Hours before Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi landed in the city on Friday, over 70 activists, mainly students, were arrested for protesting against his visit. Several agitators were also lathicharged.
The detained protesters were taken to a community hall in Chintadripet and not released till 10 p.m.
Their protest was part of a series of agitations involving over 300 persons belonging to the Democratic Youth Federation of India(DYFI), Students Federation of India(SFI), All India Democratic Women’s Association(AIDWA), and Revolutionary Students Youth Federation(RSYF) at various locations in the city.
The protesters were also critical of his visit to an educational institution. He was in the city to deliver a lecture organised by the Palkhivala Foundation at the Centenary auditorium in the University of Madras.
The protesters first gathered near Tarapore towers on Anna Salai around 10 a.m. Slogans were raised against his secular credentials and development model. “Mr. Modi is a threat to our democratic and secular values,” said G. Niruban, district president, SFI. “Also, during times such as these, when our State is fraught with caste wars, someone like him will only polarise society further,” he added. A member of AIDWA, M. Saraswathi, spoke of the need to beware of those associated with the Manudharma.
“It is dangerous when the State starts welcoming leaders who have not taken the welfare of women seriously,” she added
Around 11 a.m., when the protest was about to end, the activists and policemen got into a scuffle, which resulted in the lathicharge.
“There were more policemen than protesters. They confined us to a stretch and when we finished our slogan shouting, they said they wanted to arrest us. A few of us resisted this and sat down and the police began beating us,” said a protester. The protesters were detained in a community hall and were told they could leave only when Mr. Modi had left the city.
Protesters said eight members of their group sustained injuries and two of them had to be taken to the hospital. “It was only after much coaxing that the police agreed to take the injured people to the hospital,” said Mr. Niruban.
Police officials however said they were only ensuring that the protesters did not cause problems for traffic on Anna Salai. “Some protesters sat on the pavement and refused to move, even after the protest,” an official said.
Later, in the day, members of Radical Students’ Youth Front staged a protest outside Chennai Central.
Mr. Modi landed here around 3 p.m. and headed to the BJP office in T. Nagar. Traffic was briefly disrupted along the convoy route. Most roads in T. Nagar including South Boag Road, Melony Road and Sivaji Ganesan Road were cordoned off at several places . Rope barricades were used to prevent people from coming anywhere close to the convoy as it passed though T. Nagar around 3 30 p.m.
Many areas, including GST Road and parts of Anna Salai at Saidapet and Nandanam suffered bottlenecks for close to 30 minutes in the evening. Thousands of police personnel, including a large number of them in plainclothes, were deployed in different areas, and checking of vehicles was on till about 8 p.m.