KRV members in judicial custody over violent pro-Kannada protest, Siddaramaiah decries vandalism

The police apprehended 29 pro-Kannada workers on Wednesday after their protest escalated to stone-pelting and damaging of public properties.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Dec 28, 2023 | 5:29 PMUpdatedDec 28, 2023 | 7:16 PM

KRV activists. (Supplied)

The Devanahalli Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC) Court in Bengaluru Rural district on Thursday, 28 December, ordered 29 members of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV) — including president TA Narayana Gowda — to 14 days of judicial custody.

This decision comes in the aftermath of a rally across Bengaluru City, where KRV members vandalised several shops and signboards to express their outrage against the neglect of Kannada in nameplates.

The protest escalated into stone-pelting and damaging of public properties, leading to the arrest of the pro-Kannada workers by the Bengaluru City Police on Wednesday.

Taking exception to the hooliganism by the KRV members, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar reiterated that the state government was committed to protecting Kannada interests, but taking the law into one’s hands was not acceptable.

Meanwhile, several Kannada organisations expressed disappointment over the arrest of the KRV workers.

Also read: Pro-Kannada activists vandalise establishments

The court order  

The Narayana Gowda faction of the KRV had called for a huge rally on Wednesday in Bengaluru to protest against the Kannada language being neglected on signboards of business establishments across the city.

The KRV had given a deadline of 27 December to all the shops to change their signboards to dedicate 60 percent of them to Kannada.

The pro-Kannada organisation’s workers took out rallies in several prominent commercial localities — including Lavelle Road, Chamarajapete, Airport Road, and Shivajinagar — in Bengaluru on Wednesday and vandalised the shops and signboards of several shops.

The KRV-led protest escalated to stone-pelting and damage to public properties. In response, the Bengaluru City Police apprehended 29 pro-Kannada workers on Wednesday.

Presently, the JMFC court in Devanahalli has issued an order remanding these pro-Kannada organisation workers in judicial custody until 10 January.

Narayana Gowda and the 28 other KRV activists have been transferred to Parappana Agrahara Central Jail in Bengaluru.

Also read: BBMP sets 28-Feb deadline for 60% Kannada signage on boards

Narayana Gowda lashes out

Expressing anguish over pro-Kannada workers being apparently utilised for political gains, KRV president Narayana Gowda condemned the police action against him and other pro-Kannada workers.

He said that he would continue to protest until justice was served.

File photo of Siddaramaiah with KRV workers.

Siddaramaiah with KRV workers. (Supplied)

He also said, “We supported Siddaramaiah, believing that he was a Kannada-lover.” The KRV had thrown its weight behind the Congress in the Karnataka Assembly elections held in May.

Venting his anguish at the government, Gowda said, “Kannadigas will teach you a lesson in the Lok Sabha elections. If Siddaramaiah is worried about Kannada, he should take action. Let Siddaramaiah take action against DCP (North East) Lakshmi Prasad.”

He added, “The DCP should be suspended without any hesitation. Is yours’ a pro-Kannada government? You will only lie and utilise the protestors and assault them.”

Gowda recalled, “The Congress’ SM Krishna was the chief minister in 2003. Back then we were put in Bangalore and Bellary prisons. We are like a war tanker when it comes to the issue of Kannada.”

While being taken to prison, he told reporters in Bengaluru on Thursday, “Even if we are sent to jail a hundred more times, we are not afraid. The state government cannot suppress our agitation. Even if 100 more cases are filed, our protest cannot be suppressed.”

He added, “I will tour all the districts of the state. We will remove the nameplates that do not have Kannada. We are fighting for the history of our state.”

Gowda also said, “It is a lie that we attacked the police. Let them show whether the police were attacked. We have respect and concern for the police.”

Lashing out at the police, Narayana Gowda said, “The police took away my mobile phone. The police are harassing us. My health condition is not good. I have not taken medicine.”

However, he was quick to return to the warpath, “Kannadigas all over the state should take to the streets and fight. We are not afraid of being shot and killed.”

Also read: Hindi imposition, language protests in Karnataka then & now

Siddaramaiah’s stand

While cautioning against vigilantism actions, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Thursday stressed that while protests were acceptable, causing damage to government or public property was not.

He emphasised the importance of displaying information in Kannada on signboards in the state.

Siddaramaiah condemned recent incidents of vandalism and clarified the government’s stance on the matter. He stated that in the state of Karnataka, “Kannada should hold prominence while not opposing the presence of other languages”.

To address the issue, Siddaramaiah said that he was convening a meeting with officials from the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the police, along with state Home Minister G Parameshwara, to discuss the implementation of rules regarding Kannada displays on signboards.

When asked if the cases against the activists would be withdrawn, Siddaramaiah reiterated the government’s stance against taking the law into one’s own hands, emphasising that peaceful protests are welcomed.

Regarding accusations from Kannada activists about the government’s actions against those advocating for the Kannada cause, he maintained, “The government has not hindered peaceful protests but has taken action against those resorting to unlawful activities.”

When asked about potential repercussions in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, Siddaramaiah expressed the government’s commitment to maintaining law and order, stating that the election outcome would be addressed when the time came.

(With PTI inputs)