Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan is "not afraid of protests"

The governor's tussle with the Left parties continues, with their anger over bills he delayed for over 2 years after they were passed by the state Assembly expressed as protest marches and blockades

Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan (photo: National Herald archives)
Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan (photo: National Herald archives)

NH Political Bureau

Upping the ante against the state government, Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan said he was not afraid of the protests called by youth outfits affiliated to the ruling Left Democratic Front.

The governor had been greeted by black flags on his arrival at the venue of a function organised by the Kerala Vaypari Vayasai Ekopana Samithi, where he inaugurated the Karunya Family Welfare Scheme in Idduki district’s Thodupuzha.

The DYFI, the SFI and the Youth Front (M), the student group of Kerala Congress (M), had called a hartal in the district to protest against his presence at the function after he refused assent to the Kerala government's Land Assignment (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which has been a longstanding demand of the people in the district.

The hartal commenced at 6 a.m. today (9 January) and lasted until 6 p.m.

The gathered youth activists waved black flags as soon the governor's cavalcade crossed the district border. The police, however, prevented the agitators from proceeding further. A few protesters who tried to reach the convoy were blocked by cops.

The SFI (Students' Federation of India) and DYFI (Democratic Youth Federation of India) activists also organised a march to the hall ahead of the event, but the police quickly removed them from the venue. The SFI workers carrying ‘Go Back Governor’ banners were stopped from marching to the venue of the programme.

Speaking at the traders’ event, Khan said that in public discourse, "force of argument needs to be used and not the argument of force".

Citing the example of what he did in Kozhikode, Khan said that if he had been disrupted he would have walked to the venue just like he had walked in Kozhikode.

He said he has a constitutional obligation to perform and there is no question of his ego or prestige overriding the performing of his duties.

“There is no compromise on certain things and that is… law and rules could not be banned to serve the interest of certain individuals belonging to a particular political dispensation. The interest of the common man in Kerala will be uppermost priority while I discharge my duties,” the governor said at the programme.

“I resigned from the Union cabinet when I was 35. From 1985 to 1990, there were five attempts on my life. In 1990, I was hit on my head with an iron rod. Now, at the age of 72 years, I am living on borrowed time. I do not feel threatened by these protests and blockades. The use of threat and force goes against the grain of democracy,” added Khan.

The LDF (Left Democratic Front) had earlier announced a march to Raj Bhavan on 9 January, before the governor reportedly agreed to attend the Samithi function. Following the governor’s decision to attend the Idukki function, the CPI(M)-led ruling front also announced a hartal in the district on the same day.               

The governor's comments are part of a long-standing tussle between the Left government and the Raj Bhavan on the issue of him not signing bills that had been passed by the state Assembly.

In November 2023, the Kerala state government had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking appropriate orders against Governor Arif Mohammed Khan as he had been unreasonably delaying the consideration of at least eight bills that the state Assembly had passed.

This led to the Supreme Court rapping the Kerala governor later in the month for keeping these eight bills passed by the Kerala state legislative assembly pending for two years, before giving assent to only one and referring the other seven to the President.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud pointed out that neither reason nor justification was given by the governor for keeping the bills pending for such an “inordinately long period”.

The court also pointed out that the governor dealt with the bills only after a notice was issued to the Raj Bhavan on 20 November basis the petition filed by Kerala.

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