From a street thug to a mad dog, the 33-year-old policeman who stopped a union minister right close to Kerala’s Sabarimala temple has been known as names for some years now. However Yathish Chandra doesn’t let that deter him.
Pon Radhakrishnan, the junior finance minister at the center, definitely didn’t when he reached the Nilakkal base camp near to the temple with a group of BJP activists on Wednesday. As his personal vehicle reached the Sabarimala temple that is in the middle of a huge row over the entry of ladies, the policemen stopped him. Leading the team was Yatish Chandra, the 2011 batch Indian Police Service officer whose some of his colleagues say, reminds them of the policeman in the Hindi movie, ‘Dabangg’.
In a video of their face-off that has been widely circulated, the minister is seen asking Chandra why personal vehicles aren't allowed. Yathish Chandra, the Thrissur district police chief, says, “I’ll explain it to you, due to recent floods…” The minister cut him short. “I apprehend that.” But Chandra wasn’t having it. “Can you please listen to me?” Yathish Chandra asks the minister.
And he has his say. The officer explains that there are complications with parking nearer to the temple as the grounds close to the Sabarimala temple were washed away when the recent floods This has led to the risk of landslides in the area. “But why are the private vehicle not allowed to enter when government buses are?” the minister retorts. When he is unable to get through to the minister, Chandra offers to let the private vehicles pass on one condition. “Are you willing to take responsibility?” the officer, who trained as an electrical engineer before joining the police, asks. The minister quickly makes it clear that he didn’t want to “take responsibility”.
“That is that the factor here, nobody wants to take responsibility,” Chandra says, a broad smile on his face. A BJP leader standing next to Radhakrishna loses his calm and starts yelling at Chandra for addressing the minister in such a tone. The confrontation continues for a few longer before the minister’s supporters get the message and back off. Not so long ago, Chandra had arrested BJP general secretary K Surendran and Hindu Aikya Vedi chief KP Sasikala, who are believed to have fanned protests over the entry of women into Sabarimala. They were trying to enter the shrine.
Asked, Chandra insists he doesn’t have an agenda. “We are only doing our duty, without favoring or hurting any political party. Our aim is to make Sabarimala a peaceful space, a safe place for all devotees. We do not have any agenda,” he told Livemint over the phone. For his actions and beliefs, Chandra, within the police circles, has an image problem with a few of his colleagues suggesting that he was “trying to impress the chief minister”.
“He is someone who wants to be seen close to the powers that be. So he is trying to impress the chief minister now, I would not be surprised,” Livemint quoted one of the most senior police officers in the state who did not wish to be named. Chandra ridicules the charge. “Basically, I am here to execute the orders of the democratically elected government,” he said. That has got him on the wrong side of Pinarayi Vijayan, now chief minister, when he was in the opposition. It was Vijayan who had called him a “street thug” and veteran communist leader VS Achuthanandan had likened to a “mad dog”.