The Thiruvananthapuram Corporation razed 8-10 protest tents overnight, along the 100 metre stretch on MG road in front if the Secretariat.

Ahead of Pongala Tpuram civic body razes protest sheds in front of Secretariat
news Controversy Tuesday, February 19, 2019 - 19:56

In an overnight move, the Thiruvananthapuram city corporation has cleared a dozen protest tents in front of the Secretariat, to make space for pilgrims attending the Attukal Pongala on Wednesday. At around 11:30 pm on Monday night, around 100 people including city corporation workers, health inspectors and the police removed the tents manually and cleaned the area using a water lorry. The corporation maintains that it was done to facilitate devotees coming to attend the Attukal Pongala - one of Kerala’s biggest festivals with 4 - 5 lakh women coming to the capital every year. 

“We are not against protestors sitting outside the Secretariat. We just need it to be cleared for tomorrow as pilgrims will be using up every bit of the space during tomorrow’s festival. After this, we have no problem with them reinstalling their tent in the same,” a source within the Mayor’s office told TNM. 

At any given point, the 100 metres stretch of footpath on MG Road outside the secretariat is filled with protesting people. This is the first time that their sheds are being cleared. 

“Earlier we never used to have so many tents or people protesting. People would come protest and go back. Now, it is like these protestors are residing inside the tents which are fully covered with tarpaulins on four sides. The tents make tiny houses” the source added. Among things retrieved from the sheds were gas stove, food supplies, bedding, mats, utensils and other essential household items. Officials who were engaged in removing the tents also spotted alcohol bottles inside several of them. 

“We removed flex boards with hands and carried trucks full of sand and dirt from the site. From what we saw, it looked like the protestors were even going to the loo right outside the tents, on the road/ Many tents were even empty” the source added. 

Among the protestors who raised their voices against this sudden clearing was Sreejith, the man who has been sitting in front of the Chief Minister’s Office for the last two years to get justice for his brother, who passed away in police custody in 2014.  Other protestors too had tried to resist the corporation, the source recalls. 

Corporation officials also said that the Kerala High Court had issues a directive to clear any tents in front of the Secretariat. it is both a civic and a security issue, as the Secretariat is an important location in the heart of the city. 

Although police officers were involved in clearing out the tents, officials from Cantonment Station, which covers the Secretariat area, denied having removed tents from the pavement. 

"The corporation was responsible for it and did it because of the Attikal Pongala slated to take place on Wednesday. We did not help them," an official from Cantonment police told TNM. 

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