This month alone, the police had given permission to 109 applicants to stage demonstrations, conduct public meetings, observe fast, and take out procession/rally/street corner meetings in the city limits.
In a fast growing city such as Madurai, there are 44 points approved by the police for conducting agitations and public meetings, spread over 16 police station limits.
Though it is not possible to hold public meetings in a cramped street like Venkatapathy Iyengar Lane off Kamarajar Salai or in busy Jhansi Rani Park area, all that the police officers would say is “these are approved places to hold public meetings from time immemorial.”
While the agitators express are firm that it is their right to stage demonstrations at these points, the public say they are put to much hardship.
Staffers at the BSNL Tallakulam office and office of the Chief Educational Officer said that whenever agitators were provided space in front of their premises to hold meetings, the offices could not function till the meetings ended.
The moot question asked by the public is: with a growing vehicle population and ever increasing shopping crowd, will the police stop issuing licence to stage demonstrations inside the city? Staging demonstrations or conducting an agitation or observing a token fast is an approved form of drawing the attention of the government, various political functionaries say. For instance, to express protest against the abnormal price rise of petroleum products, the opposition parties staged a series of agitations across the country against the UPA government.
Similarly, in January and February, the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, and their allies, led by its general secretary Vaiko organised many meetings in the city and peripheries on Mullaperiyar reservoir issue.
The very act of converting many roads into one-ways, implies that the city roads are taking more vehicles than it can.
Hence, public meetings should be held on open spaces such as Tammukam Ground, Race Course (not inside the grounds) Road, Teppakulam (southern/western side), beyond Karpaga Nagar, Railway Grounds or along the Ring Road, public feel.
Former Deputy Commissioner of Police Jayasingh, now a security consultant for corporates, said that in those days, police accorded permission to conduct of public meetings in the city. However, with the city having expanded on every side, it would be ideal to consider new locations as it would facilitate traffic and law and order police also to regulate the crowd effectively.
Advocate B. Saravanan says, “Staging demonstrations is a method shown to us by Mahatma. In a democratic country, it is our right to stage agitation to reach our goals or express our concern over an issue. It may be done by winning the people's confidence.”
A senior police officer said that it would be better to consider new locations in the wake of the changing face of the city.