‘Conspiracy to incite riots,’ says CM Siddaramaiah as BJP stages protests over Karnataka Hanuman flag controversy

Karnataka Assembly LoP R Ashok, along with other BJP leaders, visited the village, leading to their detention by the police.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Jan 29, 2024 | 12:17 AMUpdatedJan 29, 2024 | 12:18 AM

BJP leaders led by Karnataka Assembly LoP R Ashok stage a protest at the Keragodu village in Mandya on Sunday, 28 January.

The Hanuman flag controversy in the Keragodu village of Karnataka’s Mandya district escalated into a political showdown by the evening of Sunday, 28 January, with the BJP in the Opposition staging a protest against the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in the state.

Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the Assembly R Ashok, along with other BJP leaders, visited the village, leading to their detention by the police.

Accusing the Congress government of an anti-Hindu stance, Ashok announced a joint padayatra to the district by the BJP and JD(S) to protest against the state government on Monday, 29 December.

In response, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah cautioned the public against falling prey to the BJP’s alleged conspiracy to incite riots.

These developments occurred against the backdrop of the hoisting of a Hanuman flag earlier in the day in defiance of permissions granted for a flagpole dedicated to the national and Karnataka flags.

The action sparked a heated political exchange between the ruling party and the Opposition.

Even the villagers, irrespective of their caste, staged a protest against the state government over the lowering of the Hanuman flag on Sunday.

Related: Karnataka village tense after Hanuman flag removed

The protest

On Sunday evening, a BJP team led by LoP R Ashok turned up at the Keragodu village. BJP leaders Preetham Gowda, Chalavadi Narayanswamy, and Dr CN Ashwath Narayan accompanied him. The police detained the leaders.

Hitting out at the Congress government, Ashok said the BJP and the JD(S) would jointly launch a padayatra to the district administration office and protest against the current regime.

In his post on X, Ashok said: “The Congress government has continued its anti-Hindu attitude by arresting me and registering a case while I was protesting with the public against the incident of lowering the Hanuman flag in Keragodu village of Mandya district.”

He added: “I was also arrested by this anti-Hindu Congress government when I was protesting near the Cubbon Park Police Station in Bengaluru against the arrest of kar sevaks of the Ayodhya Ramjanmabhoomi movement in Hubballi.”

The LoP continued: “It is probably the first time in the state’s history that an Opposition leader has been arrested twice in a single month. There is literally an atmosphere of emergency in the state.”

Taking a dig at the chief minister, he said: “Siddaramaiah, we are devotees of Lord Hanuman. We are neither afraid nor intimidated by these big threats of yours. As Anjaneya is where Rama is, so will be there for the protection of Hindus wherever there is violence against them.”

He added: “If you can’t bear the colour of saffron, the flag of Hanuman, charge us with batons, shoot us, arrest us in false cases, but we are ready to protect Hindus. Let us see whether your Hindu hatred is greater or our Hanuman devotion is greater.”

Also read: BJP says ‘I am a kar sevak; arrest me too’ in protest campaign

‘Green flags around the state’

While the police were detaining him, Ashok told reporters: “We will launch a padayatra from this village and lay siege to the Mandya District Administration office. We will not leave here.”

He added: “We will take it forward similar to the Datha Peetha. What moral right does the Congress have to prevent from hoisting the Hanuman flag in front of the Hanuman Temple?”

The LoP also said: “They lathi-charged Hanuman devotees and women. This is a goonda government. In Siddaramaiah’s heart, there is only Tipu Sultan, while Ram is there only on his tongue. He has Rama in his name only for name’s sake, and his heart is filled up with Tipu. The BJP and the JD(S) will fight together.”

In his post on X, BJP former MLA CT Ravi said: “In yet another insult to Hindus in Karnataka, the Congress government removed a Hanuman flag hoisted by villagers of Keragodu in the Mandya district.”

He added: “According to Siddaramaiah, it is wrong to hoist any flag other than our national flag. Why are he and his government blind to the green flags hoisted around the state? It appears that under the Tughlaq rule, the laws apply only to Hindus.”

Also read: Ram incomplete sans Lakshman, Sita, Hanuman, says Siddaramaiah

CM cautions people against conspiracy

Following the BJP attacks, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah warned the public not to fall victim to the conspiracy of the saffron party, which he said was aimed at inciting riots.

He urged responsible Kannadigas to maintain peace and exercise restraint to thwart the communalists.

On his X post, CM Siddaramaiah uploaded the photocopies of proceedings of the Keragodu Gram Panchayat (GP) regarding giving the nod for the construction of a flagpole to hoist only the national flag and Karnataka flag, and the Gauri Seva Trust giving an assurance letter on abiding by the conditions of the GP.

He said: “The Gauri Shankar Seva Trust of Mandya taluka’s Keragodu village had sought permission to allow the construction of a flagpole on the premises of the Keragodu Rangamandir. The flagpole was to be used only to hoist the Karnataka flag and the Tricolour, and the trust also gave assurances that they would abide by the conditions of the GP.”

He added: “On their request, the Gram Panchayat granted permission for the construction of the flagpole. However, after the national flag was hoisted, it was taken down, and the Hanuman flag was hoisted in its place.”

The chief minister then continued: “The district administration asked the people to lower the flag due to the violation of rules. But the locals refused to follow the request of the police and the district administration, and instead resorted to protest and conflict, creating a tense situation.”

Siddaramaiah said: “The violation was not accidental, and that the Hanuman flag was deliberately hoisted where the national flag should have been. This was done as a protest against the government and was a pre-ordained act of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar.”

The intention was to systematically incite people against the state government and create communal riots in Mandya as preparation for Lok Sabha elections, he alleged.

“The government is committed to maintaining peace and order in society. We are not against any particular caste, religion, or community, and our stand is pro-constitutional,” asserted Siddaramaiah.

The chief minister also appealed to the people not to follow the words of BJP leaders and not to take the law into their own hands.

“Everyone must respect the Constitution and the law. As the election draws nearer, the BJP will try to incite riots and disturb the peace. Sensible Kannadigas need to thwart the conspiracy of communalists through peace and restraint,” he appealed.