Sugar growers protest near Suvarna Soudha in Belagavi. | Photo: PK BADIGER
The winter session of the State legislature at the Suvarna Soudha in Belagavi attracts a large number of protesters. At last count, 62 individuals or organizations sought permission to hold protests in a restricted area near Suvarna Soudha. Nine others requested permission to meet with ministers to present their memoranda.
This has been the trend in the last 16 years, 10 winter sessions were held in Belagavin and the number has only increased, officials said.
Among the organizations protesting in Belagavin are various caste or community groups demanding better reservation facilities, from Panchamasalis to Madiga Samaj and Madiwala Samaj. There are labor unions, from those linked to specific factories to contract workers of various government agencies, civilian contractors, nurses and anganwadi workers.
Interestingly, while a request for a Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti Maha Melava (mega rally) was turned down by the police, there were no requests from Kannada organizations to hold protests on the border issue.
Likewise, there are several groups of farmers in protest. Their demands include compensation for crop loss in floods, fair price of farm produce, payment of arrears to sugarcane farmers, market intervention for copra, chilli and millet, compensation to farmers whose livestock died due to skin diseases, procurement of jowar, to complete of irrigation projects, against land acquisition, among others.
There are unique protests, such as that of Seetavva Jodatti, who was awarded the Padma Shri for her work in rehabilitating Devadasis. Devadasi Kalyan is sitting along with Sangha members to demand better rehabilitation of former Devadasis. Another was Bheemappa Kanaki, a 90-year-old farmer from Rainapur village, who opposed the alleged exploitation of public land in the village.
Why this place?
What makes the Belagavi session a favorite destination for protests, even from faraway places? Looking at the list of organizations seeking permission, at least half of them are State-level organizations or based in Bengaluru or Old Mysore region. For example, copra producers have come from Tiptur in Tumakuru district.
Jayashree Gurannanavar, leader of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Karmika Mahila Sangha, says the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru is a “fortress” where all VIPs gather and “exclude outsiders”. “They don’t allow us to meet the leaders or officers there. But in Belagavi we can easily talk to Ministers or even officers. Also, the place of protest is not far from the winter session. That is why everyone who has a grievance comes to Belagavi,” he said.
GV Kulkarni, trade union leader of the LIC employees’ union, feels that the media wants to highlight the protests in Belagavi against those held in Bengaluru.
However, the effectiveness of the protests remains a clear question. Rayanna Yuva Vedike leader Gajanan Talwar Sangolli said that the State government takes up issues related to border or protection of Kannada, when there are protests in Belagavi and not Bengaluru. “People in Bengaluru think we are obstructing traffic. But here, it’s a question of a cultural issue or identity,” he said.
However, Vishweshvaraiah Hiremath, a community organizer at Grameena Koolikarmikara Sangha, has a bleaker view. “We sit for hours until a minister or leader of the Opposition party comes to visit. They receive our memory and leave. That’s the end. That’s why we didn’t organize a protest this year,” he said.