Police clamps down on Marina with Section 144, amidst fears of further protests

The orders under Section 144 come amid speculation of a public meeting on Sunday towards formation of a new youth political party.
Police clamps down on Marina with Section 144, amidst fears of further protests
Police clamps down on Marina with Section 144, amidst fears of further protests
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The Chennai police has invoked prohibitory orders under Section 144 along the Marina Beach area, and has prohibited any assembly, protests or fasts along the beach. The announcement comes amid speculation that protesters may gather again at Marina on Sunday.

This speculation follows the announcement on social media of a discussion meeting by a group called “A Change – Tamil Nadu 16th Assembly Under Student’s Control with New System”. The purported subject of the meeting called between 3pm and 6pm on Sunday is the formation of a new “youth party for Tamil Nadu”.

The prohibitory orders will be in force from 12am on January 29 till midnight on February 12, and will apply to the Marina and Foreshore areas coming under the jurisdiction of the Marina, Mylapore, Ice House, Foreshore Estate, Triplicane and Anna Square police stations. However, there would be no restrictions on walkers and families coming to the beach for recreation and relaxation.

With anger still simmering towards the police for the violence Chennai experienced on Monday at the fag-end of the jallikattu protests, Chennai South Additional Commissioner K Shankar sought to clear the air and present the police version of events at a press conference on Saturday.

Pointing out that there are many versions of what took place at Marina, the Addl Commissioner narrated the sequence of events from the start of the movement on January 17. He said that the protests began with a small group that assembled near the Vivekananda statue at Marina, and numbers grew with time.

He said that on January 18, a meeting with Fisheries Minister Jayakumar resulted in the assurance that those who had previously been arrested in Alanganalur would be released and the government would soon pass an ordinance for jallikattu. He added that because the protesters demanded a statement from Chief Minister O Panneerselvam himself, the CM also made announced that he would  go to Delhi and support the lifting of the ban.

Accordingly the Chief Minister went to Delhi and met the Prime Minister, who gave his assurance that jallikattu could be conducted. The CM announced these details in a press conference, which was also conveyed to the protesters gathered at Marina. However, the protesters refused to disperse  at that point, Shankar said.

Following this, he narrated, the state passed an ordinance in record time on January 21. Once again, a statement of the Chief Minister was issued, and this was conveyed to the protesters. At this point, he asserted, most of the students were on the side of the government, but some few with radical ideologies wanted to make sure that Republic Day celebrations could not take place.

He said that following a meeting between the police and the students on the night of January 22, the entire protest was called off. “By 22nd night, it was clear that all the demands of protesters had been met and most were convinced (to call off the protests).”

However, he added, there were posters on display with objectionable slogans against the country, announcing the intention to disrupt Republic Day. “So we took decision to peacefully evict the protesters. We assembled and we ensured two things – that there should be no force and things should go in a peaceful way,” he said.

“We didn’t carry lathis and went in unarmed. We ensured that there was sufficient strength of women personnel,” he explained.

Before commencing the eviction, said Shankar, as a last resort, the Mylapore DCP gave a speech to the protesters, explaining the police request for protesters to disperse peacefully.

“But they changed the goal post. They asked for even more time, but we saw that their intention was to drag out the time,” he said.  

It was at this point that the police decided to intervene, and disperse the protesters. Many protesters left peacefully, asserted Shankar. He said that between 9.30am and 10am, operations proceeded peacefully.

However, after that, nearly 1,500 people ran towards the sea. But the police wanted them to disperse peacefully, he said.

The violence began after 10am from the nearby kuppam, narrated Shankar. He said that rumours that had spread among the fishermen’s community – that a lathi charge had already been carried out against the protesters – incited many individuals. He said that persons who tried to enter the Nadukuppam and Mattan Kuppam areas were blocked, at which point three petrol bombs were thrown at the police.

As the violence began, the police deployed the minimum necessary force to restrain people, said Shankar. “When anti-social elements were acting, we police also acted to enforce the law,” he said. He also released videos and pictures of the violence, and of objectionable signs displayed by protesters on the beach. 

Shankar also clarified that the police were close to identifying two of the police personnel allegedly shown committing arson in videos circulating on social media. He promised that strict action would be taken against all the personnel involved, if the videos were found to be genuine. 

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