Bengaluru’s civic body, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s (BBMP) council on Saturday, 29 February, passed a resolution to not allow protests to be held outside Puttannachetty Town Hall.
During the council’s session on Saturday, Bengaluru Mayor Goutham Kumar said that the decision was made as the civic body was unable to generate revenue from Town Hall.
‘Puttannachetty Town Hall is not generating revenue as people are not coming forward to rent out the space for various programmes. This is because the space outside Town Hall has been utilised for various protests by various organisations on a day-to-day basis. Those wanting to rent spaces for programmes refrain from doing so because of the protests.’M Gautham Kumar, Mayor of Bengaluru
He further stated that the BBMP had informed the Bengaluru Police that permission for holding protests outside Town Hall must not be granted.
“For protests, people can utilise spaces like Freedom Park and a few other designated spaces in the city. The city is incurring a loss when it comes to revenue generated by Town Hall and this is the only reason why protests cannot be held outside the building any longer,” he claimed.
The issue was on the council’s agenda on Saturday and the resolution was passed with a simple majority of BJP councillors. The agenda was introduced by the Mayor and the resolution was passed without discussion in the BBMP council.
Can the BBMP Impose Such Restrictions?
A senior lawyer practising at the Karnataka High Court, BT Venkatesh, said that the BBMP has no right to impose restrictions on those who want to protest outside the Town Hall, and called it a ploy to clamp down on people’s right to protest.
‘BBMP does not own the property outside Town Hall. It belongs to the people. Nowhere in the world does this happen. All residents of Bengaluru are equal owners of the property outside Town Hall. This is one of the schemes of the present govt to clamp down on protests against the CAA and NRC. It is too hot to handle for them. Town Hall is a prominent area, and people show up there for protests. The only reason they are doing this is to clamp down on rights of people.’B T Venkatesh, Lawyer, Bengaluru High Court.
Voice of the Opposition
Congress corporator from Manorayana Palya and Leader of Opposition in the BBMP Council, Abdul Wajid, said that Mayor Goutham Kumar is “out to snatch away the rights of people”. He said that the opposition would stage a protest outside Town Hall on March 3 and demand a discussion in the council.
‘In Bengaluru, we only have two places where prominent protests have taken place historically. It is outside Town Hall and at Freedom Park. Our Constitution says that any person can protest anywhere, irrespective of religion, caste and creed. Town Hall is a central location and is easily accessible to people. I feel that because a lot of anti-CAA and NRC protests are happening outside Town Hall, the government hatched a plot to not provide a venue. If there is no venue then how will people protest? This is their mindset.’Abdul Wajid, Congress Corporator.
The Congress corporator further stated that the BBMP charges Rs 1.25 lakh rent per day for those who want to hold programmes at Town Hall.
“Half of the programmes that happen there are government functions and those get 50% discount. Then obviously revenue will be lesser. Who are they (BJP government) to snatch the right of people to protest? We demand a discussion in the council,” he added.
Mujahid Pasha, a senior BBMP corporator from SDPI, said the resolution was introduced by the Mayor and passed without any discussion within 10 minutes.
This shows the mentality of the Mayor and his party. It is understood that all these protests are mostly against the policies of the Central government, and this is a way to hide the discontent against it. If the protests are hidden away in Freedom Park, then many people won’t come to know about them and there will be less media attention as well.Mujahid Pasha, BBMP Corporator.
(The copy has been republished in an arrangement with The News Minute)