Pro-Kannada organisations go ahead with Karnataka strike despite CM’s appeal
Several Pro-Kannada organisations have decided to go on with a dawn to dusk shutdown in Karnataka to protest against the state government’s move to set up a development board for the Maratha community. Various factions of Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (Forum for the protection of Karnataka), Jaya Karnataka, Karnataka Nava Nirmaana Sena, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Hasiru Sena, Ola and Uber taxi drivers association, auto-rickshaw drivers association and a few others have called for the 12-hour strike.
Vatal Nagaraj, one of the leaders of the protest, demanded that unless the government announced the immediate withdrawal of its order to set up the Maratha board, they would go ahead with the daylong strike. The shutdown is scheduled from 6am to 6pm, however, essential services have been exempted.
Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa had appealed to the organisations behind the ‘bandh’ to drop the move. “I appeal to them not to trouble the people of the state as it (the ‘bandh’) is not required. Kannada has been given importance and we will do even more for promoting the language,” he said.
Yediyurappa pointed out that the development board was for the welfare of the Maratha community and not for the promotion of the Marathi language as some have apprehended. Several border areas including Belgavi and Bidar in Karnataka have often seen tension between the Kannadigas and the Marathas.
Bengaluru police commissioner Kamal Pant said that permission had not been taken for the shutdown and that action will be taken against anybody trying to force business and commercial establishments to shut or disrupt normal life. Pant also said an additional 14,000 police and security personnel would be deployed to ensure law and order.
The state government has indicated that bus and train services would run as per the normal schedule. However, Sa Ra Govindu, leader of a pro-Kannada organisation, said that they would not withdraw the strike unless the government relented and abolished the Maratha board. Political analysts have said that the move to set up the Maratha board, similar to the set up for Veeerashaiva Lingayat and Kadu Golla communities in the recent past, was due to electoral exigencies.
Assembly by-polls are due in Basava Kalyan and Maski apart from the vacancy caused in the Belgavi Lok Sabha seat due to the death of Union minister Suresh Angadi. In all the seats, Maratha votes can play a decisive role in deciding the outcome. Opposition parties have criticised the setting up of community-specific development boards and alleged that this was an electoral tactic by the ruling BJP meant to divert attention from its governance failures.