Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday visited his parliamentary constituency Wayanad to show solidarity with the protesters opposing night traffic ban on the national highway passing through Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Kerala.

Wayanad has been witnessing protests for the past 10 days to allow night travel through the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. The state government too is in favour of removing the travel ban on National Highway 766 which connects Kerala to Karnataka, between 9 pm and 6 am. The agitators comprised of locals included young students and women also. Many protestors are sitting on a hunger strike.

Gandhi took to Twitter to show his support to the protestors. He said, “I am in Wayanad, Kerala to stand in solidarity with the youth who have been on hunger strike, protesting against the travel ban on National Highway 766. Earlier I visited those who have had to be hospitalised, as a result of the prolonged fast.”

Gandhi reached Vinayaka Hospital in Sulthan Bathery and spent some time interacting with the protesters on hunger strike. He then addressed the protesters assuring them of engaging country’s top lawyers to fight the case in Supreme Court.

Gandhi said, “The thoughts of all the people are here at the protest venue. All political parties are united in this protest and there is no political difference. This issue has to be resolved and it has to be done in an intelligent way. A solution is possible as this has been achieved in other parts of the country, so in all fairness Wayanad also should get that.”

Rahul Gandhi further said, “Now this is in the Supreme Court. I have also spoken to our legal experts and have asked for help. I assure all of you that the best legal resources in the country would be employed.”
On Thursday around 25,000 students held a rally against the night ban.

Earlier, the Congress leader had discussed the matter with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in Delhi on Tuesday.

The Chief Minister has taken up the issue with the Centre and a study team is expected to arrive here to prepare a feasibility report.
This has angered the people of Wayanad, especially those from Bathery town, as any such move would increase the travel time manifold. Locals say farmers would be the worst hit as they would not be able to transport their produce within the stipulated time.

The Mysuru Deputy Commissioner in 2009 put the ban on night traffic to provide safety to wild animals. It was challenged in the Karnataka High Court, but the decision was upheld. The matter is now in the Supreme Court.

The people of Wayanad are not happy with the ban. Farmers from Bathery town would be the worst hit as they would not be able to transport their produce in the given time. The locals also argue that the travel time will increase with this move.

The length of the NH-766 is 272 km, and 34.6 km of this passes through the Bandipur and Wayanad national parks. About 24 km of the highway passes through protected areas in Karnataka, and 10.4 km through protected areas in Kerala.