|Sandhya protests the police decision to barricade the road near the chief minister’s residence in Thiruvananthapuram; (above) V Surendran Pillai, a Left ally and a former minister, argues with Sandhya as Kadakampally Surendran (left in picture), the CPM’s district secretary, tries to intervene
Thiruvananthapuram, Dec. 13: A homemaker has dared to do what Kerala’s administration would not — take on the political class for curtailing people’s freedom of movement in the name of protests.
Sandhya, who lives down the road leading to chief minister Oommen Chandy’s residence, has emerged a heroine of sorts since yesterday after publicly questioning the Left leaders who have been trying to lay siege to Chandy’s bungalow.
She also protested the police decision to barricade the road off to prevent the demonstrators reaching the VIP avenue, saying this was hindering her right of way to and from her home.
Adding insult to the Left’s injury, a leading Kerala businessman today announced a Rs 5-lakh cash reward for the forty-something Sandhya.
“An ordinary woman like her has dared to challenge a gigantic political party. This award will inspire more and more people to speak out against injustice,” Kochouseph Chittilappilly, chairperson of the V-Guard group of industries, said.
Sandhya’s patience had run out when, returning to her home around 10.30 yesterday morning, she found the protesters and the barricades blocking her way. The scene had been the same for a couple of hours every morning since December 9, when the Left Democratic Front launched the indefinite siege.
Sandhya hit out at the Left leaders present, asking why they were causing hardship to the people. The leaders replied the protest was for the people.
This irritated Sandhya further and she taunted the politicians saying there was none to raise their voice when minor girls were abused. She alleged the protesters were collecting money from neighbourhood homes and had forced her to part with Rs 100.
Realising that TV cameras were rolling, the Left leaders wisely turned their ire at the police, accusing them of blocking the people’s way.
Taking the cue from Sandhya, representatives from various residents’ associations in the city agitated at the scene today. Eventually, the police and the Left decided to restrict their barricades and protests to one side of the road.
The agitators want Chandy to resign over the solar panel scandal, in which investors across the state have allegedly been swindled out of lakhs of rupees in the name of installing solar panels at their homes.
Although the Left had declared a round-the-clock siege, the leaders have since December 9 been arriving in the morning, delivering speeches and then courting arrest an hour or so later. Chandy has apparently been leaving his home before the protests start each morning.
Upset CPM leaders have now targeted Sandhya. Anathalavattom Anandan, senior CPM leader and state president of the party’s labour arm Citu, has accused her of being a Congress agent assigned to discredit the Left protest.
Sandhya, however, denied she had anything to do with any party and hoped her action would inspire others.
George Sebastian, a leader of Left ally Kerala Congress (P.C. Thomas faction), which had joined the protest, visited Sandhya’s home today and apologised for any difficulties caused to her.
Sandhya and her husband, a small-time trader, have been living with their two school-going children in a rented house in the locality for the past eight years.
Chittilappilly had earlier invited Citu’s wrath following a tiff over the unloading of cargo at a group company. Claiming the union was acting in an unjust manner by not allowing company staff to unload the goods, the businessman had done the job himself.