The Politics Of Dharna Chowk
Hyderabad: The politics over Dharna Chowk reached its peak on Monday when various opposition parties and civil rights groups agitated against the relocation of Dharna Chowk, situated opposite to Indira Park.
Dharna Chowk was a place where grievances of the people were expressed. It had become more popular during Telangana movement, as it was mostly occupied by the Telangana agitators.
Before Dharna Chowk was created by the government, people used to protest opposite to the Secretariat near Lumbini Park in the city. As the traffic grew and it had become inconvenient to public, in the year 2000 the then Chandrababu Naidu government created Dharna Chowk for protestors to express their grievances.
Immediately, all the newspapers created new dateline for the area and appointed beat reporters too. That way it assumed importance and became an important landmark. For more than a decade and a half, agitators have been protesting there. The area was totally packed and it created a lot of inconvenience to the public during Telangana movement. But, people bore with it at that time.
Three years after Telangana was created, the TRS government chose to shift Dharna Chowk to somewhere in the outskirts. While Chandrababu Naidu is said to have taken the decision to give a good impression to the corporates which want to set up their units in the city, Chief Minister Chandrashekar Rao seems to be having other reasons, though they have cited law and order problems as the main cause. Since Dharna Chowk was close to Secretariat and Assembly, people accepted the suggestion to relocate.
The agitations at Dharna Chowk grew in the last one and a half or two years. All the people who participated in Telangana agitation and trusted the promises made by KCR, are now questioning him as to what happened to the promises and why he is not fulfilling them. It has become a headache for the government as that is showing it in a poor light, though the media is not publishing the items prominently. Every day, somebody or the other is seen criticizing Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR) for not fulfilling promises he made.
The TJAC led by Prof Kodandaram has been spearheading the campaign for Dharna Chowk. It is a well-known fact that Prof Kodandaram who played a crucial role during Telangana movement and was considered close to KCR, was kept at a distance after the State formation. The government wanted to suppress TJAC, as it started questioning its policies and about unfulfilled promises.
On the issue of Dharna Chowk, Kodandaram is said to be having the tacit support of opposition parties – Congress, BJP, Telugu Desam Party and Left. As a ‘Chalo Indira Park’ movement is planned on Monday, Prof Kodandaram went underground along with his colleagues to avoid arrest by the police during midnight. As expected, they emerged at Indira Park on Monday morning to lead the campaign.
Even before, the TRS government cracked down on a rally by unemployed and took Kodandaram into custody. Now the TJAC beat the government in its game.
The abrupt decision of TRS government to shift the site is seen and criticised as the suppression of democratic rights to dissent by the KCR government. The opposition described the stir as a symbolic protest against the government for banning democratic movements at Dharna Chowk.
While Kodandaram said that it’s a protest to protect their Constitutional right, senior Congress leader Hanumantha Rao said that it’s a protest against KCR government.
The decision to shift Dharna Chowk was taken earlier this year after TJAC called for protests highlighting rising unemployment in the state. This led to a massive showdown between protesters and Police. Prof Kodandaram, along with many activists and leaders was detained. The protest to save Dharna Chowk has been going on for the past one month. The CPI and other Keft parties have organised relay hunger strike by people from various walks of life at Muhdoom Bhavan.
As the police gave permission to the people who were for shifting of the Chowk, chaos ensued on Monday morning. Though it is being said that Walker’s Association representatives and residents of the area are present there, they are identified as TRS activists by people there. Within an hour after the protest started and both the parties rose their voice and the police force was not adequate, confusion prevailed and both parties attacked each other with chairs and stones.
Incidentally, many photographs surfaced by Monday afternoon, showing the government supplying food to those activists (read TRS members) by government vehicles.
Now police are all set to take the blame for giving permission to both parties, however, they succeeded in dispersing the agitators for now.