A day after clashes broke out in Kathiramangalam near Thanjavur over the leakage of an ONGC pipeline the situation continues to remain tense. According to activists and protesters, hundreds of policeman are still maintaining vigil around the perimeter of the village, despite having arrested and jailed 10 agitators who were part of the demonstration.
The protests began after an ONGC pipeline in the area developed a leakage. According to G Sundararajan of the environmental group Poovulagin Nanbargal, work done by ONGC last week on the pipeline led to the leakage.
People from Kathiramangalam and activists gathered at the spot to conduct peaceful protests. They demanded that the Thanjavur collector arrive and give them the assurance that the leaking pipeline will be completely removed. Protesters, who were at the site, claim they stopped the police from even examining the pipeline.
"We said we won't let them in till the collector arrives. We were protesting from the morning to about five in the evening," says Seenthamizhan who went all the way from Kumbakonam to take part in the protest. "But the police then started a fire by themselves, blamed us and started beating us with their lathis," he adds.
There were close to 300 protesters and women were allegedly forced to bear the brunt of the attack. Following this, 10 protesters including anti-methane project federation chief coordinator, T Jayaraman were arrested. "The police named 12 sections in the FIR against them including attempt to murder, damage of public property and even for obstructing authorities for doing their work," says G Sundarrajan. All 10 of them are currently in Tiruchy Central prison.
Jayaraman's wife told The News Minute that she has not been allowed to meet or talk to her husband following his arrest. "We have to go on Monday to bring him on out on bail," says Chitra. "These protesters are being targeted because they know that the oil that leaks out of these pipes is highly poisonous and could destroy the environment. 25 years back when it was laid, people didn't know what the side effects will be. But now, as they become more aware, authorities are clamping down on them," she adds.
A member of the anti methane foundation project explains that leaks in the pipeline are not new and has been happening for years. "When it leaks, it could enter the water table and this will in turn enter people's home," says Iraniyan. "The last time a pipe leaked in this area, it was near a field and 3-4 acres of agricultural land was destroyed. So people are clearly scared," he adds.
The Tiruchy SP's office was not available for comment
Protesters, however, claim to live in fear of police brutality within their homes. "Even on Saturday, a 25-year-old who was just riding his bike down the road was beaten up and taken to the police station," alleges one protester.