Not that last time police allowed Ramachandra Guha to stand with a placard outside the Town Hall in Bangalore. But now the historian will be formally disallowed to do so should he seek permission.
On Saturday, the tech town’s most popular spot for dissent was officially declared out of bounds for protesters.
The ground zero of the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act had hit the headlines far beyond Bangalore on December 19 — a day of unparalleled protests against the CAA — when the police committed the blunder of dragging away Guha who was merely standing there with a placard.
Guha and others were released later without charges, and The New York Times ran the headline “Gandhi’s biographer arrested as protests over citizenship law sweep India”.
Bangalore’s BJP-controlled civic body — the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike — has now barred all forms of protests outside the Town Hall, citing a fall in bookings.
Mayor Gowtham Kumar told a BBMP council session on Saturday that the Sir Puttanna Chetty Town Hall was losing revenue. “No one is hiring the Town Hall for events since the space outside the Town Hall is being utilised to hold protests on every single day,” he said.
The council passed the resolution with a simple majority.
“The BBMP has informed the police to deny permission to hold protests outside the Town Hall after this resolution. Those who want to hold protests can do so at other venues such as Freedom Park and Maurya Circle,” Kumar added.
For years, protesters would sit on the steps leading to the Town Hall, a stone’s throw from the city corporation.
Abdul Wajid, Congress member of the city council, slammed the BBMP resolution. “They are snatching people’s rights, that too at a time when thousands are out to protest against the CAA,” Wajid told reporters.
Pro-Kannada activist Vatal Nagaraj called it a “totally undemocratic” move that “denies the very basic right of protesting”.
On Sunday, Guha was at an apt place and in friendly company. “Whenever I am in New York, I pay my respects to the Gandhi statue in Union Square. This time I took along a dear friend, the writer Aatish Taseer,” Guha tweeted.
Taseer has been in the crosshairs of the Narendra Modi government since he wrote an article titled “India’s Divider-in-Chief” in Time magazine just before the Lok Sabha elections.