Public Statement Demanding Strict Action Against Communal Elements Threatening With Dire Consequences Those Working To Protect Begur Lake

The Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka has over the past decade and more reminded local government and state agencies that as custodians of commons it is their duty to protect, wisely rehabilitate, and conserve lakes and their rajakaluves (canals) to guarantee social and ecological security of present and future generations. Speaking through its orders in W.P. No. 817/2008 (Environment Support Group & Anr. vs the State of Karnataka and Ors.) and W.P. No.38401/2014 (Citizen Action Group vs the State of Karnataka & Ors.) the Hon’ble High Court has emphasised time and again that lakes which have been handed down to us due to efforts of several generations over hundreds of years must be surveyed, their legal limits along with “no development zones” protected from encroachment and pollution and their rehabilitation must follow the guidelines issued by Justice NK Patil Committee (part of order of WP No. 817/2008). 

The Karnataka Legislature has followed up on these judicial orders and passed a special law to protect, wisely rehabilitate and conserve over 40,000 lakes and their rajakaluves still left in the state of Karnataka by way of the Karnataka Tank Development and Conservation Authority Act, 2014 (amended in 2018). The Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka has been constantly monitoring implementation of its orders in ongoing hearings in W.P. No. 38401/2014 (and connected cases WP No 29107/2019, WP No. 20652/2018, WP No. 11044/2018, WP No. 11447/2016, WP No. 24768/2005, WP No. 5956/2021, WP No. 4964/2021).

In assisting the Hon’ble Court in its efforts to protect Karnataka’s glorious tradition of tank building for posterity’s sake, which over time have matured into biodiversity rich wetland ecosystems that are also home to migratory waterfowl from regions as far as Mongolia and Siberia, Environment Support Group (through its counsel) and Leo F. Saldanha (as Party-in-Person) joined cause with various parties in W.P. No. 38401/2014 in 2019 and invited the attention of the Court to widespread encroachments and pollution of lakes and rajakaluves in Bangalore and other parts of Karnataka. The Hon’ble Court duly considered their submissions and passed various orders. 

One of these orders pertains to the historic 140 acres Begur lake in south-east Bengaluru, where Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) built massive concrete islands within the lake, and atop one of these placed a massive idol of Shiva, in gross violation of orders of the Hon’ble High Court and applicable laws. When this illegality was brought to the attention of the Court, the Hon’ble High Court stayed the inauguration of the project by an order dated 30th August 2019.

The following is a relevant extract: 

“3. Prima facie it appears to us that construction of islands within the lake will be in violation of the guidelines laid down in W.P.No.817/2008. While we appreciate the intention of the BBMP to create a tourist spot near the lake, prima facie, BBMP has no authority to reduce the area of the lake and to make islands in the lake. In view of doctrine of Public Trust, BBMP cannot reduce the area of the lake. Such action is contrary to the law laid down in the order dated 18th June 2019. Till BBMP responds to this affidavit, we direct the BBMP not to carry on any work of building islands within the lake area of 137.24 acres. We also direct the BBMP to ensure that no work is carried out so as to reduce the existing lake area without the leave of the Court.”

As recently as 5th March 2021, the Court further directed: 

“5. The learned senior counsel appearing for BBMP, Shri D.N.Nanjunda Reddy seeks time to take a clear stand on the erection of an idol/statue on the island in the lake. By way of an indulgence, we grant time of two weeks. We make it clear that the object of making an island cannot be to install an idol thereon. In this context, BBMP shall take a Decision.”

Yet, in gross disregard of the Court’s clear directives, the local MLA Mr. M. Krishnappa visited the site and directed BBMP officials to immediately resume work on the lake, as reported in Vijay Karnataka on 17th and 18th June. 

On 31st July 2021, a video was released  by Puneeth Kerehalli on Facebook in which a brazen call was made to the wide public to violate the Hon’ble Court’s directions and consecrate the statue. Various communal statements were also made against the petitioners, in particular Leo Saldanha. This was followed by more videos by others, and posters were also circulated in which serious threats were issued against anyone who came in the  way of the Hindutva project. 

