Demanding that 10 people, including anti-methane project federation chief coordinator T Jayaraman be released from the Trichy central prison and all charges against them be dropped, various political parties of Tamil Nadu came together to condemn the police action against protesters in Kathiramangalam, in Thanjavur district.
As the situation in Kathiramangalam still continue to remain tensed after clashes broke out over the leakage of an ONGC pipeline, representatives from Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK) and Pachai Tamizhagam gathered for a press conference held in Chennai Press Club on Monday condemning the attack on people and asking for the Delta region to be converted into protected agricultural area.
DMK Working President, MK Stalin too urged the Tamil Nadu government to release those arrested in connection with the protests and demanded the immediate release of villagers, according to a PTI report. Stalin also said the police personnel deployed in Kathiramangalam should be withdrawn at once.
More than 500 people continue to protest against the alleged lathicharge and arrest of 10 protesters by the Thanjavur police on Saturday.
Saying that the police action against protesters is anti-democratic and anti-people, SP Udayakumar, activist and founder of Pachai Tamizhagam party said, “While the government want to blockade people, the Central agencies like ONGC, INO, GAIL go in and do their work. The State apparatus, like the police work for them and the local people are seen as the trouble-makers. Women protestors said that they have been threatened by the police with prostitution cases. It can escalate into something worse. In such a scenario, youngsters might take up violence steps.”
When the ONGC pipeline work began last month, the people from Kathiramangalam were protesting against it but the work continued, said G Sundararajan of the environmental group Poovulagin Nanbargal. “On Saturday, there was a leakage from a pipeline and the groundwater was contaminated, so the people began to protest and wanted the collector to come and meet them but that’s when a large number of police were brought into the village,” said Sundararajan.
He added that the collector later arrived in the evening after the violence took place in the village. “People were lathi-charged and ten people were arrested by the police. The protesters said that they were peacefully protesting when the police started a fire and started beating them,” he said.
“Most of the people in the village are in fear of being arrested. The state government should be protecting the people, instead they are supporting the central government,” he added.
He said that it is a larger conspiracy of the central government to remove the people from the delta region and use the coal deposits in these areas. “This is the reason they have not even created a Cauvery management board to deal with the water issues,” said Sundararajan.
The police force must be removed from that area, said Vanni Arasu, spokesperson of VCK party. “The people should be allowed to move around freely. Also, the police must release the 10 people and drop all the charges against them,” he said.
The protest against the ONGC pipeline began on Saturday. “We saw leakage in a pipeline, we started a peaceful protest and by 2pm, hundreds of policemen were deployed in the village. Suddenly, around 4pm, a fire happened and police began lathicharge, we all were beaten up, they abused us and threatened to charge cases against us,” said a woman protester from the village.
However, Chief Minister Edapaddi Palanisamy said in the assembly on Monday that the people resorted to violence that is why the police had to lathicharge them. Speaking in the assembly on the mass protest and the baton-charge by police in Kadiramangalam village in Thanjavur, Palaniswamy said ONGC had been exploring crude oil based on a licence issued to it in June 2001.
He said that on May 18, ONGC brought equipment for the purpose of oil well maintenance. The people thought the equipment was meant to extract methane and agitated against the ONGC.