PANAJI: Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) commissioner Sanjit Rodrigues has by an official letter intimated social activist Adv Aires Rodrigues that the CCP has not taken any decision regarding prohibiting public protests or agitations at Panaji’s Azad Maidan.

The CCP commissioner’s response is after Adv Rodrigues on 24th December last year served a legal notice on the Chief Secretary of Goa, the North Goa Collector and the CCP commissioner over the reported move to prohibit any public protests at Azad Maidan while stating that it was very high-handed and outrageous besides a blatant assault on democracy.

Stating that CCP Mayor Uday Madkaikar on 17th December had publicly stated that no agitation would be allowed at Azad Maidan and that it would be denotified as place of agitations, Adv. Rodrigues had in his notice stated that interestingly while Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on that very day had stated that it was a decision taken by the CCP and not the Government, that Mayor Madkaikar had publicly voiced that the idea to denotify Azad Maidan as a place for agitations came from the Chief Minister.

Pointing out that Azad Maidan is to Panaji what Hyde Park is to London, a venue for public protests and public meetings, Adv Rodrigues had in his notice stated that for decades Azad Maidan has been a place for public meetings and people’s protests on wrong doings by the government. 

Recalling that from the 1979 historic student agitation for 50 % bus concession that over the last over four decades he was personally part of various protests at Azad Maidan, Adv Rodrigues in his notice had stated that the Right to peacefully demonstrate is enshrined in the Constitution of India and that this fundamental right cannot be taken away by any authority.

Adv Rodrigues in his notice had also drawn the attention of the authorities that in 1985, when the then Panaji Municipal Council (now CCP) had leased out Azad Maidan to the Delhi based All India Stall Holders Association to run a sale exhibition for eight months, that he was able to successfully move a petition before the Collector that Azad Maidan being one of the few lungs of the city be left free for public use and that the Collector directed the exhibitors to immediately vacate Azad Maidan which decision was upheld by our High Court whom the exhibitors had moved challenging the order of the Collector.

Stating that Azad Maidan has been over the years where aggrieved citizens have congregated to raise their voices against injustice and to demonstrate on various issues concerning Goa, Adv Rodrigues in his notice had sought that Azad Maidan must remain truly Azad, free from any repressive tactics by the powers to be.

While seeking that the authorities act immediately and revoke any decision to prohibit public protests at Azad Maidan and allow the venue to continue to be used for public demonstrations and agitations, Adv Rodrigues in his legal notice had sought that Azad Maidan remains free and open for public protests and demonstrations.