Fearing communal unrest, Karnataka govt cracks down on BJP rally
The BJP Yuva Morcha’s bike rally was against the murder of 18 Hindu activists and incidents of violence in the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi.Updated: Sep 05, 2017 17:51 IST
Hundreds of Bharatiya Janata Party leaders were detained by police in several parts of Karnataka ahead of motorcycle rally by its youth wing to protest the alleged killings of Hindu activists in the coastal districts of the state, an action officials said, taken to avoid communal tension from flaring up.
Police across the southern state denied permission for the Yuva Morcha’s ‘Mangalore Chalo’ rally to ostensibly maintain peace but the BJP insisted they would go ahead with the plan. The rally was set to begin from the Freedom Park in capital Bengaluru and expected to reach Mangaluru on Thursday.
Around 200 BJP workers managed to reach the Freedom Park, where several senior leaders, including former home minister R Ashoka and Yuva Morcha president and Mysuru MP Pratap Simha, were present. However, the police seized their vehicles and took the activists into custody.
Ashoka and other leaders sat in protest near the Freedom Park and demanded the police to furnish arrest warrants, resulting in a heated argument between the officials and the leaders, following which they were frisked away.
The chaos caused traffic snarls around Freedom Park, located near one of the busiest junctions in the heart of the city, causing inconvenience to commuters.
Leaders were detained in Hubli as well, where the rally was to be flagged off by former chief minister Jagadish Shettar. Shettar was also detained.
The rally was organised to protest the alleged murder of 18 Hindu activists and repeated incidents of violence against them in the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi.
They called for action against “fundamentalist” organisations such as the Popular Front of India, Social Democratic Party of India, and Karnataka Forum for Dignity accusing their members of killing Sangh activists. They also demanded the resignation of district in-charge and state environment minister Ramanath Rai.
Speaking at the rally, Ashoka said the government was the crackdown was proof that the government was scared of the support that his party has received.
“If the government has the guts they should have allowed us to protest ... They are using the police against us ... It is our right as an opposition party to protest against the government and we will go ahead with our rally,” news agency PTI quoted him as saying.
Chief minister Siddaramaiah denied Ashoka’s claims, saying permission was denied as the rally could result in a traffic congestion.
“Instead of organising ‘Mangaluru Chalo’ which is divisive, the BJP should organise a ‘Delhi Chalo’ rally demanding the waiver of farmers’ loans, in which we too will participate,” Siddaramaiah tweeted from his personal account.
The saffron party plans to go ahead with its rally in Mangaluru on September 7 despite being denied permission, setting up a potential clash with the police. Senior party leaders, including state unit chief BS Yeddyurappa, are expected take part in the rally at Mangaluru.
Communal tension has been on the rise in the coastal areas of the state, especially since the murders of Social Democratic Party of India member Ashraf Kalayi and Sharath Madivala, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activist.
With the assembly elections set for early next year, the state government has increased vigil in the areas, which has been a hub of communal violence in the state.
Siddarmaiah, who held the home affairs ministry before Ramalinga Reddy took over from G Parameshwara, conducted a series of moves to stop further instances of communal violence.
He ordered a slew of transfers of senior police officials, removing those in charge of Dakshina Kannada after violence erupted in the area after the murders.
Among those removed were intelligence chief MN Reddi, who Siddarmaiah was displeased with over the handling of the incident, and the inspector general of police (western Range) responsible for the coastal districts.
(With PTI inputs)
First Published: Sep 05, 2017 14:18 IST