Police rest easy after uneventful Mahashivaratri rituals at Ladle Mashak Dargah of Kalaburagi Fort

The police were wary after a 2022 incident where members of two communities clashed over entry to the dargah, which also houses a shivalinga.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Mar 09, 2024 | 8:00 AMUpdatedMar 09, 2024 | 8:00 AM

File photo of the Ladle Mashak Dargah.

A religious congregation of around 500 people gathered at the Aland town near Kalaburagi Fort on Friday, 8 December.

Of them, 15 were allowed to enter the fort to offer prayers for Mahashivaratri to the Swayambu Sri Someshwara Lord Shiva deity — Raghava Chaitanya Shivalinga — inside the Ladle Mashak Dargah.

The Kalaburagi District Police heaved a sigh of relief after the rituals were uneventful, with no untoward incident recorded.

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The court order

Members of the right-wing organisation Sri Rama Sene had approached the Kalaburagi district administration earlier for permission to conduct prayers and rituals for the deity for Mahashivaratri on 8 March.

The organisation’s legal team simultaneously approached the Karnataka High Court, appealing for permission to conduct prayers and rituals at the Kalaburagi fort. The high court ruled that the petitioner and 14 others could enter the place and worship there.

Based on the high court’s orders, the district administration and the police granted permission for 15 members to conduct the Mahashivaratri prayers and related rituals on 8 March evening.

However, the police imposed Section 144 of the CrPC in the area to prevent any untoward incidents, especially against the backdrop of the violence that erupted on 1 March, 2022.

Kalaburagi Superintendent of Police (SP) Hakay Akshay Machhindra said: “The celebrations of Mahashivarati and related rituals in Aland town have been quite an issue over the last two years. This year, it is being celebrated as per the high court’s order.”

He confirmed that the court had ordered 15 people to go and offer their prayers.

“For that, they have to give us their names, Aadhaar card details, and mobile numbers, as per what has been printed in the high court order. Only those 15 people will be allowed to enter the place and worship there,” he said.

“According to the high court’s order, a function was planned at the Pragathi Layout — the culmination point of the ratha yatra. People have gathered there. We have taken a lot of preventive measures in this regard. We have also taken preventive bonds,” said Machhindra.

“We have externed individuals who are engaged in anti-social activities. At the same time, Section 144 has been imposed to maintain better control over the movement of the crowd in light of the incident that happened in 2022. We would like to avoid any sort of congregation or gathering that can turn violent,” explained the SP.

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Deterring untoward incidents

The Kalaburagi District Police, headed by the SP, started their work of deterrence a couple of months ago to prevent any untoward incident.

“We conducted at least 14 meetings — including ward meetings — in localities in the entire Aland town. We assured the residents and requested them to cooperate with us. We gave them confidence that nothing would happen to them with us here. We also warned them not to allow any anti-social activity and not to heed rumours,” said Machhindra.

The people were also asked to report to the police anything they found suspicious or problematic.

The SP said the police had spoken with all the leaders of all the communities on at least two different occasions.

“They gave us a sort of a guarantee that nothing would happen, and that they would abide by the high court’s directions. At the same time, they would cooperate with the local police, they said. They assured us that this year would be peaceful, as was the case in 2023,” he added.

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Vishesha puja

Right-wing outfit Hindu Janajagruti Samiti’s Karnataka spokesperson Mohan Gowda told South First that the 47-acre land of the Kalaburagi fort area was where Samartha Ramdas Guru — the spiritual leader of Chhatrapati Shivaji — sat for a tapasya (penance).

“The area had a temple during the 14th-15th centuries, as per old records. And every year, there would be a ‘vishesha puja‘ (a special ritual) during Mahashivaratri,” he said.

“Later, the Waqf Board came in, and a large part of the temple land is still encroached,” he claimed.

“We, the Hindu organisations, are demanding that the government conduct a survey and give us back the temple land. The government can take over the rest of the disputed land,” Gowda told South First.

Meanwhile, a senior officer from the Aland Town Police Station told South First that the prayers and related rituals were conducted peacefully on Friday.

“There was heavy police deployment as around 500 people had gathered for the function,” the circle police inspector of the Aland Town Police Station told South First.

He added that 15 of them were allowed to perform the puja and the Mahashivaratri-related rituals on Friday evening, after which the crowd dispersed around 7 pm.

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The background

The Kalaburagi District Police on 1 March, 2022, booked 167 people in connection with incidents of violence over the shared Dargah in the Aland town.

The situation went out of control after people from two different communities clashed over attempts to gain access to the Ladle Mashak Dargah.

Hight-wing Hindu activists wanted to perform a cleansing ritual of the Raghava Chaitanya Shivalinga at the dargah situated within the Kalaburagi fort on Mahashivaratri day.

The same day, Muslims planned to take out a procession to pay respects to a dead maulvi — a learned teacher or doctor of Islamic law — at the shared Dargah.

The police gave permission to only 10 people to offer puja to the Shivalinga in the Dargah, but the Hindus did not agree and insisted on everyone being allowed into the Dargah, leading to a protest.

At the same time, a large number of Muslims, who had by then gathered near the Dargah, attempted to break the barricades as the police told them they were not allowed when the 10 Hindus went inside.

This led to a major outbreak of violence between the two groups, who resorted to stone-pelting and vandalising vehicles, including those of police vehicles.

It was then decided that only a select group of people from each religion would be allowed to enter the Ladle Mashak Dargah.