Kerala Secretariat fire: Angry chief secretary orders BJP workers and media out of premises

Kerala Secretariat fire: Angry chief secretary orders BJP workers and media out of premises

Taking every one by surprise, including the police, chief secretary Vishwas Mehta himself came down from his office and angrily ordered the BJP workers and the media out of the Secretariat premises on Tuesday, barely an hour after a fire broke out inside the protocol wing of the General Administration Department.

Soon after the news of the fire spread, the BJP workers led by state president K Surendran had massed inside the Secretariat alleging that the fire was created on purpose to destroy files related to the gold smuggling case.

A minor scuffle had broken out between the police and the BJP workers as the slogan-shouters, including district secretary V V Rajesh, were sought to be removed from the premises. The chief secretary walked right into this commotion.

He wanted everyone out. K Surendran objected loudly and exhorted the media not to leave. "You should not leave the place. They are trying to destroy the evidence," he could be heard shouting. Surendran was promptly dragged into the police van where some of his party workers were already deposited.

The police then asked the media personnel to step out of the premises on the assurance that the chief secretary would talk to them outside.

Outside the eastern gate, and right opposite the Cantonment Police Station, the chief secretary addressed the media. "I was in a meeting in the chief secretary's conference hall when I heard about the fire. My first instinct was to ask whether it was serious and should we vacate the Secretariat. I was informed that it was not serious and that the fire was under control," Mehta said.

When asked why he ordered everyone out, Mehta said he could not allow the Secretariat premises to be converted into a venue for people to play politics. "I cannot allow political speeches inside the Secretariat. Tomorrow these politicians will barge into my room and then into the Chief Minster's room. This cannot be allowed," Mehta said.

He also said he understood why the media was interested. The chief secretary assured that an impartial probe will be held into the fire incident. "We officials don't play political games. We have nothing to hide," Mehta said.

Nonetheless, he said he had no idea of the extent of the damage. “I did not even get the time to visit the site," he said. He promised that the media would be given an official update.

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