Condemning the recent rape and murder of a Dalit girl in Vijayapura, Kalaburagi observed a complete bandh on Thursday. As the bandh call given by Dalita Sanghatanegala Samanvaya Samithi, a coordinating committee of various Dalit groups, was widely publicised for about a week, the city had completely prepared for a total shutdown except for medical and other emergency services.
The voluntary support of organisations from all walks of life – Dalit groups, trade unions, farmers’ organisations, women’s groups, student associations, Kannada organisations, Muslim, Lingayat and other community-based outfits – and their participation in the agitations made the bandh total. While Bharatiya Janata Party apparently distanced itself from the protest, the entire district unit of the Congress along with its rank and file were on the street in support.
Shops, malls, cinemas, garages, trading units at agricultural produce market committee yards, banks and other business establishments remained closed since morning. Even roadside petty shops in remote locations and pushcart vendors did not start their business. While private educational institutions had declared holiday a day earlier, those run by the government too remained closed even though the holiday was not officially declared. Gulbarga University that had scheduled an examination for the first semester of the third year law course cancelled the exam at eleventh hour.
“After discussing with Deputy Commissioner, we have decided not to declare holiday officially but to leave the matter to institution heads to take a final call depending on the situation. However, we don’t know how many schools have declared holiday at present. But, the fact is that most of the institutions are not open as the city is witnessing widespread protests and the public transport system is hit,” Shantanagowda Patil, Deputy Director for Public Instruction, told The Hindu .
The public transport system was paralysed since morning as buses operated by State-owned North Eastern Karnataka Road Transport Corporation and city commuting services such as autos and taxies operated by private players remained off the roads.
Agitating activists associated with various Dalit and progressive organisations were found staging demonstrations simultaneously at SVP Circle, Jagat Circle, Supermarket, APMC yard, Bus Stand, Dargha Road, Jevargi Road and other areas. Some other activists, forming various smaller groups, took out bike rallies in different areas holding blue flags and raising slogans. They were found stopping vehicles and asking the people return home.
Though all government offices were open, they witnessed thin attendances as many of the staff members caught in the middle of their way due to agitations. Some of those who used two-wheelers managed to reach their offices whereas those in four-wheelers were sent back from midway. With no business activity and scanty vehicular movement, the city wore a deserted look.
“As of now, no untoward incident has been reported. Nor any incident of a forceful shutdown by agitators. Agitations are on at multiple locations and adequate police force is deployed to maintain law and order. All police officers, including Superintendent of Police, are on the roads handling agitating mobs. The attendance in government offices is relatively low due to the disturbed transport system. I hope everything will pass on smoothly,” R. Venkatesh Kumar, Deputy Commissioner, told The Hindu .
“The response to the bandh call is overwhelming. Several organisations and individuals have voluntarily joined the agitations. Business establishments, banks, educational institutions and public transport players have willingly closed their business. We will continue to protest even after the bandh till we get justice,” said Nagendra J. Javali, district president of Dalita Sene, who was among frontline leaders on Thursday’s agitations.
He demanded, apart from a stringent punishment to perpetrators the crime, removal of all officers including Superintendent of Police, Block Education Officer and Deputy Director of Public Instruction in Vijayapura district for not preventing the crime and their alleged attempts to protect the criminals. He also demanded the cancellation of permission of the school which had no minimum amenities such as toilets, forcing the girl to go out for relieving herself and falling prey to the criminals.