A public meeting was held on Saturday in Bengaluru to support music director Hamsalekha, who has come under attack for a question he raised about the late Vishwesha Teertha Swami, the former head priest of the Pejawar mutt in Udupi.
Addressing a gathering earlier this week, he had said, "Pejawar mutt's swamiji used to visit the houses of Dalits. However, that is all he could do. If they had served him chicken, would he have eaten it? If they fried sheep's blood or served him a piece of liver, would he have eaten it? He would not. I don't understand what is the big story if dominant people visit homes of the oppressed?"
Taking offence to his statements, the Akhil Bhartiya Brahmin Mahasabha filed an FIR in the capital under Section 295(a) - deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs. Hamsalekha has apologised for his comments.
The public meeting in support of Hamsalekha was organised by members of Ambedkarite and Buddhist organisations of Karnataka. In attendance were various members of civil society, including teachers, lawyers, political activists, and students. Also in attendance was Chetan Kumar Ahimsa, a film actor and social activist. The purpose of the meeting was to make strategies for Hamsalekha's legal defence along with providing him public support.
Gnanaprakash Swami of Mysore also addressed the gathering, "There are many people from SC/ST and OBC communities who are members of the RSS. Along with another swamiji, I have recently started the work of getting them out of it. For this reason, I have been receiving death threats. They don't like people who respect the Constitution. To support Hamsalekha, we need to organise at least 10,000 people and hold rallies."
Film actor Chetan Kumar said, "This is an attack on our freedom of speech. These people (Brahmin Mahasabha) are trying to harass and trouble Hamsalekha. He is a man who has achieved a lot in cinema and literature. Let there be a discussion about the issues he has raised, but if you keep attacking him even after he has apologised, we will show that people are standing firmly with him."
One of the organisers, a Kannada teacher, Ha Ra Mahesh said, "Many people asked me, to which caste does Hamsalekha belong? Is he a dalit or an OBC? Now, do we have to ascertain the caste before offering support! I think it's best if we start saying Brahmin vs non-Brahmin instead. Periyar was successful in doing this. Even Ambedkar and Kanshiram were successful (by using a similar strategy)." He added, "Some of us try to go beyond caste, but they (people who support Brahminism) are trying to destroy us using caste itself."
It was decided at the meeting that within the next ten days, counter complaints would be filed against the Brahmin Mahasabha and all those who had been abusing Hamsalekha. All attempts would be made for quashing the FIR, and a public rally would be held in support of the music director.
There was also the curious presence of Hanumegowda, a person who claimed to be a "registered RSS pramukh". He said that they (Brahmins) expected servitude from the society, and that he walked away from the organisation when they expected him to do the same. He said many like him joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) out of ignorance and that their stories should be shared through social media.
Vishwesha Teertha Swami with Narendra Modi.
The late Vishwesha Teertha Swami, was a vocal supporter of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement in Karnataka. LK Advani was a disciple of the swamiji and took his blessings before undertaking his infamous Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya in 1990. The Swami also visited the homes of dalits in Mysore with the intention of ending the practice of untouchability. He passed away in 2019.