Kollam (Kerala) | High drama played out in this Kerala district on Saturday when State Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, facing SFI's black flag protest, got off his car, took on the agitating Left student wing members, sat on the roadside and hit out at the Chief Minister in what seemed to be yet another chapter in the Raj Bhavan vs ruling LDF face-off.
A visibly angry Khan accused CM Pinarayi Vijayan of "promoting lawlessness in the state." Khan also said he had not staged a protest but was waiting for the police to show him the FIR copy following his demand for action against the protesting members of the Students Federation of India, affiliated to the CPI-M.
The dramatic scenes were witnessed at Nilamel in Kollam, located about 40 km from state capital Thiruvananthapuram.
After sitting there for over two hours, Khan left the place only after the police showed him a copy of the FIR lodged against 17 SFI activists under non-bailable provisions of the law.
Speaking to reporters after that, the Governor lashed out at Vijayan, saying the Marxist veteran was "promoting lawlessness in the state".
"It is him who is giving direction to the police to give protection to these lawbreakers against whom, including the state president of the organisation (SFI) many criminal cases are pending in the courts," Khan charged.
He also questioned whether the protestors would have been allowed to line up alongside the police on the roadside if the CM was passing through that route.
Khan also claimed that the protestors tried to hit his vehicle.
The Governor, while on his way from Thiruvananthapuram to attend a programme in Kottarakkara here, saw SFI protestors on the roadside near Nilamel waving black flags and banners, stating "Sanghi Chancellor go back" -- at him.
Irked, Khan ordered his vehicle to be stopped, got out and walked towards the SFI, shouting "aao" (come) at them.
As he rushed towards the protestors shouting at them, the police personnel deployed there acted as a barrier between him and the SFI activists who kept yelling slogans at Khan.
After the police removed the protestors from the area, Khan took a chair from a shop on the busy MC Road and sat down there demanding action against the agitators.
In the visuals aired on TV channels, a visibly angry Khan could also be seen talking tough to the police personnel.
He was heard telling his personal staff to get him the Police Commissioner or whosoever was there in his office.
"Else call the Prime Minister's Office (PMO)," he was heard saying.
When the officers there requested him to resume his journey, the Governor refused and shot back, "I will not go. You (police) were giving protection to them (protestors) here." "The police were standing there and giving protection to them. I will not go from here. If the police itself is breaking the law, who will uphold the law." Even as the Governor sat at the roadside shop surrounded by his officials and police, slogans demanding that he "go back" could be heard.
Besides police, his officials and local people gathered in large numbers at the spot after Khan decided to sit down at the wayside shop.
When reporters later asked Khan if he had staged a protest, he said it was not so.
"This is not any protest. Why should I protest? Why will I protest? I can take action. I was waiting for the FIR copy to come," Khan said.
Meanwhile, Union Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs V Muraleedharan told reporters that the situation "clearly indicates" that the Home Department and Vijayan, who heads it, have failed to discharge their Constitutional duties.
Muraleedharan also said the CM should realise that the Governor cannot be deterred by such moves.
"He (CM) should understand that he is playing with fire," the MoS said.
Muraleedharan said that if the media were present at the protest site, it means that even the state intelligence knew about the agitation beforehand and therefore, either the SFI activists should have been cleared in advance or the route of the Governor changed.
State General Education Minister V Sivankutty, on the other hand, termed the incident as the "fourth show" of the Governor.
"The first show was when he got out of his vehicle while on his way to the Thiruvananthapuram airport when SFI activists waved black flags at him. The second one was the manner in which he concluded the government's customary policy address in the Assembly. The third was his conduct during the Republic Day celebrations at the Central Stadium in the state capital and this is the fourth one," the minister said.
Sivankutty said that no Governor of any state in the country has behaved in this manner and Khan was deliberately acting like this without considering the position he holds.
"He is challenging the people of Kerala," the minister claimed.
Khan and the Left government have been at loggerheads over several issues, primarily about the functioning of universities in the state and his non-signing of certain bills passed by the assembly.
Amid the face-off, on Thursday, the Governor had finished his customary policy address to the Kerala Assembly within two minutes, reading out only the last paragraph.