DK Shivakumar, the president of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC), former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and other top party leaders were on Monday, January 10, booked by the Karnataka police for violating weekend curfew that is in place across the state due to COVID-19 restrictions, and leading the contentious Mekedatu rally on Sunday. Others named as accused are Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Malikarjun Kharge, former KPCC president G Parameshwara, Members of Parliament DK Suresh and BK Hariprasad, and senior MLA Eshwar Khandre, among others.
A massive padayatra or walkathon was kick-started at the Sangam or confluence of the Cauvery and Arkavathi rivers at Mekedatu. The event, which saw an attendance of over 10,000 people, was held in DK Shivakumarâ€™s constituency of Kanakapura, in Ramanagara district. The padayatra with the theme 'Namma Neeru Namma Hakku' (Our water, Our right) is set to continue for 10 days and end in Bengaluruâ€™s Basavanagudi on January 19.
The First Information Report (FIR) against the leaders was registered based on a complaint by Vishwanath, the tehsildar of Kanakapura. The complaint stated that the Congress leaders gathered at 7 am at the Sangam, where the controversial Mekedatu reservoir is planned, and continued till 9 pm with the leaders walking till Dodda Alahalli in Ramanagara. It further said that the Congress leaders flouted the guidelines imposed amid the rise in COVID-19 cases in the state. The tehsildar accused the leaders of flouting COVID-19 protocols, not wearing masks and not maintaining physical distance.
Read: Congress kicks off 10K strong rally for Mekedatu dam in Karnataka, despite COVID fears
The FIR also mentions personalities from the Kannada film fraternity, including Sa Ra Govindu, Duniya Vijay and Sadhu Kokila, among the accused. They have been booked under sections 141 (unlawful assembly), 143 (punishment for unlawful assembly), 290 (punishment for public nuisance ), 336 (any act so rash or negligent as to endanger human life or the personal safety of others) and 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) of the Indian Penal Code and section 5(3A) of the Karnataka Epidemic Diseases Act.
The FIR comes after Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Sunday had said that the government will take action in accordance with the law, as the Congress leaders did not stop the rally despite a notice issued by police. However, the police, which were present in large numbers at the rallyâ€™s inauguration, did not detain the leaders for violating COVID-19 protocol or stop Congress workers from joining the rally, despite a lack of masks and other COVID norms. In the wake of the mega rally, there was speculation that the state government would detain the top leaders for violating the weekend curfew guidelines put in place across the state. However, seemingly no effort was made by the ruling BJP government to stop the rally, even as top leaders and members of the Congress themselves criticised the party for the move.