Karnataka: Sri Ram Sena Chief Vows to Observe Savarkar Utsav During Gauri Ganesh Festival
Police stand guard at Eidgah Maidan in Chamrajpet
Bengaluru: Sri Ram Sena leader Pramod Mutalik has declared that he would observe Savarkar Utsav during the Gauri Ganesh festival. Addressing a press conference at the state capital on Friday, he referred to Hindu Mahasabha leader Vinayak Damodar Savarkar as a revolutionary. He criticised Congress and the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) for repeatedly insulting him.
The question of Savarkar popped up on August 15 when the SDPI cadre removed banners of Savarkar in Shivamogga city and attempted to replace them with posters of Tipu Sultan. The act resulted in clashes between SDPI and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers. Ultimately, the police resorted to lathi-charge to disperse the crowd and put restrictions in the city under section 144.
Starting with the ban on hijab in colleges, BJP and various Hindu groups have taken turns to stoke controversy and communal unrest in the state of Karnataka. In February of this year, the murder of Bajrang Dal worker Harsha in Shivamogga was seen as an outcome of the toxic, communal rhetoric brewing in the state for quite some time. Five Muslim men were arrested in connection with the case.
Sri Ram Sena Karnataka State working President, Gangadhar Kulkarni and Pramod Mutalik address media persons
Weeks later, the Karnataka High Court ruled in favour of a ban on the hijab, emboldening Hindu groups to initiate a campaign against Muslim cultural and economic rights. Hindu groups attempted to enforce a boycott on Halal meat in the state. Following this, the Sri Ram Sena members in Dharwad attacked a watermelon seller for doing business outside a temple premises. Sri Ram Sena and Mutalik are based out of Dharwad. Meanwhile, Nupur Sharma’s statements incensed Muslims, further adding fuel to the fire.
On July 26, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha member Praveen Nettaru was murdered by two bike-borne men in Bellare town of Dakshina Kannada district. Hindu groups, including BJP workers, were incensed at the murder and blamed the top leadership of the BJP for using workers as cannon fodder. They blamed the Popular Front of India (PFI) and SDPI for Nettaru's murder. So far, five Muslim men have been arrested by police in connection with the case, and the investigation has been transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
In retaliation for Nettaru's murder, Hindu extremists murdered a man called Mohammed Fazil at Suratkal on July 28. Six Hindu men were arrested in connection with Fazil's murder. Mutalik was barred from entering Dakshina Kannada district when he attempted to travel to Bellare to meet Nettaru’s parents. The Mangaluru City Police briefly detained him and sent him back.
Meanwhile, in Bengaluru, a dispute raked up over ownership of a two-acre maidan at Chamrajpet. The Karnataka Waqf Board claims the property, whereas the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) also claims the site. Muslims offer prayers at the site twice a year. Children use the site for the rest of the year as a playground. Hindu groups have been demanding that the site be opened up for the celebration of Hindu festivals as well.
Mutalik referred to Savarkar as a patriot and said that no Congress leader spent as much time in jail as he had. Addressing a press conference, he said, “Savarkar was the first person to refer to the 1857 rebellion as a war of independence. He wrote a book on this (The Indian War of Independence). Before that book was even published, it was banned in three countries. They feared that if such a book came out, it would bring a revolution to India. The British wanted to stem the feeling of patriotism and hence, jailed him for 11 years at the Kala Pani jail in Andaman. Today, Congress and Islamists are openly insulting Savarkar. For this reason, this year, at the Ganeshotsava festival, we will observe Savarkar Utsav.”
The Hindu organisation mentioned that in the context of celebrating Savarkar, they would screen a film, organise plays, quiz competitions, story competitions, and singing competitions based on the songs penned by Savarkar.
The organisation chief clashed with a few journalists when he stated that Kesari is the colour of patriotism. Journalist Ashik Mulki of News 18 challenged Mutalik on this point and asked him to explain how only Kesari could be the colour of patriotism. Mutalik replied, “When the British left India in 1947, a committee was set up to decide what should be the colour of the national flag. Nehru and Patel were also a part of this committee. It was decided that the national flag would be in Kesari colour. This decision was changed later. The flag colour of this nation’s religion is Kesari. The flag that sits atop the forts and temples of this land is Kesari. I never said that the national flag is Kesari; I said that the colour of patriotism is Kesari.”
When pushed to name the source of the claim regarding the Kesari flag in 1947, the working President of Sri Ram Sena, Gangadhar Kulkarni, said that the source is a book called, The Tragic Story of Partition written by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader HV Seshadri.
Later in the day, the organisation members met with Revenue Department officials and requested permission to hold a three-day celebration of the Gauri Ganesh festival at the disputed Chamrajpet Eidgah maidan. The proposed celebrations will begin on August 31 and culminate with Ganesh visarjan on September 2. Permission has not yet been granted.
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