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Southern States - Karnataka-Bangalore Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Staging novel protests for two score years

By K.V. Subramanya

BANGALORE OCT. 2. The president of the Kannada Chaluvali Vatal Paksha, Vatal Nagaraj, who is known for staging bizarre forms of protests, has created a record of sorts. During the past 40 years, police in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and New Delhi have arrested Mr. Nagaraj more than 2,000 times for staging demonstrations and violating prohibitory orders. Apart from arresting and releasing him on hundreds of occasions, police have also booked more than 200 cases against the veteran Kannada protagonist.

Fighting for the cause of Karnataka, Kannada, and Kannadigas, Mr. Nagaraj has staged novel protests in the past four decades and attracted the attention of the Government. In a chat with The Hindu, Mr. Nagaraj recollected some of the novel protests he staged since he was slapped with a shoe by a police officer, Louis, at Upparpet police station on September 7, 1962.

In 1967, when Mr. Nagaraj gave a call for a Bangalore bandh demanding screening of Kannada films, police took him into preventive custody. A police sub-inspector, Veerappa, went to Mr. Nagaraj's house at 5 a.m. and told him that the Commissioner of Police wanted to meet him immediately to discuss the bandh issue.

``I knew that the sub-inspector had come to arrest me. I told him that I would have my bath and then join him. I had my bath, wore a muffler, escaped through the rear door, and jumped over the compound,'' he recollected.

On the day of the bandh, Mr. Nagaraj sprang a surprise by appearing in a woman's attire. Police, who were waiting at the Subashnagar tank to arrest Mr. Nagaraj, were taken unawares when he arrived in a taxi, wearing a silk sari and a blouse.

After Mr. Nagaraj announced that he would paste a notice in front of the then Chief Minister, Veerendra Patil's chamber demanding his resignation for his "failure'' to protect the interests of Kannadigas, police strengthened the security at the Vidhana Soudha. But Mr. Nagaraj, clad in a "burkha'', managed to hoodwink police and reach the second floor of the Vidhana Soudha before he was identified and arrested.

When the "merger agitation'' was at its peak in Belgaum, the district administration imposed a ban on Mr. Nagaraj entering the border district. But he reached Belgaum in the guise of a "sanyasi'', and addressed a press conference before he was arrested.

To protest against the delay in holding elections to the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP) Council, Mr. Nagaraj appeared in mayoral robes and conducted a mock BMP Council meeting a few years ago.

In an incident in the late 1960s, Mr. Nagaraj tried to stop the then Union Home Minister, Y.B. Chavan's car from entering the Raj Bhavan by lying down in front of it. He was almost run over. "I would have been killed if the then Commissioner of Police, B.N. Garudachar, had not pushed me aside,'' Mr. Nagaraj reminisced.

He has organised processions of donkeys, dogs, buffaloes, and bullock carts to highlight problems. Recently, he appeared in a police constable's uniform in front of the Vidhana Soudha to draw attention to the problems of the lower-rung police personnel.

He has staged novel protests even in the Legislative Assembly. Mr. Nagaraj, a four-time MLA, was the first MLA in the history of State to be suspended from the House and physically lifted out by marshals.

After he was elected to the Legislative Assembly for the first time in 1967 from the Chickpet constituency in Bangalore, Mr. Nagaraj staged a protest against the Governor's address by sounding a gong in the Assembly.

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