“I Too Am Rani Chennamma”, a national campaign to commemorate 200 years of the courageous rani of Kittur in present day Karnataka, was disallowed by Uttar Pradesh police on the specious claim that it violated the model code of conduct!

The programme, which included a poster exhibition of stories of women who fought against the British, was to take place on March 17 in Prayagraj and had been held successfully in at least ten places before the clampdown by UP police.

The organisers said they were informed late evening the day before by the police that they will not allow them to do the program. “Despite reaching out to senior police officers and knocking at the doors of the District Magistrate late night, no logic worked with the UP Police, ” their statement said.

On March 17, 2024, senior advocate Ravi Kiran Jain and members of the “I Too Am Rani Chennamma” National Campaign Committee, Avinash Mishra, Dr Padma Singh, Leena Dabiru and Shabnam Hashmi addressed a press conference in Allahabad to draw attention to the campaign and the undemocratic stance of UP police in disallowing the programme.

They said that the model code of conduct was applicable to political parties, not to civil society initiatives. But their efforts to make the UP police understand this simple fact was unsuccessful.

See the full statement below:

The chowki incharge sitting at the Dharna Sthal shouted – you cannot display this exhibition here after he was shown the panels containing stories of women who fought against the Britishers and those who were part of writing the Constitution of India.

It was obvious that such women had no place in present Uttar Pradesh.

Before Allahabad the program has been organised in more than 10 places across India . The campaign was launched at Kittur Fort , Karnataka on Feb 21 in the presence of 3500 women.

Over 600 women were expected to participate in today’s program from various backgrounds.

We strongly condemn this act of the UP police and register our protest against the autocratic regime in power! The arbitrary unfairness at the eleventh hour and refusal of permission to peace loving women , decision to block the commemoration program by the police violates our fundamental right to speech & expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a), & to assemble peaceably under Article 19(1)(b).

The idea to commemorate 200 years of Rani Chennamma’s revolt was initiated by Anhad. Within a short time a large number of women’s groups and independent citizens from across India joined hands to commemorate 200 years of this revolt against oppression and to carry forward the legacy of struggle for women’s equality, equal and appropriate political representation, social justice and an equal society.

Kittur Rani Chennamma was one of the first women to lead a revolt against British rule in India. A fearless warrior, she stands tall as a symbol of resistance, embodying a love for freedom and self-respect, against the British rule.

This year 2024 marks 200 of her revolt against British Imperialism in 1824.
We are both angry and deeply hurt at the refusal by the UP police to block this extremely important campaign and the exhibition in memory of women freedom fighters .

UP police has effectively banned the display of the exhibition containing stories of valour and fearlessness of Rani Chennamma , Rani of Jhansi , Uda Devi Pasi, Begum Hazratmahal , Capt Luxmi Sahgal, Rani Avantibai Lodhi , Jhalkari Bai , Kamla Chaoudhary, Savitribai Phule , Fatima Shaikh, Sarojini Naidu , Aruna Asif Ali and many others.

The Model Code of Conduct is misused across India by those in power to crush all democratic activities. Those sitting in positions of power deliberately mislead people into believing that it means automatic implementation of section 144 which is absolutely wrong . Model Code of Conduct is meant for political parties and there are certain norms to be followed . It does not mean shutting down of all democratic activities . There is an urgent need to educate the police and administrators as well as public so that they know the real meaning of MCC. All police officers with whom we spoke used the Model of Code of Conduct argument and referred to section 144 to block our program.

We implore all women in the country to speak up against this violation of our right to freedom of expression and our right to peaceful assembly.

The refusal to organise a program in memory of Rani Chennamma is a gross violation of our democratic rights .

It is time to RISE, RESIST and RECLAIM our Constitutional Rights!

(Statement released by National Campaign Committee “I Too Am Rani Chennamma” Campaign)

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