Dharna culture has taken the district by storm. In the last one month or so, nearly 150 dharnas have been held by various political, religious, social, farmers and employee groups, in the city.
There was a short lull in the year 2013-14 during the tenure of senior superintendent of police (SSP) Narinder Bhargav, who dealt with the violators with a strict hand but after his transfer, the dharna trend is back with a bang.
Dharnas and traffic blockades have become an easy tool for demonstrators to pressurise the authorities concede their demands, which are not always genuine.
When the traffic is blocked and common people are held to ransom, the administration is forced to make negotiations with the agitators.
The political class shows the way when it comes to play of pressure tactics. The opposition parties often resort to traffic jams and use them as an occasion to show their mass support. Other protesters too measure their success by the length of traffic queues and extent of inconvenience caused to the public.
Protesters choose the busiest and most congested places as their venues to protest. Of late, highways have come to witness the worst ever traffic jams.
Last month, cane growers kept the Jalandhar-Mukerian-Pathankot highway blocked for the whole day. In Hoshiarpur city, Clock Tower and Phagwara Chowk are the favourite hubs of protesters as a blockade here chokes all main routes. The vacant land adjacent to the mini secretariat on the Chandigarh road is another place which witnesses 2-3 dharnas daily.
The other day, agitators demanding release of radical Sikh leaders, blocked secretariat’s main gate and did not allow the staff to come out even after duty hours. The police ultimately had to use force to disperse them.
The rising trend of road blockade is creating unrest in the public. “It becomes all more irritating when the protest is held on personal issues. Why should everyone suffer if few people have load-shedding problem or are facing water scarcity. It is high time the administration adopt a tough stance against such elements who defy law,” said Varun Aggarwal, a local resident.
“The sufferer has every right to raise voice against the injustice but not at the expense of others’ convenience. Frequent bandhs and traffic jams are so agonising. It is administration’s duty to maintain peace and order in the society,” added Ashok Kumar, a businessman, pointing to the inconvenience caused to schoolchildren and patients who are caught in traffic jams.
SSP Dhanpreet Kaur, when contacted, said she would “look in to it”.
It is pertinent to mention here that Section 144 of CrPC is always in force, which prohibits assembly of five or persons at a public place without prior permission of the magistrate. The permission to hold dharnas and rallies is however hardly taken.