Karnataka govt issues order banning Cong’s Mekedatu march

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Karnataka govt issues order banning Cong’s Mekedatu march

Bengaluru: Under fire from the High Court and its own legislators, the Basavaraj Bommai-led BJP government on Wednesday banned the Congress’s Mekedatu foot march citing the ‘already worsening’ Covid-19 situation.

Chief Secretary P Ravi Kumar signed off on the order late evening following a high-level meeting that Bommai chaired, hours after the High Court pulled up the government for having allowed the padayatra, which entered its fourth day amid spiralling Covid-19 cases.

“All inter-district (within Karnataka) and intra-district (within Ramanagara) movement of vehicles and persons for participating in ‘Namma Neeru Namma Hakku” padayatra or whichever name it is called…from Mekedatu to Bengaluru is prohibited with immediate effect and will be in force until further order,’ Kumar ordered.

‘Namma Neeru Namma Hakku’ is the official name of the Congress’ Mekedatu campaign.

The government was under tremendous pressure to act. Three FIRs against 134 Congress leaders and supporters have been registered since Sunday when the march began. The march was scheduled to end in Bengaluru on January 19.

The government has asked all deputy commissioners, police superintendents, police commissioners and the transport commissioner to ensure ‘strict implementation of the order.

‘…despite explicit order of banning dharnas and protests…it is observed that certain groups of people have organised and mobilised people from various districts to Ramanagara district to participate in padayatra from Mekedatu to Bengaluru named as ‘Namma Neeru Namma Hakku’ defying government orders,’ the order stated. ‘The act of defiance is endangering the lives of a large number of people. The protest/padayatra is likely to aggravate the already worsening Covid-19 situation in the state.’

Earlier in the day, Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah returned to Bengaluru from the march to hold talks with party colleagues on the way forward in the wake of the HC observation.

Speaking to reporters, Siddaramaiah initially said the party is ready to face the consequences. Later, he said

Congress will honour the HC order. ‘Let’s see what the court orders,’ he said. Asked if the Congress had taken permission for the march, he said: ‘No protest is done after taking permission.”

Both Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar are said to have discussed this with KPCC legal cell chief and former additional advocate-general AS Ponnanna, who is likely to argue in court that protest is a fundamental right.

Sources said Congress is even considering a plan where only Siddaramaiah, Shivakumar and a few others will continue walking.

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