Slogans on Kashmir, CAA pop up on walls of Bengaluru’s hip street

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The cool and hip graffiti on the shutters of an abandoned building in Church Street, in the heart of Bengaluru, where youngsters are often spotted taking selfies and shooting amateur music videos, turned into ground zero over the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) on Tuesday.

The commotion began when office goers and others spotted spray-painted graffiti with protest slogans saying ‘No CAA, No NRC’, ‘I will not show my papers’, ‘Detention Camps’ and ‘Free Kashmir’ in black, red and other colours.

Passersby started posting pictures and videos on social media, while TV news channels were quick to run the story, drawing attention to the city’s Shrungar Complex, which was a popular shopping mall in the early 1990s but now stands abandoned and awaits demolition.

CCTV footage from a nearby building shows that at least two people were involved in spray painting the slogans around 3am on Tuesday.

The police were quick to arrive but could do little about the graffiti. “We are yet to find the people who did this and are investigating,” said a police official who asked not to be named.

The 700-metre-long Church Street, which has more than 50 watering holes, restaurants, and party venues, was beautified at a cost of more than 9 crore. The paintings on the walls, designer cycle stands, and cobblestone resonate with youngsters. The street, part of an experiment to make Bengaluru pedestrian-friendly, also has several CCTV cameras but most of them have not been able to clearly capture what happened in the early hours of Tuesday.

By noon, several right-wing activists had swarmed Church Street, waving saffron flags and chanting slogans against the writing on the wall. “Where were these people when Kashmiri Pandits were thrown out of Kashmir?” asked one person.

These people were quick to paint over the protest slogans, in turn smearing the wall with ‘We support CAA, NRC’ in bright orange, while bystanders and police watched and video cameras captured the dramatic scenes.

As the crowds started to disperse, the handful of police personnel wondered how it could avoid a repeat of the incident. Soon, they summoned a painter of their own. This time, white was the colour of choice to wash out all the slogans.

Bengaluru, like other places in the country, has seen a sharp rise in demonstrations and protests, both for and against CAA. But it has remained largely peaceful in contrast to some other places, including Mysuru, where a girl was recently served a notice after she was spotted carrying a ‘Free Kashmir’ poster at an anti-CAA-NRC rally.

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