Vol. XLI No. 21 May 21, 2017

TELANGANA: Police Lathicharge on ‘Occupy Dharna Chowk’

M Venugopala Rao

PROTESTING against the decision of the TRS government to shift the dharna chowk near Indira Park to the outskirts of Hyderabad, the Left parties, including the CPI(M), and several mass organisations conducted a massive ‘Occupy Dharna Chowk’ on May 15.  The conspiracy of the ruling TRS to organise a counter-protest for shifting of the dharna chowk under the garb of local residents and walkers’ association, to portray it as a conflict between them and protestors against shifting of the dharna chowk, and the impropriety of giving permissions to different groups with mutually contradictory demands to hold dharnas at the same place and at the same time, were thoroughly exposed. The exposure of participation in the dharna of TRS workers from other areas and even a woman circle inspector of police and several women constables in civil dress even from some other districts all in the name of local residents resulted in loss of face to the ruling party and the police. In the police lathicharge, 38 workers belonging to different political parties and mass organisations, including journalists of three TV channels, were injured, some of them seriously.  The Occupy Dharna Chowk is the culmination of relay hunger strikes on daily basis held at Makhdoom Bhavan, state headquarters of the CPI, from April 15 to May 14, as announced by the Committee for Protection of Dharna Chowk.

Protesting against the police lathicharge and attacks made by the TRS workers and the police in civil dress masquerading themselves as local residents, the CPI(M), CPI and several others Left parties, the Congress, TDP and different mass organisations organised raasta rokos, dharnas and  cycle rallies and burnt effigies of the government and the chief minister at various places in the state.

From the early morning on May 15, the police were deployed on a large scale at Indira Park and surrounding areas and arranged barricades and iron meshes, giving the look of a war zone. After the news reached that official permission was given for the Occupy Dharna Chowk agitation, leaders and workers of the CPI(M), CPI, CPI(ML) New Democracy, Telangana JAC, Jana Sena, Telangana Praja Front, and other Left parties and mass organisations took out a massive rally from Bus Bhavan at RTC X Roads to Indira Park. When they were reaching the dharna chowk, heated exchange took place between them and those who were holding dharna for shifting of the dharna chowk (including police in civil dress and TRS workers). The protesters of the opposition parties and mass organisations raised slogans against the TRS government and chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao. The agitators destroyed some of the chairs at dharna place. In the tense situation, the police resorted to lathicharge. M Srinivas Reddy, secretary of central city committee of the CPI(M), state committee member John Wesley, city CPI(M)  leader Vithal, secretary of Madhira town committee of the CPI(M) P Ramanarsayya, state secretary of SFI K Ramesh, SFI leaders from Karimnagar M Tirupathi and S Ganesh, were among the injured. Calling the bluff of the government and TRS that local residents and walkers are for shifting of the dharna chowk, local residents provided drinking water to the agitators against shifting of the dharna chowk.  

Speaking at the dharna chowk, leaders of opposition parties warned that the fate of the late Nizam ruler and Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler would befall on chief minister Chandrasekhar Rao. They demanded the government to call for an all-party meeting forthwith to protect democratic rights of the people and continue the dharna chowk at Indira Park permanently. Tammineni Veerabhadram, state secretary of the CPI(M), accused the government of provoking  and getting a counter-dharna organised for shifting of the dharna chowk and termed it an atrocious idea and a conspiracy to see that people from all over the state do not come to the capital city to agitate for redressal of their grievances and demands. He said it would have been better had the government given permission for those who did not want dharnas to hold dharna elsewhere. Veerabhadram termed giving permission for counter-dharna at Indira Park itself a victory for the agitators against shifting of the dharna chowk. The traders at dharna chowk area met the leaders and insisted on continuing the dharna chowk for eking out their livelihood, Veerabhadram said.  Chada Venkat Reddy, state secretary of the CPI and convener of Committee for Protection of Dharna Chowk, said ‘Occupy Dharna Chowk’ movement has scored a moral victory. M Kodandaram, chairman of Telangana JAC, accused the government of shirking its responsibility to resolve the issue peacefully by holding an all-party meeting. Even after formation of the Telangana state, KCR has been acting like a dictator, president of Telangana Congress committee Uttamkumar Reddy criticised. Revanth Reddy, working president of Telangana TDP, warned that if permissions for dharnas at dharna chowk were not given, Pragati Bhavan, the official residence of the chief minister, would be occupied. Many other leaders of the Left parties and mass organisations participated in the dharna.

   After the Occupy Dharna Chowk agitation, addressing the media at Makhdoom Bhavan, Veerabhadram, Venkat Reddy and several other leaders of the Committee for Protection of Dharna Chowk demanded the TRS government to tender unconditional apology for the brutal lathicharge on the agitators. They criticised that the police, who have to act as protectors of the rights of the people and laws, have become flunkeys of the ruling party. They thanked the people for making the Occupy Dharna Chowk agitation a success and thanked almost all the political parties in Telangana, except the ruling TRS and MIM, which participated in the agitation. If the government does not take a positive decision on their demand within a week, the Committee would meet and announce future course of action, they said.