Hindutva outfits led by the Bajrang Dal and the BJP have threatened to launch a “massive, statewide agitation” after the management of a 12th century temple in Coastal Karnataka invited a Muslim IAS officer to their annual festival.
Approximately 60 km from Mangalore in the Puttur Taluk of Dakshina Kannada district, the Mahalingeshwara temple is owned and managed by the state government.
As per protocol, the temple authorities invited the local MLA, and Puttur assistant commissioner as well as the executive head of the district, deputy commissioner A B Ibrahim for an event on April 1.
The Hindutva outfits have opposed Ibrahim’s invite, saying the entry of a Muslim into the temple would “pollute the sanctity” of the site.
“Does he believe in the Shiva linga at the temple? Will he eat the prasadam? He eats beef. Can we allow such a person to enter our temple?” said Murali Bhat, a Bajrang Dal leader.
“If Ibrahim’s name is not removed from the invitation card, we cannot control how the Hindus, whose sentiments have been hurt, will react”, Bhat said on Thursday after leading a protest in Puttur.
Puttur town municipal council member and BJP leader Rajesh Bennur was also at the protest and opposed the invitation sent to Ibrahim.
But the invitation to Ibrahim is not the only problem. Hindutva outfits also want non-Muslim traders, who have been supplying firecrackers and fruits for the temple fair for generations, to stay away this time. “Why should they come? There is already a lot of tension. Their presence will only add to it. There are enough Hindu traders. We can’t guarantee their safety if they show up,” Bennur said.
Ibrahim said, “I feel really sad that after so many years of independence, we are still divided in such a way. I have always thought of myself as an Indian officer. Today, I have been reminded that to some people, the only thing that matters is that I’m a Muslim.” He said that in the last two years, as the head of the district, he has been invited to several Hindu festivals and he’s gone happily. “So that nobody should accuse me of bias, I have always given special attention to the needs of temples and our Hindu brothers. I feel that none of this matters to people who want to divide the country.”