The event, however, records lower turn out than last month’s human chain protest
Protest music, daylong fast and silent introspection marked the urban Satyagraha at Freedom Park on Sunday as citizens’ groups protested the proposed steel flyover on Ballari Road.
The Satyagraha — which was planned along the lines of the India Against Corruption movement — also served as platform for a debate on not just the steel flyover, but on the larger mobility plan for Bengaluru’s burgeoning population.
Compared with the human chain protest held last month, the Satyagraha recorded a lower turn out with a conservative estimate of nearly 1,500 participants. But Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB), which is spearheading the protest, ascribed this to the interim stay order on the project by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
Jnanpith Award winner Girish Karnad made it to the venue despite his ill-health. “I came here to say beda, despite my ill health, for the city’s health is more important than mine,” he said.
Naresh Narasimhan of CfB repeatedly stressed on the need for constant vigil despite the stay order. “There has been confusion over Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) affidavit in the High Court. The BDA has not backed out of the project and there is a long battle ahead,” he said.
The organisers also added a new slogan, #CancelTheTender, to the popular #SteelFlyoverBeda. “We need to tell the politicians that it is the city’s people and voters who reject the project,” said a protester.
The CfB has its action plan chalked out for the fight ahead. Experts from Indian Institute of Science and other institutes have been roped in to do an independent environment impact assessment, in time for the November 25 hearing of the case by the NGT. The CfB has got over 20 residents’ welfare associations from across the city to pass formal unanimous resolutions opposing the steel flyover and is working to rope in more associations.
Folk-rock band Swaratma lent their support to the #SteelFlyoverBeda campaign by performing during the urban Satyagraha on Sunday.
A popular song of the band, “Ee Bhoomi Svarga Agutide…”,was answered back with the chorus “Steel flyover beda” from the responsive audience. The song, which celebrates nature against development, fit well into the narrative of the campaign. Another performance that held the audience in thrall was the rendition of “Toppiwalleh… sarpe haath daale, khali phet maare…toppiwalleh,” improvised on the spot with veiled references to politicians championing the steel flyover.
On the question of their popular songs being used to spearhead urban protest movements, Swaratma’s lead vocalist Vasu Dixit said, “We write songs taking everyday life for inspiration. So it will obviously resonate with many situations. I have read all the arguments on the steel flyover, both for and against, and I feel it is not a wise idea,” he said.
During the Satyagraha, many Kannada poems by G.S. Shivarudrappa and K.S. Nisar Ahmed were sung by the protesters.