– Mohammed Atherulla Shariff
Bengaluru, Dec. 3: “This is not a Muslim issue, it is not an Arab issue, it is an issue of Human Rights” was not only a slogan displayed on a placard but was the real spirit that prompted Bangaloreans to assemble.
Despite the odds, hundreds of like-minded people gathered at the Freedom Park on Saturday to extend support for Palestine and protest against ‘Israeli aggression’ in Gaza.
Protesters were vocal in condemning the relentless bombardment of Gaza, which has killed over 15,000 people, the steadfast US support for Israel and so on.
Several placards were held that conveyed their protest ideas. One of them proclaimed, “Stop the genocide and ethnic cleansing.”
A huge number of cops were deployed in and around the Freedom Park. Bengaluru police had hitherto cracked down on pro-Palestine protests, arguing that it’s a “sensitive, international” matter.
In October, police broke up a small protest on MG Road only to be checkmated by a ‘large’ gathering that appeared to descend on the high street out of nowhere. Cubbon Park police have booked several people behind the protest for ‘creating unrest’.
Subsequent efforts to hold pro-Palestine protests at Freedom Park didn’t succeed as the police didn’t give permission. Last week, the police also didn’t allow a poetry recital on Palestine at Ranga Shankara, JP Nagar, prompting a backlash from activists and artists.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah intervened and vowed to protect the freedom of expression. He also blamed the police for creating ‘unnecessary confusion’.
Still the questions remain: why the CM took a monthlong period to make this clarification? On whose direction the police denied permission to several people to hold protests earlier?
A political angle is also in the air. The Congress government had the assembly elections in five states in mind. Lest, the opposition project the Congress as playing minority appeasement policy.
Saturday’s protest was the first to be held after CM’s assurance. It was enlivened by revolutionary songs and vigorous sloganeering.
An artist was timely stopped by the organisers who intended to sing for Kashmir along with Palestine.
Speaking during the protest, writer and public intellectual Purushottama Bilimale said Indian foreign policy, which arose during Nehru’s times and grew later, was consistent and easy to comprehend. “Under Modi, the foreign policy is very inconsistent. If it doesn’t change, India will be isolated by all countries in 10 years,” Bilimale charged.
Stating that fascist forces are spreading the world over, he cautioned that, unlike the 1950s and 60s, when there was a set pattern to fascism, its modern-day version is more abstract.
CITU leader Varalakshmi said all people, irrespective of caste, creed, religion and nationality, were ultimately human and spoke in favour of the democratic right of the protesters to register their dissent.
Leaders of Jamaat -e-Islami Hind, Solidarity Youth Movement also spoke on the occasion.