Superintendent of Police Yathish Chandra turned a celebrity on social media after he faced up to Union minister Pon Radhakrishnan who wanted the Kerala Police to let private vehicles all the way to Pamba. The officer bluntly told the BJP minister visiting Sabarimala that he could lift the ban on private vehicles on the road to the hill shrine only if the minister owned up the responsibility for any consequent troubles.
Chandra has built a reputation as a no-nonsense officer. He first hit the headlines during his stint as the Aluva Rural Superintendent of Police when he broke up an agitation by the Left Democratic Front at Angamali. As a Deputy Commissioner of Police in Kochi, he courted controversy when he led a lathicharge on a group of people protesting the proposed IOC plant at Puthuvype. A boy told the Kerala State Human Rights Commission that the DCP had beat him up.
Hailing from Davangere in Karnataka, the 2011 batch IPS officer started his career as an Additional Superintendent of Police in Kannur. During his stint as the Rural Superintendent of Police in Kozhikode, he took strong actions against hawala operators. He served as Ernakulam Rural Superintendent of Police, Kochi Deputy Commissioner, Crime Branch Superintendent of Police and Thrissur Rural Superintendent of Police before being appointed as the city police commissioner in Thrissur.
Chandra initially wanted to be an engineering professional in the United States. He was diverted to the IPS by a friend. “My friend, the son of a head constable, nudged me to a career with the police. He used to tell me about several superintendents of police. When I planned to appear for the Common Admission Test, he suggested that I should I write the civil service exams. I had no idea about the civil services then. I studied along with my friends,” Chandra has said.
Chandra hogged news space when he ordered a lathicharge on an opposition protest march at Angamali on March 14, 2015. LDF activists had blocked the national highway as a statewide hartal. Chandra dispersed the crowd with force after his pleas not to block the arterial road were dismissed.
Several people were injured in the police action. CPM area secretary K K Shibu and Mookkannoor panchayat president K K Mohanan were hospitalised. Chandra drew flak from across the LDF. Even Pinarayi Vijayan and V S Achuthanandan blamed him for the violence. Police Complaints Authority chairman K Narayana Kurup criticised the officer for the police high-handedness.
BJP had defended Yathish Chandra
Curiously, BJP leaders were the only ones to defend the superintendent of police. There were social media posts for and against the officer.
He remained under the media radar until the local resistance to the IOC plant at Puthuvype near Kochi. He was accused of using excessive force to break up the protesters, including women and children. Achuthanandan asked the chief minister to suspend the officer. The State Human Rights Commission filed a case against Chandra on the basis of news reports.
Chandra told the commission that he resorted to a lathicharge after the crowd refused to disband. He said the protesters were blocking the police trial run to ensure security to the visiting prime minister. He, however, was surprised to see a seven-year-old boy standing up to him. Allen told the commission that the deputy commissioner beat him and the other protesters.
Contrary to speculations, the LDF did not sideline him when it came to power in 2016. He was entrusted with law and order in Thrissur. He lived up to his position by rolling out several popular initiatives as part of the Jan Maithri community policing scheme.
Chandra continued to be a frequent social media star though. He was one of the few IPS officers in Kerala to take up Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “fitness challenge”. He posted his workout session on YouTube and the video promptly went viral.
The Kerala experience
Chandra believes that Kerala is one of the best places for a police officer to work. "Kerala does not harbour the vestiges of a feudal culture. Police officers do not face tremendous pressure from their seniors," he has said.
He was handpicked to maintain law and order around Sabarimala probably due to his track record as an upright officer.
He got straight into the job, blocking Hindu Aikya Vedi leader K P Sasikala on her way to the Sannidhanam. He told her that she was free to trek to the shrine, provided she agreed to return the same day without spending the night atop. The police were forced to issue prohibitory orders at Sabarimala after a group of activists went berserk near the temple last week.
Though Sasikala tried to stand her ground, she was allowed to proceed to Sabarimala only after agreeing in writing that she would return the same day.
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