Alappuzha: A video captured on the mobile phone of a college student who managed to hide it from raiding policemen has revealed an episode of police brutality unleashed on a public protest against black soil mining in the coastal region of Thottappally near here.
Policemen can be seen swinging their lathis on protesters, including senior citizens, who had reportedly blocked the movement of heavy-duty vehicles transporting black soil from near the Thottappally spillway that is in a coastal regulation zone.
Retired tahsildar B Bhadran, who is a member of the locally constituted action council also suffered injuries in the lathi charge. Bhadran told Manorama News that the public had obstructed the heavy-duty vehicles after the police had refused to help.
Refuting the statement made to Manorama News by Ambalapuzha DySP, Suresh Kumar, as per which the public had obstructed the police and pelted stones, Bhadran said the public had protested peacefully on the side of the road without hindering the movement of other vehicles.
“The permitted tonnage of the coastal road is 11.05 tonnes but the heavy-duty vehicles are 25 tonnes and their frequent plying is not just damaging the roads but also the properties of the nearby houses,” Bhadran told Manorama News.
Widespread violation of Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA) norms are alleged at Thottappally against which locals and activists have been staging a sit-in for over 45 days.
The protesters have accused the authorities concerned of turning their backs to the protest.
“Several houses in the region have nearly caved in because of the aggressive mining,” a protester who refused to be named told Onmanorama. “Huge machines are used for a phenomenon called sea washing that separates minerals from the sand, which is destroying the fragile environment," he said.
Last June, a local body had issued a stop memo to Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd (KMML) from mining at Thottappally. But, the mining activity had resumed weeks later following a high court order.
Before that, the state government had ordered the removal of hundreds of trees from the area to deepen the estuary mouth for ensuring smooth flow from Kuttanad through the Thottappally spillway.
Meanwhile, the local leadership of the CPI has called for the mining to be stopped at Thottappally.
A few years ago, a large-scale protest and indefinite strike by residents of Alappad in Kollam district had forced the government to stop sea washing on its shores.