CHENNAI: There was high drama on the streets of Chennai on Thursday when the opposition DMDK, led by its founder Vijayakant protested near Anna Nagar for a while in the evening, despite the Madras High Court refusing it permission.
Fearing that city police would reject the application for permission to organise a human chain for prohibition, the party had moved a petition before the High Court on Wednesday seeking a directive to police to allow the protest.
As the petition was not taken up for hearing on Wednesday and after its application was rejected by police, the party through its counsel VT Balaji, moved the court seeking to hear its plea urgently on Thursday.
Admitting the plea, the court listed the matter as the first item post lunch. When the petition came up for hearing before Justice M Sathyanarayanan at about 2.15 pm, it was further adjourned to be heard at the end of the day.
When the hearing eventually began about 4 pm, advocate general A L Somayaji informed the court that peak hour traffic would be disrupted if the human chain was allowed. He also said the opposition party had failed to get permission from the appropriate police authority five days before the event as mandated by law.
Denying the AG’s contention about traffic disruption, VT Balaji assured the court that the agitation would be silent and peaceful.
Noting that the party had failed to apply for permission five days ahead as mandated by the City Police Act, Justice Sathyanarayanan set the petitioner at liberty to either withdraw the petition or alter the prayer accordingly to challenge the rejection order of police.
By then, even as the case was being heard, the party cadre had begun staging protests at various parts of the city, which the A-G brought to the notice of the court. But refusing to interfere in the issue, the judge said, “The petitioner is exploiting their right to protest, the police are free to take action in accordance with law. The court cannot do anything more,” and posted the matter to Monday for further hearing.
Meanwhile, crowds began swelling at five main points — Koyambedu near DMDK headquarters, Chennai Central, Anna Arch, Pachaiyappa’s College and Aminjikarai — from 3 pm.
Around 4.30 pm, Vijayakant came to lead the protest and formed a human chain with his party workers. With the traffic going haywire, senior officials including the assistant commissioner of Koyambedu, AD Mohanraj, urged him to stop the stir that was being staged without permission, or face arrest. Vijayakant was arrested and removed before long.
Following this, as many as 730 party members including women, led by Premalatha Vijayakant and her brother LK Sudhish and five other legislators from the party, were arrested.
The drama on the streets was far from over. A section of irate party workers blocked the MTC bus on which Vijayakant was being taken to a community hall in Nerkundram. When the local police managed to free the vehicle, the cadres returned to block traffic on the busy Jawaharlal Nehru Road. An MTC bus to Thiru Vi Ka Nagar from Koyambedu was pelted with stones which injured the crew.
Eventually, police used canes to disperse the crowd in which about 20 were allegedly injured. They were admitted to Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital.
It was a nightmarish day for city dwellers when the DMDK protest, coupled with the rehersal of convoy movement ahead of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit on Friday, choked traffic in all the major roads in the city.
As the opposition protests shrunk the carriage way on Poonamallee High Road and Jawharlal Nehru Road, the cascading effect was witnessed on other roads up to Nungambakkam and beyond in the afternoon. This added to the trouble on roads in the morning when the convoy rehersal led to huge traffic snarls on major roads.