The Vishwa Hindu Parishad's plan to organise a "Hindu rally" in Bangalore hit a hurdle on Tuesday when their star speaker Praveen Togadia was banned from entering the city.
Sources in the home minister's office told Hindustan Times that the government is also considering banning Togadia, who has at least 19 cases of hate speech against him in over a dozen states, from entering Karnataka.
The VHP said the ban was "undemocratic" and claimed it had mustered more than two lakh supporters for the event called Hindu Viraat Samavesha on February 8. "We have issued prohibitory orders banning Togadia's entry into the city but we have decided to permit the event. We are in talks with the organisers to arrive at a mutually agreed format for the programme," said Bangalore Police Commissioner MN Reddi.
Reddi said Togadia had been barred from the city to "prevent a law and order situation".
The VHP plans to protest for Togadia. "We will move court to get justice and hold protests across Karnataka against the decision of this anti-Hindu government," said VHP south India organising secretary Gopalji.
"This is unconstitutional and undemocratic. Togadia has addressed many rallies in Karnataka over the last few months and there has been no trouble. The Congress is playing vote bank politics," said former BJP chief minister Jagdish Shettar, who is leader of the opposition.
Chief minister Siddaramaiah supported the police's decision. "The government had nothing to do with it. The decision was taken independently by the police. But it was a good decision as Togadia's previous visits to the State have triggered communal violence. The government is committed to preventing such attempts at polarization," he said.
A riot broke out during Togadia's last visit to Karnataka on January 17 when he addressed a gathering of 25,000 supporters at Puttur, 60 km Mangaluru. More than 30 people were injured in the violence and property worth several lakh rupees was destroyed.
Interestingly, the Majlis Ittehadul Muslimin has planned a massive rally on February 8 to counter the VHP's event. As the main speaker, they plan to have the party president and MP Asaduddin Owaisi, who has nearly a dozen hate speech cases against him across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Home Ministry sources said that Owaisi too will be prevented from entering the State although they said that his status as an elected representative might complicate matters.