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Karnataka protests with a twist: The long and ‘shorts’ of it

Over the years, the state has seen many innovative and unconventional demonstrations, from a ‘pink chaddi’ campaign to planting paddy on pot-holed roads.

Written by Kiran Parashar | Bengaluru |
Updated: June 10, 2022 9:27:28 pm
Protest infront of Gandhi statue in Vidhana Soudha, Bengaluru against textbooks. (Express photo)

In the wake of a row in Karnataka over the “saffronisation” of textbooks, “chaddi (shorts)” protests took the centre stage this week, with Congress workers burning khaki shorts associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP collecting worn-out shorts and undergarments in a door-to-door campaign to send to former chief minister and Congress leader Siddaramaiah’s house.

Over the years, the state has seen many innovative protests. In 2009, a group of women launched the “pink chaddi” campaign after activists of the right-wing group Sri Rama Sene attacked a pub in Mangalore and beat up women. Pink underwear was sent to the Sena’s offices in protest against the outfit’s moral policing.

The following year, a group of sanitation workers in the town of Savanur smeared human excreta on themselves to protest against eviction from their homes.

In August 2021, residents of north Bengaluru’s Medharahalli filled pothole-riddled roads with slush and planted paddy. The roads had been dug up but not asphalted. This mode of protest was followed in another locality in the city the following month.

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As recently as last month, a few industrialists in the city performed an “aarti pooja” at a local Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Limited (BESCOM) office to protest against frequent power cuts.

Artists in the state have also contributed to building a culture of public protest. In 2015, visual artist Baadal Nanjundaswamy painted a huge crocodile around a pothole on a Bengaluru road. He told The Indian Express, “In the context of civic issues, creative protests play an important role in drawing the administration’s attention. Whenever the administration ignores a formal way of complaint, these innovative methods get attention. This also inspires others to solve their problems. Some of the conventional methods of protests may also lead to the arrests but these innovative methods are generally backed by the public.”

Professor Chandan Gowda of The Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) said, “Creative symbolic protests and campaigns have always been seen in the political arena. Some are short-lived and some endure for a longer time. In societies with mass communication technologies, symbolic politics have a frighteningly large scope for influencing people.”


He added that an “engagement with symbols has become necessary to devise a counter and oppositional politics in a world that is seeing a “saturation of discussions in the print media”.

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Off-beat demonstrations also feature in the state’s public protest culture. In 2019, pro-Kannada activist and former MLA Vatal Nagaraj, roamed the streets of Bengaluru on a horse-driven chariot, assuring young couples of safety and protection from the Sri Ram Sene, which threatened to attack them on Valentine’s Day. In 2016, Nagaraj also brought donkeys to the Karnataka Assembly with the stated aim of highlighting issues ignored in the House.

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First published on: 10-06-2022 at 06:25:40 pm

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