In 2017, the TRS government had closed down Dharna Chowk, a protesting point in Hyderabad, citing law and order issues.

TRS protest at Dharna Chowk in Hyderabad TRS Party | Facebook
news Protest Saturday, November 13, 2021 - 09:21

Irony was written all over Dharna Chowk in Hyderabad, where the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) party staged a dharna (demonstration) on Friday, November 12. TRS Ministers Mahmood Ali and Talasani Srinivas sat there in protest, demanding the Union government procure the entire paddy stock from Telangana. The TRS party leaders held a state-wide agitation, mobilising their party activists to protest against the Union government.

However, several political observers and critics could not help but point out the irony of the TRS party holding a protest at Dharna Chowk near Indira Park. Incidentally, in 2017, the same TRS government had closed down Dharna Chowk — a designated protest site in Hyderabad — citing law and order problems.

The Dharna Chowk has been in existence for nearly 15 years. There was no protest venue in the united Andhra Pradesh. When the Telangana statehood movement gathered momentum, protests became a common occurrence. By 2005, the then state government designated the space near Indira Park, Domalaguda, for protests. That site came to be known as Dharna Chowk.

In 2017, the K Chandrasekhar Rao-led government had suggested moving the Dharna Chowk, or the common protest site, some 40 kilometres away from the city, which will effectively reduce the media coverage owing to the distance. This led to a sustained battle to “Save Dharna Chowk,” which led to a scuffle between the police and the Opposition party leaders. After several pleas in the form of Public Interest Litigations (PILs) and the intervention of the Telangana High Court, the Dharna Chowk was made accessible in 2018.

Incidentally, though the protest point remains accessible for everyone, police permission is mandatory. Additionally, based on the people who are organising, the number of protesters is restricted.

Professor Kodandram, president of Telangana Jana Samithi and former convenor of Telangana Joint Action Committee (which played a crucial role in the statehood movement), was among those who fought for the right to protest at Dharna Chowk near Indira Park.

Laughing about the present paradox where TRS is protesting at the very same site, he told TNM, “It is amusing that all this while they wanted to ban dharnas, and even closed down Dharna Chowk. When they banned protest at the space near Indira Park and wanted protesters to hold their agitation in the city outskirts, we fought tooth and nail against it. However, they did not yield. It was because of the High Court’s decision that we are now allowed to protest peacefully there.

“So, today if the TRS is holding a protest in Dharna Chowk, it is because of us. Without our struggle, there would not have been a Dharna Chowk and neither would TRS have held a dharna there.”

Kodandram also pointed out how the TRS government has been denying permission to the Opposition parties to hold a protest while they are free to protest. “In February this year, we wanted to protest in Dharna Chowk against the poor handling of COVID-19 and several other issues, but we were not given permission. Eventually, we were forced to protest in our party office. So, there is discrimination and is clearly in violation of the Constitution. Right to protest is a constitutional right," he said. 

He also questioned how the police gave permission to the TRS party when there was a model code of conduct in place. The schedule for the MLC elections was announced earlier this week on Tuesday, November 9.

Similarly, activist Sujatha Surepally said, “The TRS government has no moral right to protest in Dharna Chowk. They wanted to close it down citing several law and order problems. Why are they protesting there now? And also it is such a farce when they are protesting against the Union government when they themselves are denying permissions to others to hold protests.”

According to Sujatha, the protest is only a result of the latest defeat of the TRS in the Huzurabad bye-election. “Now that they are realising that they are losing the ground to BJP, they are doing this drama,” she alleged.

Meanwhile, speaking on the occasion, T Harish Rao, Telangana Finance Minister and nephew of KCR, alleged that the Union government is ignoring the state and not procuring paddy from Telangana in rabi season. He said that they were ready to go to any length for the sake of farmers. "We are not afraid of BJP branding us anti-national or using central agencies against us."