Activists and the police engage for close to two hours

After a gap of a few months, the city witnessed pitched street battles between the police and students on Wednesday when activists of the Students Federation of India (SFI) took out an Assembly march in protest against the government moves to grant autonomy to arts and science colleges, and open the door to foreign universities to set up shop here.

The protest march and the ensuing fights, which brought the city centre to a standstill for close to two hours, started at 11.15 a.m., right after Congress leader M.M. Hassan ended his 24-hour fast at Gandhi Park demanding the shifting of protests to a venue outside the city. Close to 100 SFI activists, their faces covered with towels to prevent detection by the prying cameras, started marching towards the Assembly from University College.

Road closed

The police had already barricaded both ends of the road in front of the Assembly to prevent the students from getting any closer. The students, on reaching the barricade near Chandrasekharan Nair stadium, hurled themselves against it and shouted slogans against granting autonomy. The police employed a water cannon to disperse them, when stones started to fly through the air.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, who was attending the Assembly session, came out to pacify the students. The stones continued to land from behind the protest lines, and the police had to form a circle around him to protect him from the stones. A few tear-gas shells were lobbed, following which the students started retreating towards University College.

By this time, another group of SFI activists had gathered in front of college, and started throwing stones at the police personnel who were posted there. The group from the Assembly side joined them, leading to a slight escalation in violence.

Petrol bombs were also hurled at the police. When the police tried to enter the University College gates, they encountered stiff resistance from inside. A few tear-gas shells landed inside the college, which angered the students who responded with more stones. The situation cooled off when the police retreated to either side of the main road. The SFI activists staged a sit-in at the college gates, and shouted slogans against Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala.

Followed by this, the All India Students Federation took out a protest march to the Assembly in protest against the same issues. The march ended peacefully.

Protest day

The SFI said it would observe a protest day on college campuses in the State on Thursday, demanding an end to police atrocities in colleges and the abandoning of the moves to grant autonomy to arts and science colleges.

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