After 2 stampedes, Andhra Pradesh govt bans roadshows
In the government order issued late on Monday night, state’s home secretary Harish Kumar Gupta specifically cited the stampede at Kandukuru as the immediate reason for imposing the ban on roadshows and rallies on the roads
Hyderabad: The YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) government in Andhra Pradesh has banned all public meetings and rallies from being held on state roads, including national highways, citing public safety concerns. The decision, however, has come under strong criticism from the opposition parties in the state.
The order came in the wake of two stampedes at the public rallies of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N Chandrababu Naidu in a span of four days claiming 11 lives — eight at Kandukuru in Nellore district on December 28 and three at Guntur town on January 1.
In the government order (GO) issued late on Monday night, state’s home secretary Harish Kumar Gupta specifically cited the stampede at Kandukuru as the immediate reason for imposing the ban on roadshows and rallies on the roads. The prohibitory order was issued under sections 30, 30A and 31 of the Police Act, 1861, which calls for regulation of assembly of people and processions on public roads and streets, Gupta said.
“Public meetings/gatherings on roads and road margins are leading to fatal incidents like the one at Kandukuru. Such roadside meetings, in which people congregate on road margins also, crowd control is not effectively undertaken...,” the order said.
Though right to conduct a public meeting is a fundamental right under the Constitution, the state police are also empowered under law to regulate such activity in public interest as per the Police Act, it added.
The government has decided that “no permission would be granted for any application seeking permission to hold a congregation on national and state highways which are designed for high-speed connectivity”, the order said.
Instead, such meetings could be held at alternative locations like public grounds and private places. “However, in rare and exceptional circumstances and for reasons to be recorded in writing, any application could be considered,” it said.
Same is the case with municipal and panchayat roads which are narrow and meant for free movement of the people.
“The authorities should avoid permitting meetings of public roads. Only in rare and exceptional circumstances permission for public meetings may be considered, with reasons recorded in writing,” the home secretary said.
Hours after the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government issued the order, police in Chittoor district said no permission will be granted for the roadshows and public rallies of opposition leader and TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu in his assembly constituency in Kuppam from January 4 to 6.
Palamaner sub-divisional police officer CM Gangaiah asked TDP leaders to suggest specific areas other than the banned locations, where Naidu intends to hold his meetings and apply for the permission for the same.
“If you violate the orders and conduct public meetings in the banned places, you will be liable for prosecution as per the law,” the officer said in his reply to P Manohar, Naidu’s personal assistant in Kuppam, who sought permission for the TDP chief’s roadshows.
TDP state unit president K Atchennaidu condemned the ban on roadshows and public meetings on state roads. “It is nothing but a vengeful attitude of the Jagan government to impose curbs on Naidu’s rallies which are drawing huge crowds. Today is the dark day in the history of Andhra Pradesh,” he said.
Stating it was the democratic and constitutional right of the political parties to take out rallies along the roads, Atchennaidu reminded that the previous TDP government had given permission to Jagan to take out his padayatra and conduct roadshows and provided him full police protection.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary S Vishnuvardhan Reddy said: “It is strange on the part of the Jagan government to take such a political decision banning public rallies on the roads.” If any unforeseen accidents occur, Reddy added, the police could take action against the organisers.
JanaSena Party leader Nadendla Manohar also condemned the order, calling it “draconian”. “The GO is clearly aimed at curbing the opposition parties from reaching out to the people,” he alleged.
YSR Congress Party general secretary and advisor to the government on public affairs Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy said the order will be applicable to all political parties, including the ruling party, and not just to the opposition.
“The government has issued the orders keeping in view the public safety. For us, safeguarding public life is paramount,” he said. “No doubt, it was the TDP which forced the government to issue the GO, due to its irresponsible behaviour which resulted in loss of life at Naidu’s meetings.”