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Kerala Governor Given Z+ Security after Stand-off with SFI

Kerala Governor Given Z+ Security after Stand-off with SFI

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Jan 27: Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan was on Saturday given Z+ security by the Centre after a faceoff with activists of the Students Federation of India (SFI), the students wing of the ruling CPI(M) party at Nilamel in Kollam district, about 40 km from state capital Thiruvananthapuram, as they staged a black flag protest against him.

“Union Home Ministry has informed Kerala Raj Bhavan that Z+ Security cover of CRPF is being extended to Hon’ble Governor and Kerala Raj Bhavan,” a social media post from the Governor’s office read.

The incident took place as Governor Khan, en route to attend a program, ordered his vehicle to stop when he observed the SFI protestors on the roadside. Stepping out of his car, Governor Khan walked towards the agitating students, shouting “aao” (come) at them. The Governor has accused Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan of “promoting lawlessness in the state” and demanded action against the protestors.

Speaking to reports, Mr Khan alleged that Mr Vijayan was at the centre of an alleged government-sponsored plot to harm him physically to precipitate a constitutional crisis. He said the administration hoped to provoke him to resort to “drastic action” to hide their failure as a government.

He said the government wanted to escape responsibility for the State’s “self-inflicted financial crisis.” Mr Khan said the government had admitted in the Kerala High Court that the treasury was bone dry and the administration hard-pressed to honour its financial commitments, including to pensioners and lakhs of beneficiaries of monthly social welfare dole outs.

“The government wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis by engaging goons to target the governor by reining in the law enforcement. But, I am not going to oblige them (the government),” Mr Khan said.

The governor denied that he was staging any sit-in protest as he waited for over two hours on the roadside consequent to his brush with the SFI activists. “Why should I protest when I can take direct action? I merely waited for the police to bring me a copy of the First Information Report to send the document to the secretary of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs,” Mr Khan said.

Mr Khan said he had no issue with black flag protests. “However, I was constrained to step out of the vehicle when they (SFI) activists) ambushed my car. As head of State, I cannot tolerate lawlessness on the roads”, he said. Mr Khan also levelled severe accusations against the police and SFI. He said they had acted in tandem to endanger the governor.

Mr Khan claimed the police had brought the SFI activists to the spot in their vehicles and whisked them after making a token arrest. “The police are operating at the orders of the Chief Minister. The protestors draw a daily wage for committing crimes abetted by the ruling disposition,” Mr Khan alleged. Without naming the SFI, Mr Khan said felons populated the left student organisation. For one, he claimed the organisation’s leader has 40 criminal cases against him.

The SFI, the student wing of the CPI (M), has been agitating against the governor, accusing him of filling up university senates with “Sangh Parivar men.” The drama unfolded when Khan was proceeding to attend a function at an ashram in Kollam district when a group of SFI men protested against him, raising slogans and showing black flags. A few of them who were waiting for the governor’s convoy jumped in front of his car with flags. Khan immediately stopped the car and pulled up the local police who were on duty.

The SFI State President Arsho said Mr Khan’s “theatrics” would not dampen the organisation’s “moral, ethical and democratic” struggle against the “wrongdoings” of the Chancellor of State varsities. He said SFI remained committed to the democratic and peaceful struggle to preserve the autonomous and secular traditions and nature of state-funded centres of higher learning.

General Education Minister V. Sivankutty said Mr Khan’s “antics” did not affect the people or the government. “We have long brooked his (Mr Khan’s) disparaging comments against the Chief Minister and cabinet colleagues. The governor has repeatedly conducted himself in an undemocratic, autocratic, spiteful and vindictive manner, which does not befit his high office and is an affront to the people of Kerala. He should remember voters elected LDF to power for two consecutive terms,” Mr Sivankutty said.

The standoff between the Raj Bhavan and the CPI (M) government in Kerala worsened on Saturday after the Governor began his sit-in in front of the wayside shop.

Senior police officials tried to pacify Khan, who insisted on initiating action against the protestors who had disappeared from the scene. The governor also got angry with police officials for their failure to prevent the SFI activists from protesting against him.

Putting the police under pressure, Khan took a chair and sat in front of it for more than an hour. In the meantime, he was heard directing personal staff to get in touch with the offices of the Prime Minister and the Union home minister. Later, policemen met the governor with the FIR, registering a case against 17 people, naming 12.

Before ending the protest, Khan told the media, “When I reached here, some people tried to hit my car. I had already said I have no problem if black flags are shown from a distance. But if somebody comes near my car, then I will get down. Police say there were 17 people and you can count the number of policemen present here at the moment. My only question is if the chief minister was passing by this road, will the police allow the protestors to hit the car?”

“I am not blaming the police. Police are taking orders from superiors.  The chief minister of the state is promoting lawlessness in the state. It is the chief minister who is giving direction to police to give protection to these law-breakers. Many of them are facing a number of criminal cases. Police are not to be blamed. The chief minister is giving protection to these people. They are the daily-wagers of the chief minister,” he said.

Khan said more than 50 people were involved in the protest but the FIR was only registered against 17 people. “Police should have removed the SFI men. They did not remove them because the chief minister wanted them to do this. It is not a fight against anyone. This is lawlessness, which cannot be allowed. What treatment police had meted out to those who came near the bus of Nava Kerala Sadas (a state-wide tour of the Cabinet last year)?” he said.

Last month, when SFI men had shown him black flags in Thiruvananthapuram, Khan had ventured out of his car and walked towards the protesters, saying, “Bloody criminals, come.” Then, turning towards the police, Khan said, “How did they come near me? Who is the police officer here? They (protesters) are criminals hitting my car,” he said. He had then alleged that Vijayan had sent goons to physically hurt him.

Last week, the governor’s stand-off with the government saw him cutting short his policy address to the state Legislative Assembly to a mere 80 seconds. After the address, he had left the House in a huff.

 

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