In the following week, in broad daylight, the tarpaulin which BBMP had covered the statue with was removed and saffron flags hoisted all over the island. It has been claimed in one of the videos that over 25 Hindutva organisations have coordinated efforts to move forward with the consecration of the status in frontal violation of the High Court directives and the law. All of this has happened under the direct gaze of the local police,  BBMP officials and other officials. 

The more shocking aspect of this brazenness is that the mob which undertook this entire illegal and communal operation has threatened anyone who implements the Hon’ble Court’s directives with dire consequences. Needless to say, this constitutes a frontal assault on the honour of the Hon’ble Court and amounts to an absolute contempt of its orders. This amounts to openly questioning the wisdom of the Court and dishonouring it.  Despite such grave violations, absolutely no action has followed against the violators from the local police, State Home Secretary, Bangalore City Police Commissioner, Director General of Police, BBMP Chief Commissioner, Chief Engineer (Lakes) BBMP, Chief Executive Officer of KTCDA, Bangalore Deputy Commissioner (Urban), etc., for over several weeks now. 

The undersigned unequivocally, and in a single, strong, and clear voice absolutely condemn this assault on the honour of the High Court of Karnataka, on the rule of law,  and on those who are working tirelessly to protect lakes as commons for the sake of present and future generations. At a time when the world is grappling with the critical importance of saving such biodiversity-rich wetlands as a means of tackling the adverse consequences of climate change, it is indeed deeply disturbing that such commons are being sought out as sites for blatantly communal projects. It needs to be noted that communities who built these lakes (irrigation tanks) over hundreds of years, never used lakes to install any idol or to build islands or walking paths within them. This is because they understood the importance of the space for harvesting surface runoff of water to build food and water security for all. Care has always been taken over time to build any religious or culturally important monument on land beside the lakes, and not inside them. Despite being well aware of this  aspect, BBMP developed the islands inside Begur lake.  This development, as the High Court has observed, is in blatant violation of Justice NK Patil Committee Guidelines.

In light of these shocking developments, we demand that BBMP and police immediately take all necessary action to apprehend those who have violated the Court’s directives and the law, and produce an Action Taken Report before the Hon’ble High Court on the next date of hearing in W.P. No. 38401/2014, which is on 11th August 2021. We also demand that the authorities must take immediate action to protect all involved in assisting the Hon’ble High Court in implementing its orders for the protection of lakes and rajakaluves, and such other commons, across Karnataka.

Endorsed by: 

