He said the police had factored in the “worst case scenario” into its strategy to manage the indefinite mass stir. The security of senior Opposition leaders, including legislators, attending the protest has been looked into. The police have asked its men to exercise maximum restraint in the event of provocation. “Action, if any, would be focussed and not indiscriminate,” he said.

State Police Chief K.S. Balasubramanian held discussions with his officers at the police headquarters here.

In the evening, City Police Commissioner P. Vijayan held a separate briefing for senior officers under his command.

Government response

Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan on Saturday said that the government’s response to the LDF’s stir on Monday would depend on the nature of the protest.

He told reporters here that it was the bounden duty of the government to uphold public peace. The State was not opposed to any form of democratic protest. However, no one should attempt to shut down the government. He appealed to protesters not to disrupt the functioning of the Secretariat.

No political party has attempted to lay siege to all gates of the Secretariat for the past 44 years.

“It is an unwritten convention all politicians have honoured since the time of the government of C. Achutha Menon,” he said.

The rehearsals for the Independence Day parade would go on as planned.

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