Karnataka BJP says ‘I am a kar sevak; arrest me too’ in protest campaign against Congress government

BJP state general secretary and MLA V Sunil Kumar, former DyCM KS Eshwarappa, and former MLA CT Ravi spearheaded the campaign in Bengaluru, Shivamogga, and Chikkamagaluru, respectively.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Jan 04, 2024 | 7:41 PMUpdatedJan 04, 2024 | 7:41 PM

Karnataka Congress Ram Mandir Karsevak Hubballi Srikanth Poojary

As if taking a page out of the “Naanu Gauri” (I too am Gauri) protest campaign by civil society members, academics, journalists, and activists in the aftermath of the horrific murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh, BJP leaders in Karnataka launched the “I am a kar sevak; arrest me too” protest against the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government.

The Karnataka unit of the BJP on Thursday, 4 January, stepped up its protest against the arrest of a 59-year-old kar sevak in a three-decade-old case with a campaign against the Siddaramaiah-led state government.

The BJP launched the “I’m also a kar sevak, arrest me too” campaign in front of the police stations across the state on Thursday.

Campaigns across Karnataka

Karnataka BJP state general secretary and MLA V Sunil Kumar, former deputy chief minister KS Eshwarappa, and former MLA CT Ravi spearheaded the campaign in Bengaluru, Shivamogga, and Chikkamagaluru, respectively.

While Sunil Kumar was protesting in front of the Sadashivanagar Police Station, the police took him into preventive custody on Thursday morning.

Criticising the Congress, Leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka Assembly R Ashoka said that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, his son and former MLA Yathindra Siddaramaiah, and Congress veteran BK Hariprasad were creating unrest in the state.

The Hubballi Town Police arrested “kar sevak” Srikanth Poojari in connection with a 31-year-old Babri Mosque case.

Police Inspector MS Tahsildar, associated with the Hubballi Town Police Station, has been reportedly sent on compulsory leave. However, the Hubballi-Dharwad City Commissioner of Police (CP) Renuka Sukumar said that the inspector had gone on leave for personal reasons.

Related: Karnataka BJP wants to rename Siddaramaiah ‘Siddaramullah Khan’

The campaign

A day after BJP leaders staged a demonstration against the Congress government over the arrest of the kar sevak in Hubballi City, the party launched the aforementioned campaign in solidarity with the activist.

Karkala MLA Sunil Kumar sat alone for a demonstration in front of the Sadashivanagar Police Station in Bengaluru on Thursday.

Holding a placard declaring “I’m also a kar sevak, arrest me too”, Kumar stressed his “participation in the 1992 Rama temple agitation”, insisting on being arrested as well.

However, the police took him into preventive custody. He continued to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and condemn the action against the 59-year-old kar sevak.

The arrest of kar sevak Srikanth Poojari in Hubballi prompted these demonstrations, with the BJP accusing the Congress government of displaying bias against Hindus and engaging in minority appeasement.

Sunil Kumar told reporters in Benglauru on Thursday, “The campaign is to condemn the Congress government’s clear anti-Ram and anti-Hindu policies.”

He added, “Despite threats during the 1990 and 1992 kar seva in Ayodhya, thousands from Karnataka participated. The ruling Congress is intimidating kar sevaks and Ram devotees, and unfairly portraying the arrested Hindu activist as a criminal.”

Related: ‘Godhra-like’ incident before Ram temple consecration?

R Ashoka attacks Siddaramaiah

In a scathing critique, LoP R Ashoka has questioned the arrest of Srikanth Poojari.

He contended that the arrest of the auto-rickshaw driver, who is facing health issues and multiple criminal cases dating back to 1992, was indicative of biased actions by the government.

Ashoka told reporters in Bengaluru on Thursday, “In the midst of nationwide attention, the arrest of kar sevak Srikanth Poojari has become a focal point of controversy, with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah persistently targeting him.”

He added, “Despite his role as a kar sevak, Poojari faces numerous criminal cases, dating back to his first booking in 1992 during kar seva activity.”

He also said, “Even during tense moments surrounding the visit of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) former president Ashok Singhal to Hubballi, Poojari found himself entangled in a legal case. He is an innocent auto-rickshaw driver. I personally visited Poojari’s residence in Hubballi City on Wednesday, meeting his tearful wife. Poojari, grappling with various health issues, undergoes daily medical care.”

He asked, “Why did Chief Minister Siddaramaiah find it necessary to arrest a kar sevak, who is fighting for his life, especially as the consecration of Ram Mandir draws near?”

The LoP also pointed to the overwhelming backlog of 50,000-60,000 pending legal cases in Karnataka, with 10,000 in Bengaluru City alone.

He questioned the feasibility of arresting all those involved, and emphasised the overcrowded prison scenario, which already houses around 3,000 individuals.

Ashoka also pointed out that others involved in similar situations were treated more leniently. “He has been arrested only because he is a kar sevak,” he said.

Taking exception to Siddaramaiah’s characterization of Poojari as a criminal, Ashoka challenged the government’s integrity, accusing them of bias and asserting that Poojari was just an auto-rickshaw driver.

Countering the Chief Minister, he said, “High-profile individuals, including Rahul Gandhi (Wayanad MP), Sonia (Raebareli MP) Gandhi, Shashi Tharoor (Thiruvananthapuram), DK Shivakumar (DyCM), and B Nagendra (Minister for Youth Empowerment and Sports) have been booked )in various cases.”

He added, “A total of 23 criminal cases, including a CBI case against minister Nagendra related to illegal mining, are pending (against them).”

He continued, “These are double standards in the treatment of the rich and poor. Is there a separate law for poor and autorickshaw drivers and rich people in this country? Are you in favour of the rich? Your statements clearly depict that you are in favour of the rich.”

Ashoka concluded by accusing the government of obstructing the construction of the Ram Mandir and expressing disappointment in the Congress’s actions.

Related: Arrest of ‘kar sevak’ for Babri Masjid rioting fans political flames

Inspector on leave

Meanwhile, Hubballi Town Police Station Police Inspector MS Tahsildar, who arrested the kar sevak, is reportedly on leave for 10 days.

After the arrest of Srikanth Poojari, the BJP came down heavily on the Congress government and the Hubballi-Dharwad City police for reopening the 31-year-old pending case related to the Babri Masjid case.

On condition of anonymity, a police officer told South First, “On the orders of the Hubballi Dharwad Commissioner, PI Tahsildar has been sent on compulsory leave for 10 days.”

However, CP Renuka Sukumar refuted it. She told South First, “I have not sent him on compulsory leave. He has gone on 10 days leave for personal reasons.”

According to the police, “A total of 13 people are accused in this case. Among them, five are dead, five have been acquitted, and three are under trial. Raju Dharamadasa was arrested four days prior to the apprehension of Poojari.”

He added, “Raju was released on bail. Poojari was denied bail considering previous criminal cases against him. He is currently in judicial custody.”