Organisations

  1. CIVIC Bangalore
  2. Citizens for Bengaluru
  3. Campaign Against Hate Speech
  4. Slum Janara Sangatane-K

Individuals

  1. Vinay Sreenivasa
  2. Karthik Anjanappa
  3. Shazin Siddiqui
  4. Cheriyan Alexander
  5. Som Thomas
  6. Sana Huque
  7. Chockalingam 
  8. Malar
  9. ShivakumR
  10. Avani Chokshi, All India People’s Forum (AIPF)
  11. Basavaraju 
  12. Sivaramakrishnan, Grama Seva Sangha
  13. Ramnarayan
  14. Rohan DSouza
  15. Seema N
  16. Rajani
  17. Manavi 
  18. VijayaKumar,  Karnataka Janaarogya Chaluvali
  19. Syed,  Naavu bharatiyaru
  20. David D’Costa
  21. Janani
  22. Tani Alex
  23. Karthik Venkatesh
  24. Dwiji Guru
  25. Robin, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)
  26. N. Jayaram, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)
  27. Vasu H V
  28. Shaheen Shasa, Naavu Bharateeyaru
  29. Yelsin Wilson,  VIBGYOR
  30. Captain Santhosh Kumar, ATEPF 
  31. JEYAKAR Vedamanickam
  32. Aishwarya r
  33. Lekha Shree Bt 
  34. Ayush
  35. Pushpa S, Swaraj Abhiyan
  36. Vijaya
  37. Zaki
  38. Rohit, AISA 
  39. Marcy Newman
  40. Manu Mathai
  41. Pavan Nair 
  42. Abhilash C A, Gram Seva Sangh
  43. Chitra Venkatesh
  44. Peggy Devaraj 
  45. Hartman de Souza
  46. Arul Selva, Slum Jagatthu 
  47. Prabha Dev, HeritageBeku
  48. Punitha Harsha
  49. Benlita Pinto
  50. Shraddha 
  51. Suganthi
  52. Arpit
  53. Joseph Hoover, United Conservation Movement
  54. Ramprasad.V, Friends of Lakes (FoL) 
  55. Venetia Sharanya
  56. Yogada Joshi
  57. Maitreyi Krishnan, All India Lawyers’ Association for Justice (AILAJ)
  58. Aishwary
  59. Indumathi 
  60. Margaret Machado
  61. SIVARAMAN HARIHARAN
  62. Subash Chandar Kumar
  63. AYUSHI AGARWAL
  64. Vidya Dinker
  65. Pratiksha
  66. Yamuna Sunny
  67. Vijay H
  68. Aasha Ramesh, If We Do Not Rise
  69. Bhargavi
  70. Akash Vadanan
  71. Swathi Shivanand
  72. Amrutha Bhat
  73. Ajitha G S
  74. Arunima Singal
  75. Sharath M Gayakwad
  76. Geeta Menon, Stree Jagruti Samiti
  77. K. Nagarajan
  78. Shambhavi
  79. Komal Kooduvalli
  80. Sumedha
  81. Gayatri venkatesh
  82. Bijoy Venugopal
  83. Sandeep Kumar Verma
  84. Prahlad Saldanha
  85. Manohar Ranganathan, Human Rights Defenders’ Alert (HRDA)
  86. Shravanthi Kanekal
  87. K Uma
  88. Garima Bhatia
  89. Janani Eswar, Growing In Nature (GRIN)
  90. Aayush
  91. Madhavi R
  92. Gayathri
  93. Yohan Vijayan
  94. Arun Saldanha
  95. Nivedita
  96. Rita Dewan
  97. A. P. CRASTA
  98. Dakshi
  99. Shrestha Chowdhury
  100. Reshma
  101. Mutturaju, KVS
  102. Jananee Mohan, Ananas
  103. Prajwal Nagesh
  104. Kaustubh Rau
  105. Sonali Sathaye
  106. Tara Murali
  107. Gopal Srinivasan
  108. Om Prakash Singh
  109. Praveen
  110. Mallikarjun B
  111. Kailas S H
  112. Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra
  113. Nikhita L, The Rainbow Chronicles
  114. Aruna Rodrigues
  115. Madhu Bhushan
  116. Ashish Kothari
  117. Rajesh
  118. Meera Sanghamitra, National Alliance of People’s Movements
  119. Akash Bhattacharya, AIPF
  120. A.R.Vasavi
  121. Manohar Elavarthi, Swaraj Abhiyan
  122. Priya Dharshini, Delhi Solidarity Group (DSG)
  123. Vandana H
  124. Anil Thakore
  125. Manglura Vijay
  126. Meena Saraswathi Seshu, Virodhi Mahila
  127. P R S MANI, AIPF
  128. Chayanika Shah, Forum Against Oppression of Women
  129. Pradeep E
  130. Rumi Harish, Alternative Law Forum
  131. Benny K
  132. Sandhya Gokhale, Forum Against Oppression of Women
  133. Smriti Nevatia
  134. Rajesh, Sangama
  135. Anisha
  136. Cheryl Braggs
  137. Mridul
  138. Bharat Mansata, Earthcare Books
  139. Himshi, National Alliance of People’s Movements
