KOCHI:The dawn-to-dusk hartal called by Dalit organisations to protest against the dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act on Monday evoked a partial response in the district. KSRTC and private buses operated on the normal schedule in the city and several shops functioned as usual.
Though buses and private vehicles kept off the roads in the morning, they commenced services despite protests by hartal supporters. Many shops in the city opened by 10 am. The Kochi Metro operated services as normal with a heavy rush of passengers. Despite the surge in prices, a few commuters resorted to online taxi services. However, normal life was hit in rural areas as private buses kept off the roads.
As many as 49 persons, including Gothra Mahasabha leader M Geethanandan, were arrested by the city police for blocking vehicles at North railway overbridge, High Court junction and Madavana. They were later released. The Central police arrested Geethanandan and 14 others on charges of attempting to block vehicles at the High Court junction. Meanwhile, the police took CPI (ML) Red Flag leader T C Subrahmanian into custody from Madhava Pharmacy junction for conducting a rally in the city without permission. Six others were arrested for marching in protest against Subrahmanian's arrest. The Panangad police also arrested 18 persons for staging a sit-in protest on the road near KUFOS.
"Though we had not blocked any vehicles, the police took us into custody. The police action is anti-democratic. They have also taken many others, who have no links with the organisations that called the hartal into custody," Geethanandan told reporters. Ernakulam Central Assistant Commissioner K Laljy said two separate cases were registered at the Ernakulam Central Station in connection with the blocking of vehicles on hartal day. "Geethandan was booked for attempting to block vehicles at High Court Junction, while Dalit leader Manuel was booked for blocking vehicles at Ernakulam North railway station" he said.