Normal life was disrupted in the country's IT hub on Thursday as it observed a 12-hour bandh called by pro-Kannada outfits to protest rising incidents of sexual offences against women and children with a mixed response. Large parts of the city were devoid of the hustle and bustle of a working day, with buses running with fewer passengers, most commercial establishments and shopping malls closed and a section of autorickshaw drivers staying off the roads.
Attendance in the state secretariat, Vidhana Soudha, was badly affected while most private schools and colleges declared a holiday. IT firms and banks functioned normally, officials and police said. Essential services were normal as they were exempt from the dawn-to-dusk bandh called by "Kannada Okoota (federation)", an umbrella body of several Kannada organisations led by Vatal Nagaraj.
Security was tightened by police, bolstered by central forces, mobilising "maximum amount" of the force. Barring two incidents of pelting stones at city transport buses, the bandh passed off peacefully, police said.
Kannada organisations staged demonstrations with the main body marching in a procession from Town Hall to "Freedom Park" in the heart of the city, demanding tough steps to curb the sexual offences.
The outfits during their protests also demanded a ban on Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Ekikaran Samithi (MES), which is based in Belgaum in Karnataka, accusing them of trying to "disturb" peace on the boundary issue between the two states.
The boundary issue came to the fore again in recent days after pro-Maharashtra groups erected a sign board at Yellur village in Belgaum district, showing it was part of Maharashtra. The signboard was removed by the PWD on a High Court order but was re-erected before being removed again.
Kannada Chaluvali (movement) leader Vatal Nagaraj said the bandh was a "total success". Speaking to reporters after receiving a memorandum from Nagaraj at the end of their procession, Chief Minister Sidaramaiah said they have asked for strict action against those involved in rapes.
"We have told them that we have amended the Goondas Act," he said, adding anyone arrested for committing a crime under 376 of IPC (Punishment for rape) would be brought under it and once arrested would not get bail for one year. Siddaramaiah said a committee has been formed to suggest to the government steps needed to be taken to stop this crime. The panel would have MLAs, MLCs, women organisations and civil society bodies representatives as its members.
Vatal Nagraj said, "We have also told the Chief Minister that Bangalore is getting the tag of rape city, this should go and government is required to take necessary steps." "Also on Belgaum issue, MES is trying to create trouble and disturb peace in the state for the last 10 to 15 years purposefully. We have demanded that the government ban it completely," he said.
A rash of sexual offences, including the rape of a 22-year-old woman in a car while she was with her friend and that of a 15-year-old nun at a seminary in Bangalore had led to public anger over safety of women in the city. Facing public heat, police issued tough guidelines to schools for safety of children and government has tightened the Goondas Act to bring sexual offenders under its ambit.