  140. Pratik Kumar, Yugma Network
  141. Ashish Kajla
  142. Dr. K B Oabalesh, Safaikarmachari kavalu samithi
  143. Dada Khalander
  144. Cynthia Stephen
  145. Sudha N
  146. Eldred Tellis, Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust
  147. Hema
  148. Nisarga, TISS Mumbai
  149. Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmatgar
  150. Kripal Singh Mandloi, Khudai Khidmatgar
  151. SHAKUN DOUNDIYAKHED, Gramaa Mahila Samuha
  152. Nikitha
  153. Pawan Yadav, Khudai Khidmatgar
  154. Dunu Roy, Hazards Centre
  155. Mahipal Saraswat, Khudai Khidmatgar
  156. Ann
  157. Arlene Manoharan
  158. Gita S
  159. Meena, Forum against Oppression of Women
  160. Linda Chhakchhuak
  161. Fatema
  162. Pushpa, Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)
  163. Gurumurthy Kasinathan
  164. Ammu Abraham, Forum Against Oppression of Women
  165. Sujata Gothoskar, Forum Against Oppression of Women
  166. Bernadette Devaraj
  167. Anjali Dalmia, Yugma Network
  168. Meghana
  169. Basav Biradar
  170. Ramnarayan
  171. Madhumita Dutta
  172. Raksha Nagaraj
  173. Amod Shah
  174. Winston Singh
  175. Arvind narrain
  176. Namrata Kabra
  177. Saju V N
  178. Anisha
  179. Thomas Dsouza
  180. Pradip Krishen
  181. Proteep Mallik
  182. Jagadish, Save Kaggadasapura Lake
  183. Vineetha
  184. Abhishek Mithal
  185. Meghana
  186. Merwin Fernandes
  187. Nikitha F
  188. Jose George
  189. Linnet
  190. Aditi
  191. Satvika
  192. Nidhi
  193. Ania Loomba, Progressive India Collective
  194. Saket Malhotra, Students Against Hindutva Ideology
  195. Motika Anand
  196. Sharmada Shastry
  197. Mevita Braggs
  198. Sharada Gopal, Jagruti
  199. Alice Pais
  200. Nikhil Mandalaparthy, Hindus for Human Rights
  201. Molly braggs
  202. Rhea Alisha Seqieira
  203. Ronald Sequeira
  204. Bernadette Devaraj
  205. Manisha Anantharaman, Saint Mary’s College
  206. Natalia dsouza
  207. Individual Natalia dsouza
  208. Anil
  209. Infividual
  210. R.Kaleem ullah, Swaraj Abhiyan Bangalore
  211. Dr E Rati Rao, AIPWA
  212. DIVAKAR N, PUCL
  213. Pavan Gowa
  214. Sr.Gretta
  215. Manjula.B.C., Samatha Adhyayana Kendra.
  216. Rakshith M R
  217. Aparna K
  218. Prof. Malini Ranganathan
  219. Lavine Martis
  220. Deepak Joshi, The Humanism Project
  221. Cavery Bopaiah, Swaraj
  222. Eswarappa, People’s Campaign for Right to Water
  223. Rebecca Randad
  224. Vinitha
  225. Afeera Sana
  226. Babitha Tauro
  227. Anand Krishnan
  228. Noor Hafsa
  229. Dr. Sanjay Mangala Gopal, NAPM
  230. Nanditha
  231. Rajeev Singha
  232. Probir Banerjee, PondyCAN
  233. Dr. Sudhir Vombatkere, NAPM Karnataka
  234. Shiny
  235. Rima Kashyap
  236. Anupradha Singh, Human Rights Law Network
  237. Pandurang Hegde, Appiko Movement
  238. Prajval Shastri
  239. Sowmya B
  240. Siddharth Bharath
  241. Nupur Basu
  242. Dr. Anjali Monteiro
  243. Dr. K.P. Jayasankar
  244. Sarah Jose
  245. K M Srinivasa Gowda
  246. Maria Goretti Gonsalves
  247. Prasad
  248. Mallika Akbar, Indian Psychoanalytical Society
  249. Dr Rukmini Rao
  250. Geeta Seshu
  251. Teena Gill
  252. S. Vincent, JPiccmf Roma
  253. Chun Kapur
  254. Riyaz Ahmed Bhat
  255. Amita joseph
  256. Anithra Priyadarshini
  257. Nandita Narain, St Stephen’s College, Delhi University
  258. Harshitha J K, GATWU
  259. Ram Wangkheirakpam, Ngamee Lup
  260. Kavitha Lankesh
  261. Salam Rajesh, Manipur Nature Society
  262. Christopher Francis Manohar
  263. Pamela Antic
  264. Donald, Indigenous Perspectives
  265. Chitra Hemanth
  266. Jeevan HL, Swaraj

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