For the last 27 years, over one lakh residents of parts of Kota city have been living under the shadow of prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC, which has prevented them from hosting any public functions and processions, except during marriages and funerals.
Places like Bajaj Khana, Ghanta Ghar, Makbara Patan Pole and Tipta, stretching over an area of two kilometer in Kota city where a large section of residents belong to the minority community, had been placed under the section which prohibits the assembly of four or more persons after outbreak of communal violence in 1989.
But residents claim that the restrictions were continuing till day though no law and order problem has been reported and it was a “stigma” for them. Locals allege that banks refuse to grant them loans and officials ignore their grievances.
Section 144 was imposed following the lifting of curfew after communal riots took place in September 1989. However, the then district collector of Kota (S N Thanwi) in September 1990 issued a circular extending the imposition of the Section “till the next order”, which never came.
“The locals in the area are forced to lead an inferior life as they have not been to carry any cultural, social religious programmes or procession for last 27 years,” state secretary of Centre of Indian Trade Unions R K Swami said.
“We are facing apathy of the administration due to the current situation,” said Sarfaraj Ansari, a local resident who was only 22 years old when the order was imposed.
The locals moved court in March 2009 against the long imposition of the CrPC section in the area, Swami said.
He said though the state government gave a positive reply to the court, the restrictions were not lifted in the area where a sizeable population belongs to the minority section.
There has been no major crime or unlawful activity in the these areas for the last several years but the locals still have to face the changing dates in the court instead of an order lifting the imposed section, Ansari added.
Asked about the issue, District Collector Ravi Kumar Surpur evaded a direct reply and said that the section is invoked to ensure there is no breach of peace.
“Section 144 is a preventive and precautionary measure to maintain law and order situation. That is the very reason that certain practices are followed that there should not be breach of peace, should not be disturbance in the communal harmony,” he said
An RTI activist said that not lifting the restrictions for such a long duration is a “violation of civil rights.”
“Imposition of Section 144 in civil area of the city for as long as 27 years is clearly violation of civil rights and is not in favour of the country and the democracy,” said Phralad Singh Chadda, RTI activist in Kota.
Section 144 can be imposed for a maximum of six months, an advocate Jamil Ahamed said.