Gangtok, 12 Dec:
Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee president, Bharat Basnet, was stopped by Sikkim Police from registering his and his party’s protest against the Citizen [Amendment] Bill. Mr Basnet was on his way to MG Marg to sit in dharna against CAB at the Gandhi Statue there when he was stopped by Sikkim Police at Amdo Golai on NH10 and disallowed from proceeding any further.
Mr Basnet had announced his plans to hold a protest at MG Marg while addressing a press conference yesterday and Sikkim Police went into overdrive to ensure that this did not happen. SP [East] Hari Prasad Chettri was at MG Marg with a police team, but before he could stop Mr Basnet, another team of police personnel stopped him at Amdo Golai itself at around 12:30. The SPCC president was proceeding to MG Marg along with other State Congress leaders at the time.
Soon, the SP-East and other senior police officials also arrived at the scene and then began around two hours of excited discussions which ended with Sikkim Police holding firm and Mr Basnet returning home.
Mr Basnet expressed his “deep disappointment” over Sikkim Police stopping him from protesting CAB.
SP-East, in turn, contended that protests or dharnas of any type are prohibited from MG Marg following a notification issued in 2011.
While they did not explain why the police could not wait till Mr Basnet had begun his “unauthorized” protest given that anticipation or suspicion is hardly enough justification for such elaborate bandobast, officials did offer an option. He could hold his protest in front of the District Administrative Centre which is the designated spot for dharnas and protests.
The SP stressed that the police did not stop Mr Basnet from registering his protest against CAB, only that he was stopped from doing so at MG Marg.
Mr Basnet, however, refused to shift his protest to the DAC complex and insisted that he be allowed to go to MG Marg which he insisted was his fundamental righ. After an argument stretching around two hours, Mr Basnet finally returned home.
The SP-East explained that the SPCC president had announced his plans to hold a dharna at MG Marg and because this was not allowed, he was stopped.
“He did not even take any permission and we cannot allow protests at MG Marg as per the government notification. We have not denied his freedom of expression and he can hold the protest at the designated place in front of DAC,” he said.
Addressing media-persons, Mr Basnet expressed his dissatisfaction.
“Using my fundamental rights, I just wanted to place my message peacefully in front of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue at MG Marg. Sikkim needs CBI, not CAB and that is what the people want,” he said.
He also thanked Sikkim MPs Hishey Lachungpa and Indra Hang Subba and Congress MP, Gaurav Gogoi, for speaking for Sikkim during the CAB debate. He believes that if all political parties, organisations and individuals of the State come together, Sikkim’s future can be saved. He also thanked all individuals who turned up to support his protest.