A day long bandh organized on Thursday by pro Kannada organizations to protest against a rash of sexual assaults and rape of women and children in Bangalore was not a protest against the Congress government in the state, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah claimed.
The protest which was organized by pro Kannada groups lead by veteran Kannada activist Vatal Nagaraj was intended to create awareness about the safety of women and children and was not against the state government chief minister Siddaramaiah told reporters.
Leader of the opposition Janata Dal Secular H D Kumaraswamy however emphasized that the bandh was a reaction to the state government’s failure to ensure the safety of women and children.
“The back drop against which the Bangalore band was called is the attacks on women and children. These attacks occurred because of government failure. The chief minister cannot state that the protests are not against the government – it is against the government,’’ Kumaraswamy said.
The day long bandh was peaceful and evoked a mixed response with schools, colleges and commercial establishments like shops and hotels remaining shut. Traffic flowed at an easy pace in the commercial parts of the city as most offices functioned normally and buses were deployed by the BMTC to serve passengers.
Pro Kannada organizations took out a peaceful march from the Town Hall to the Freedom Park. They raised slogans against attacks on women and children. The protestors also heckled public transport bus drivers and auto rickshaw drivers who were spotted along the protest rally path for not heeding the bandh call. “Shame on you bus drivers, shame on you rickshaw drivers, don’t you have women at home,’’ the protestors chanted when they spotted buses and rickshaws plying on the streets.
While the main focus of the bandh was the attacks on women and children in Bangalore the pro Kannada organizations also chanted slogans against the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti – a political outfit from Belgaum region on the Karnataka – Maharashtra border. The MES has been accused of putting up signboards on the Karnataka border indicating that certain villages like Yellur were a part of Maharashtra even though they are a part of Karnataka.
The pro Kannada organizations demanded action against MES activists during a meeting with Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah at the end of the protest rally on Thursday. Pro Kannada leader Vatal Nagaraj stated that he would be taking a delegation to New Delhi to meet union home minister Rajnath Singh to register a protest against the actions of the MES in border villages.
Nagaraj also said that the chief minister had assured him of strong police action against persons involved in sexual assaults including the invoking of the stringent Goonda Act.
The bandh on Thursday in Bangalore is widely seen as an effort by pro Kannada organizations to be relevant in a political scenario where as many as 60 pro-Kannada groups have sprouted with no common goals and a growing lack of interest among the public in linguistic ideals.