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Leader of Opposition shut out of Mangalore

P.C. Siddaramaiah, had on Friday hired a chartered aircraft to visit the coastal city in BJP-ruled Karnataka

By K.M. Rakesh in Bangalore

  • Published 22.12.19, 2:22 AM
  • Updated 22.12.19, 2:22 AM
Congress legislature party leader P.C. Siddaramaiah.
Congress legislature party leader P.C. Siddaramaiah. Telegraph file picture

Police on Saturday barred Congress leader P.C. Siddaramaiah from entering Mangalore, a day after a flight carrying the former Karnataka chief minister was denied permission to land in the violence-hit coastal city.

Another Opposition leader, CPI Rajya Sabha member from Kerala Binoy Viswam, was detained along with some party colleagues after they dodged police to enter Mangalore where two anti-citizenship law protesters died on Thursday of injuries suffered in police action.

Police sent Siddaramaiah a notice, signed by commissioner P.S. Harsha, saying he wouldn’t be allowed to enter the limits of Mangalore, leaving the Congress veteran fuming.

“The police commissioner and the inspector-general (of Mangalore) had themselves directed the Mangalore airport air traffic control not to give landing permission for my flight on Friday. Then I spoke to the commissioner and asked him when I could visit. He said I could go after two days,” Siddaramaiah told reporters in Bangalore.

“Now that I am planning to visit tomorrow (Sunday), they sent me this notice denying entry to Mangalore until Sunday midnight. To defy this order, I am heading to Mangalore on Sunday itself.”

Siddaramaiah, who is recovering after an angioplasty, had on Friday hired a chartered aircraft to visit the coastal city in BJP-ruled Karnataka.

“They say I wouldn’t be allowed to visit until the curfew is lifted since my visit could lead to law and order problems. But I am not going there to create law and order problems, I am trying to help restore peace and to console the bereaved families of the two men who were killed in police firing.”

He questioned the logic of allowing chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa and some other ministers to visit the city. “Yediyurappa, (home minister Basavaraj) Bommai and (deputy chief minister Govind) Karjol are allowed (to enter). But the leader of the Opposition is not allowed. Why this discrimination?” he said.

“When we were in power, we never restricted (people) like this. This is total suppression of rights.”

Yediyurappa told reporters in Mangalore some restrictions were inevitable because of the curfew and the accompanying shutdown.

“We are requesting everyone to cooperate since there is a curfew to prevent any law and order situation. I’ll organise a trip for all Opposition members to see what happened here,” he said.

Viswam, CPI MP from neighbouring Kerala, was protesting in the coastal city along with seven other party leaders from Karnataka when police swooped down and took them into preventive custody.

He was released at Manjeshwar police station around 3.45pm.

“They took us into preventive custody under the Karnataka Police Act and kept us for about four hours from 11.30am,” Viswam told The Telegraph while being taken back to Kerala in a Karnataka police van.

The Left leader said he was treated well at the police station. “Apart from the initial minutes, when they tried to threaten us, they were cooperative and provided us with food and water,” Viswam said.

Karnataka state CPI secretary Saathi Sundaresh and six other CPI workers were arrested and released along with Viswam, who had dodged the police by taking a train to Mangalore on Friday.

“I took a train and was prepared to protest alone if my party colleagues couldn’t reach on time. We had even organised an ambulance in Kasaragod if police stopped us at the border,” he said.

Although about 50 CPI activists could reach Mangalore, only eight, including the MP, could make it to the Gandhi statue in the heart of the city to stage the protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the National Register of Citizens and the police action in Mangalore.

They managed to shout slogans for 30 minutes before the police arrived.

The police appeared to go soft on Saturday, relaxing the curfew from 3-6pm on Saturday and from 6am to 6pm on Sunday. But Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which disallows gatherings of five or more people at a place, would still be in force during the entire duration the curfew would be relaxed.

Mangalore police restricted vehicles coming from Kerala, allowing in only private cars and two-wheelers, that too after stringent checks.

Hundreds of students from Kerala, studying in various professional colleges in Mangalore, have been stranded in their hostels. The Kerala government sent five buses to Mangalore, after seeking permission from the Karnataka government, to pick up these students.

The buses, which left from Kasaragod, 30km from Mangalore, brought the students to the Kerala border around 4pm.

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