The Devanahalli Police on Monday, August 15 arrested 72 farmers who were on an indefinite strike against the state government over land acquisition in Devanahalli in Bengaluru and released them the same evening. They were arrested for not protesting at Freedom Park, which according to the Karnataka High Court order, is the only designated spot for protests in the city. The farmers have been charged under sections 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 290 (punishment for public nuisance in cases not otherwise provided for), 283 (danger or obstruction in public way or line of navigation), and 291 (continuance of nuisance after injunction) of the Indian Penal Code(IPC).
The state government in Karnataka has been ordered to take serious action against anyone responsible for organising protests outside Bengaluru's Freedom Park by the state's high court. According to the Licensing and Regulation of Protests, Demonstrations, and Protest Marches (Bengaluru City) order of 2021, Freedom Park is the designated location for processions, dharnas, and protests, the court reiterated on August 1. Under this order, the state government can take action against those protesting outside the designated area on the grounds that it could lead to major inconvenience for residents. The order empowered police officers to initiate legal action against violators under IPC Section 188 and the Karnataka Police Act, 1963.
“Police arrested Devanahalli farmers today as they were organising a black flag protest. A few of them were picked up early in the morning at 4 am from their protest site. Farmers who were sleeping at the protest site were attacked and then taken into custody without stating any reasons. This is the state's move to suppress the voices of farmers who were discontent with it on Independence Day,” said Aratrike De, a member of All India Students Association (AISA). Sharath, a student activist from AISA who went in solidarity, was also detained by the Devanahalli Police.
However, the police said that they picked up most of the protesters at 10 am and only one person was arrested at 4 am. “We arrested most of them at 10 am today, only one person called Byrareddy was arrested from his residence in Mahalakshmi layout at 4 am. They will be released around 6 pm in the evening today. This is the first case of such an arrest where people were arrested for not protesting at the designated protest spot,” said a police official from the Devanahalli Police Station.
Farmers in Devanahalli have been on an indefinite strike for more than 120 days in protest against the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board's (KIADB) proposal to purchase 1,777 acres of fertile land. According to the KIADB proposal, the state government will launch a global tender and invite businesses to establish plants in Devanahalli. A gazette notice for the acquisition process was published on August 27, 2021, but the farmers didn't receive the notice until January 2022. A total of 387 families will lose their land if the plan is implemented, and many more will suffer as a result of job losses.