Protesters, led by the TJAC, occupied the protest site against the government's move to shift it to the outskirts of the city.

Clashes erupt in Hyderabads Indira Park following Capture Dharna Chowk protests
news Protests Monday, May 15, 2017 - 11:46

Popular anger burst forth at Hyderabad’s Dharna Chowk on Monday, as hundreds of activists and supporters answered the Telangana Joint Action Committee’s call to “Occupy Dharna Chowk”.

The protesters, who gathered to occupy the Chowk in condemnation of the government’s move to shift the Dharna Chowk to the outskirts of the city, were not to be deterred despite barricades and a heavy police presence. They broke through the police barricades to enter the site, and indulged in vandalism, breaking chairs set up at the protest site in the city’s Indira Park. Groups of protesters occupied nearly all of the one-kilometre stretch of the Chowk. 

The protesters were led by the TJAC, headed by M Kodandaram, as well as by various opposition parties, including the Left parties,  the TDP, the BJP, the Congress, and the Jana Sena. As protesters entered the site, tensions ran high as they clashed with groups conducting a counter-protest in support of shifting the Chowk away from Indira Park. The clashing groups attacked each other with sticks and rods, and even threw chairs at each other. With clashes occurring, the police resorted to lathicharge to disperse protesters.

Speaking at the Dharna Chowk, Kodandaram told the media that they had approached the police to find solutions to hold protests without affecting residents. However, the police turned a cold shoulder to their request and told them to resolve the issue among themselves, he said. Other leaders including Hanumantha Rao of Congress and TDP MLA Revanth Reddy also participated. 

Extending his support to the protestors, Reddy asked why CM KCR was afraid of dissent. He also said that if the current protest did not stop the state from shifting the protest site, they will escalate their efforts and even protest in front of the Secretariat and Camp Office. 

TJAC representatives also alleged that the clashes had been engineered by government supporters in order to undermine the joint protest. TJAC leader Ravinder Rao said, “They are all TRS workers in disguise. They want to undermine our protest and make their cause seem larger than it is. If there are genuine residents who have greivances, we can always sit down and have discussions with them and sort it out. From the past few months, we have been trying to meet the DGP, the Governor and many TRS leaders, but they are not willing to talk. This is why we had to occupy Dharna Chowk today. And if they still don’t listen we will do it again and escalate it if necessary.” 

The TJAC’s Capture Dharna Chowk, which has the support of the main opposition parties, came after the TRS government announced its decision to shift the Dharna Chowk, citing law and order problems. The move was also supported by residents of areas around Indira Park, citing repeated traffic snarls and other inconveniences due to frequent protests held at the site. 

Proposing a handful of alternate sites on the outskirts of the city, CM KCR had argued that the venue of protests did not matter, since the Opposition would be able to highlight issues through the media. However, opposition parties have insisted that the protest site should remain in the heart of the city. They have also alleged that KCR, who had conducted multiple protests inside the city including the 'Million March' protest for the formation of Telangana, was now trying to rob the opposition parties of their right to protest. 

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