Why is Telangana opposition riled up and protesting over ‘Dharna Chowk’?

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For over two decades, ‘Dharna Chowk’ near Indira Park in the heart of Hyderabad, has been the main centre for thousands of protests by political parties, people’s organisations, employees’ unions, students’ groups and others.

So naturally, ever since the Telangana government decided in March to shift the venue for protests to the outskirts of the city, opposition parties in the state have come together demanding a rollback of the decision.

On March 26, Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC) convenor M Kodandaram was detained by the Hyderabad police, while he was campaigning to ‘save’ the city’s ‘Dharna Chowk’ near Indira Park.

The TJAC had organised a ‘2k run’ from Sundarayya Vignana Kendram to Indira Park but the police intervened and detained several men and women.

In a Facebook post, Kodandaram had then said, “After they locked the place down, there is no more space for dissent in Hyderabad. There is no place where people can publicly air their grievances.”

The government claims that as Dharna Chowk is close to the Secretariat, there were law and order issues, which is why it chose to shift the venue of protests to the outskirts of the city.

But considering the historical value of the place which has seen protests for over two decades, the opposition has refused to accept it.

Opposition leaders have alleged that Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao was acting in a dictatorial fashion and impinging on the democratic rights of the individual.

CM Chandrasekhar Rao has meanwhile defended the move saying that some parties were hell-bent on creating trouble in the name of protests. He said that the venue is not important, as the opposition will still be able to highlight issues along with the support of a strong media.

In March, all the opposition parties came together and submitted a memorandum to Governor ESL Narasimhan Rao protesting against the government’s move.

The matter also reached court. On April 20, Congress leader V Hanumantha Rao moved the Hyderabad High Court against the government’s move.

In a PIL, the former MP asked the court to declare Telangana’s decision to shift the venue to the outskirts of the city, as ‘arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional’.

Responding to the PIL, the Hyderabad High Court on April 25, directed the Telangana government to file an affidavit and explain its stand on the decision.

According to reports, Telangana advocate general K Ramakrishna Reddy told the court that the state had not taken a decision on the matter yet.

Responding to this, the petitioner’s counsel claimed that the police had already blocked protesters from the venue.

After hearing both sides, the court adjourned the case.

On Friday, the TJAC held another round of protests, which saw the participation of leaders from all opposition parties and mass organisations.

Meanwhile, TJAC convenor M Kodandaram has warned the government that if it did not take back its decision, they will organise a ‘Chalo Indira Park’ march on May 15.

All the opposition parties including Congress, BJP, TDP, CPI and CPI-M have pledged their support for the proposed march.

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