Mandya flag row: Panchayat officer suspended as BJP-JDS jointly take on Karnataka government

With a saffron shawl around his neck, HD Kumaraswamy raised slogans of 'Jai Shri Ram' with BJP workers and leaders on Monday.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Jan 29, 2024 | 11:41 PMUpdatedJan 30, 2024 | 12:21 PM

JD(S) state chief and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy lashed out at the Siddaramaiah government over the Hanuman flagpole row in Mandya. (Supplied)

Tension continued in Keragodu village in Karnataka’s Mandya district on Monday, 29 January, as the BJP and JD(S) continued their protest against the replacing of a Hanuman flag with the national flag from a 108-foot-tall flagpole.

While permission was given to fly either the Tricolour or Karnataka state flag, a religious flag with Hanuman’s image and slogan of “Jai Shri Ram” was raised instead. Officials replaced the religious saffron flag with the Tricolour, leading to outcry from villagers and Opposition parties BJP and JD(S).

When Mandya sub-division officials, including police officers, visited the village, it was observed that dereliction of duty by the Panchayat Development Officer (PDO) was the direct cause of the protest in the village.

PDO suspended

To this effect, Mandya Zilla Panchayat CEO Shaikh Tanveer Asif issued suspension orders to Keragodu Gram Panchayat PDO Jeevan BM on the charges of reportedly violating government rules. The suspension order was issued with five reasons on Monday, 29 January.

In the suspension order, Asif pointed out, “The government’s permission is mandatory for allotment of Gram Panchayat property to private parties. However, PDO has been suspended as the direct cause of the conflict in Keragodu village by giving it to private individuals in violation of the Karnataka Gram Swaraj and Panchayat Raj Act, 1993.”

The ZP CEO gave the following reasons for the suspension.

  • Government’s permission is mandatory for the allotment of Gram Panchayat property to private parties. However, it has been given to a private person in violation of the rule.
  • Dereliction of duty by permitting the construction of a flagpole in violation of Section 237 of the Karnataka Gram Swaraj and Panchayat Raj Act, 1993.
  • Permitted for the construction of flagpole on the government land without being the authorised person to do it, and eventually also failed to take action when conditions under which permission was granted to hoist only the national flag were violated.
  • Derelection of duty for allowing the Hanuman flag to fly instead of the national flag.

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

HDK criticises government, police 

Amidst a heated political clash in Keragodu village, JD(S) state chief HD Kumaraswamy, aligning with the BJP’s Karnataka unit, on Monday, 29 January, vehemently denounced the removal of a Hanuman flagpole, accusing the Siddaramaiah government of arrogance.

He also expressed his dissatisfaction with the police’s lathi-charge against protesters and the alleged injury of an activist during the incident.

Donning a Kesari shawl and chanting Jai Shri Ram, Kumaraswamy expressed his discontent with the state government and Mandya Police, asserting, “The removal of the Hanuman flag displays the arrogance of the Congress government. The police lathi-charged the activists and people who protested against the removal of the Hanuman flag.”

“One person was hit in the eye during the lathi-charge. If they had lost an eye, would the District Superintendent of Police be able to restore it? Police beware. I will see how long your game lasts,” an angry Kumaraswamy cautioned the Mandya Police.

Demanding the suspension of Mandya Deputy Commissioner Dr Kumar IAS, Kumaraswamy said, “The government is responsible for the conflict in Keragodu village. The government must suspend Mandya Deputy Commissioner and send him out of here.”

He also said that “a false record has been created in the matter of the flagpole”.

“This is not a struggle for political gain. A false record has been created in the matter of flagpole. Showing impudence through the officials,” Kumaraswamy charged.

“Lanka was burnt when Hanuman became angry. The same will be your fate. It is not enough to have ‘Rama’ in the name of ‘Siddaramaiah’, you must have the traits of Rama,” Kumaraswamy mocked Karnataka’s chief minister.

He added, “The lathi-charge shows the extremely evil rule of the government. I am warning the Siddaramaiah government, correct your mistake.”

He urged the authorities to call a peace meeting at Keragodu village and demanded to reinstate the flag and withdraw Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in the village.

BJP leaders, including former national general secretary and MLA CT Ravi, accompanied Kumaraswamy in the protest.

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Siddaramaiah lashes out 

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah strongly criticised JD(S) state chief HD Kumaraswamy for joining hands with the BJP in the Hanuman flag controversy in Keragodu village.

Speaking to reporters in Tumakuru on Monday, Siddaramaiah said, “Former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy is going to protest in Keragodu village of Mandya on behalf of those who hoisted the Bhagwa Dhwaj, which means that this is a political ploy to gain political advantage in the elections. There is no failure of the government in this.”

Pointing at the Gram Panchayat proceedings, the Chief Minister said, “They said that they will fly the national flag or the Kannada flag, they will not fly the flag of any religion. They violated it and flew the Bhagwa Dhwaj. They acted against what was written in the assurance letter.”

Answering a question about two people being injured during the police’s lathi-charge, he said, “There is information that they hit the policemen. What will happen if they hit the policemen?”

The Chief Minister emphasised that the government will not tolerate anyone “taking the law into their hands”.

Addressing Kumaraswamy’s statement about a fake document being created in the flag issue and the District Collector being responsible for the incident, Siddaramaiah said, “Kumaraswamy knows nothing but lying. Has he proved what he has said so far? He is just making accusations.”

“HD Kumaraswamy has joined hands with the BJP and now he is the spokesperson of the BJP. He is praising the BJP. Along with the name of their party, they have included the word ‘secular’. What is secular? If they joined hands with the BJP, what should they be called?” Siddaramaiah took a dig at Kumaraswamy.

Hitting out at Kumaraswamy for his “Rama is in the name” comment, Siddaramaiah retorted, “He should first learn to behave properly and then teach someone else.”

“Due to the AHINDA convention in Chitradurga on 28 January 2023, the BJP is afraid of losing the Lok Sabha elections. Hence, they are issuing such statements. Communal issues are propped up, if there are no other issues,” the Chief Minister said, accusing the BJP of communalising Mandya’s flagpole row.

“Taliban flag” says BJP leader CT Ravi 

Speaking to the media during the protest, BJP leader CT Ravi claimed that the Congress government was looking to replace “Hanuman flag” with “Taliban flag”.

“The Congress wants to remove the Hanuman flag and hoist Taliban flag today. We will hoist Hanuman flag. Gone are the days of Taliban flag,” CT Ravi told news agencies. In Keragodu, however, the saffron religious flag was replaced with the national flag.

Also Read: School bus and tractor collide in Jamkhandi killing 4 children, injuring 22 others

‘I am Hindu, I love people from all religions’

Earlier in the day, responding to the BJP Karnataka leaders labelling him as “anti-Hindu” over the Hanuman flagpole row, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said, “I am a Hindu. But I love people from all religions.”

Siddaramaiah argued that the Gram Panchayat proceedings had clearly outlined guidelines for flag hoisting, and the protesters had violated the written assurance.

He said, “They are unnecessarily protesting. They had taken permission to hoist the national flag and the Karnataka flag. We are not against hoisting any flag.”

He added, “They should hoist the flag for which they have taken permission. Hence, the district administration has taken action against them.”

On LoP R Ashoka and Kumaraswamy protesting, Siddaramaiah said, “They are provoking people. Why are they provoking people? Why are they instigating people? They are doing it because the elections are nearing. We have no qualms. If they had acted as per the conditions of the Gram Panchayat, why would the district administration initiate action?” the Chief Minister asked.