Protestors, park here

Iconic Freedom Park to soon host protests 2.0, equipped with toilets and parking, where citizens don’t block traffic but raise voice at ease

No longer need you – the citizen – suffer in the scorching heat or pouring rain amidst chaotic traffic while voicing your demands or registering opposition in the city.

On the contrary, the BBMP now wants you to protest quite comfortably.

A large rooftop shelter spread over two acres of open space, 43 toilets and a parking space for nearly 1,000 vehicles await the Bengaluru protestor.

Scheduled to open for the public in a month’s time, the aforementioned are some of the facilities being readied by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) at Bengaluru’s historic Freedom Park. The project is currently in the advanced stage of completion.

Around 5,000 people can easily be accommodated under the shelter, officials said. This shall help the protestors, including women, who otherwise hold demonstrations in the open, rain or shine. As some protests go on for weeks or even months, the construction of toilets is intended to further help the citizens.

“We have already completed the construction of a three-tier parking facility in the basement. There is adequate space for parking 550 cars and 450 two-wheelers. We will also be providing 12 toilets in the basement and 31 toilets including one for the differently abled on the terrace (road level),” M Lokesh, chief engineer at BBMP’s project (central) division told BM. The roof, currently under construction, will have solar panels. “Solar energy will be sufficient to meet the energy requirements of the building. We will complete the roof by the end of September.

The solar panels will be ready by December,” Lokesh said, adding that the civic body will not charge a user fee from protestors.

It is learnt that the civic body may provide space for other programmes including political functions too.

First announced in 2015, the BBMP is spending around Rs 80 crore for the project. It was originally planned to open in 2017 but skipped several deadlines due to construction challenges. The work, covering 2.55 lakh sq ft built-up area, was awarded to KMV Projects Pvt Ltd.


Citizens’ take

Citizens, who have held protests in Freedom Park in the past, were of the view that the under-construction building should be open on all four sides. “The structure should not look like a hall. Protests are held next to the road or in a place visible to everyone so that ordinary citizens know why the protest is being held. Protests need to happen in open spaces. It should not be cut off from people,” Vinay Sreenivasa

, member of Alternative Law Forum, said. According to Sreenivasa, the space outside the Town Hall is the best location to hold protests in the city.

“Freedom Park and Maurya Circle are the only spots where protests are being allowed at the moment.

Earlier, protests were held in front of the Mahatma Gandhi statue on MG Road. Protest is one of the key features of a democracy. It is a conversation between the government and people who have been denied their rights,” he added. In March last year, the BBMP’s council passed a resolution announcing a ban on large gatherings and protests outside Sir Puttana Chetty Town Hall. The councillors cited traffic congestion and a dip in booking for the Town Hall for doing so. The adjacent road connects north Bengaluru to the city centre.

We have completed the construction of a three-tier parking facility in the basement. There is space for 550 cars and 450 two-wheelers. We will provide 12 toilets in the basement and 31 toilets on the terrace including one for the differently abled.

— M Lokesh, BBMP chief engineer, Projects (Central)

Historic significance

Soresh Moona, a historian of Bengaluru, recalled how Freedom Park was significant. “One portion of the park used to house the old Bengaluru Central Jail, built by the British in the 1860s. The stone platforms, cells, railings, gates and gallows are still intact,” he said. During the Quit India Movement, he added, many political prisoners were kept in a separate cell.

Moona welcomed the BBMP’s plan to remodel the open place next to what was later renamed as Freedom Park. “Dharmabudi Kere (Majestic bus terminal), Malleshwaram, Canton-ment, Chikka Lalbagh and Bannapa Park are some of the places where protests or freedom movements were organised in the past.

Since protesting at the space outside the Town Hall is said to create traffic congestion, Freedom Park seems to be the best place to hold protests of the future,” felt Moona.

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Sagar Biswas

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