They had planned a two-day protest outside the Kochi Debt Recovery Tribunal, but before they could kick it off, they were detained.

Kerala couple and other activists protesting Sarfaesi Act detained by police
news Protest Tuesday, July 17, 2018 - 18:50

Activists protesting against the Sarfaesi Act (Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act), including the couple whose forced eviction brought the debate back to the limelight, were arrested on Tuesday.

The agitators had planned a two-day protest in front of the Debt Recovery Tribunal in Kochi starting from Tuesday.

The couple, Preetha and Shaji, along with others, were protesting the attachment of their house in Pathadippalam after a bank loan taken by a friend – for which they acted as surety – was not repaid. The Sarfaesi Act was used to sell their house in an online auction to a realtor. 

Preetha had been on a year-long strike in front of her house during which several activists have joined her. Five people were arrested on July 10 when they stopped bank officials from attaching the house by pouring petrol over themselves and threatening to set themselves on fire.

On Tuesday, about nine of the arrested were taken to the Kalamassery Police Station and were booked for the same charges - causing damage to public property and attempted suicide, said Rehman, a policeman from the station. Both Preetha and Shaji are among the nine people held here.

The other protestors were taken to the Thevara police station.

 “We were going to begin a day and night strike for two days, and it was going to be kicked-off by CPI(M) leader Annie Raja at 10 am. But before she could reach, the police surrounded us and arrested us. I think those of us who have been taken to the Thevara station will be let out, but those at the Kalamassery Station will be remanded,” said Jaison Cooper, one of the arrested. Preetha and Shaji are both at the Kalamassery Station.  

Trouble began for the couple ever since they agreed to act as surety for a loan of Rs 2 lakh taken by their friend and relative Sajan from what was then Lord Krishna Bank. It has, over the years, merged with HDFC.

The bank went to the Debt Recovery Tribunal to get back the amount that Sajan never repaid and the burden of this fell on the shoulders of Preetha and Shaji. The couple had repaid half the amount after selling some of their property, but the rest remained unpaid.

And now, after 24 years, the amount of interest amassed on the loan is a whopping Rs 2 crore.  

Preetha has been on protest ever since – she also went on a 19-day fast, after which Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan promised that there would be no attachment of the house. But the court declared that it would be contempt of court if the house wasn’t attached.

After the last attempt at attachment on July 10, the couple were given three weeks’ time for eviction. 

Also read: Forced eviction of a Kerala couple by bank rekindles fight against Sarfaesi Act