Farmer union protest in Hyderabad: Fewer people turn up as police delay permission

Organisers said that the police had delayed in approving permission for the event and the Telangana High Court too had laid conditions that made it difficult to gather a large crowd.
Farmer union protest in Hyderabad: Fewer people turn up as police delay permission
Farmer union protest in Hyderabad: Fewer people turn up as police delay permission
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Several people in Hyderabad on Tuesday held a rally in solidarity with farmers in New Delhi, protesting against the Union government’s contentious farm laws. Up until 2 pm, the stipulated time for the rally to commence, the organisers were unsure about how many would actually take part in the event. At the time, there were roughly around 200 people gathered before the Saroor Nagar indoor stadium, from where the rally was to commence. A delay in obtaining permission for the protest threw a wrench in the organiser’s plans to pool in strength for the rally. Permission was granted only after organisers approached the Telangana High Court which allowed the rally to be held peacefully, and laid down conditions.

The High Court had laid conditions that no tractor rallies were to be taken out, and that only about 300 people could take part in the rally besides a puzzling condition that no pedestrians are to be allowed to take part in the rally, the organisers said. They added that more people would have taken part in the rally if police had given permission sooner.

“There are more of us here than them,” quipped a police officer in plainclothes from the Rachakonda commissionerate before the rally began. His task was to blend in with the procession and keep an eye out for “untoward incidents”. About 300 police officers were on duty to maintain law and order, and a modified police car with a camera mounted on top, kept a close watch on everyone at the rally. Sometime past 2.30 pm, the rally size swelled to over a thousand people, shouting slogans against the BJP-led Union government and calling for a repeal of the three farm laws passed by Parliament last year.

As the procession began its 10-km long march to Uppal, at the forefront was 70-year old G Kotehswar, in an attire that resembled MK Gandhi. He was holding an Indian flag and a makeshift staff with a placard attached. When asked why he was at the rally, Kotehswar said, “My father was a farmer. I know the struggle of being a farmer. I’m here to support the call for repealing the three farm laws.”

The call to participate in the rally was made by members of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC). A letter seeking permission to take out a rally was filed with the Rachakonda Police Commissionerate on January 21, but the organisers until January 25 evening, were kept in the dark about the status of their permission.

“We approached the Telangana High Court on January 25. It was only after that the Rachakonda police responded. They gave a call at around 2.30 pm saying the request for permission had been denied,” P Padma, convener of AIKSCC told TNM.

The Telangana High Court order granting conditional permission came in past 5 pm that day. The bench of Justice K Lakshman directed the petitioners to specifically mention in their application that they will not permit tractors to participate in the parade. The court had also directed the organisers to give a written undertaking that they will take responsibility in the event if any untoward incident occurs.

“Farmers from districts were willing to take out their tractors and drive to Hyderabad to take part in the rally. But the court permission came in late and didnt allow a tractor rally. The police argued that it will cause traffic problems within the city,” Padma added.

V Kiran with the AIKSCC pointed out that delaying permission for peaceful protests until the last minute has become a norm for the Telangana police. “We had sought permission on January 19 for a protest on January 23. At first, the police gave verbal permission, and after all our planning on January 22 night at 7 pm, the police said permission was denied. They said that people would be arrested if they came for the protest,” he said.

A similar instance of last-minute denial for protest permission was also observed for the December 30, 2020, Chalo Hyderabad protest. ”This tactic severely hampers our ability to mobilise on the ground in the last minute. Yet, a lot of people showed up today. If we had time, more people would have been informed and could have attended the rally,” he adds.

K Ravichander, president of Telangana Praja Front (TPF), a political platform working for the rights of Telangana martyrs and activists said, “Most of the farmers are protesting at the village, mandal and district level and have taken out huge tractor rallies. Most of those who have taken part in the rally in Hyderabad are from farmer communities surrounding the city.”

After 4 pm, the rally terminated at Uppal, from where party leaders belonging to the CPI(ML) New Democracy gave speeches addressing the crowd. As the 5 pm deadline set by the Telangana High Court approached, most of those who took part in the rally had already dispersed. Only the police in riot gear remained.

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