Karnataka village tense after Hanuman flag removed; police use force to quell unrest

Sources indicated that residents of Keragodu and 12 neighbouring villages had funded the installation of the flag post near Rangamandira.


Published Jan 28, 2024 | 7:58 PMUpdatedJan 28, 2024 | 7:59 PM

The Hanuman flag that was hoisted in Mandya district

The Keragodu village in the Mandya district in Karnataka faced tense moments on Sunday, 28 January, after the authorities removed a “Hanuma dwaja” — a saffron flag bearing lord Hanuman’s portrait — from a 108-foot-tall flag post.

The incident led to a political confrontation between the government and the Opposition in the state.

A large contingent of police personnel was deployed as a precautionary measure, when people from the village and its surroundings, along with members of the BJP, the JD(S), and the Bajrang Dal, gathered to protest against the removal of the flag.

In order to quell the unrest, police resorted to a mild lathi charge. Subsequently, the police and administration replaced the Hanuma dwaja with the national tricolour on the flagpole.

Official and police sources indicated that residents of Keragodu and 12 neighbouring villages, along with certain organisations, had funded the installation of the flag post near Rangamandira. Reportedly, the BJP and the JD(S) workers were actively involved in this initiative.

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The incident

They raised a saffron flag featuring Hanuman’s image, prompting opposition from some individuals who filed a complaint with the administration. Acting on the complaint, the taluk panchayat executive officer directed the gram panchayat officials to remove the flag.

Several villagers, including a significant number of women, vehemently protested against the removal. Some activists and villagers stayed vigilant even after midnight on Saturday fearing that the flagpole would be removed.

Tension persisted on Sunday morning, leading to a heated exchange between the police and protesting villagers and activists, as the cops removed the saffron flag in the presence of senior district officials.

Some protesters directed their anger towards the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government and Mandya Congress MLA Ganiga Ravikumar, chanting slogans against them

They refused to relent and affixed a flex board featuring a portrait of Lord Ram along with a smaller saffron flag at the base of the flagpole. Attempts to resist removal were made when the police intervened. Slogans of “Jai Sri Ram, Jai Hanuman” filled the air.

By late afternoon, police forcibly removed the protesters, again resorting to a mild lathi charge to restore order. Following this, the police and administration officials finally raised the Tricolour on the flagpole from which the Hanuma dwaja had been removed.

CM asks to hoist national flag

In response to the developments, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, speaking to reporters in the district headquarters town of Chitradurga, stated that instead of hoisting the national flag, a Bhagwa dwaja (saffron flag) had been raised. “It is not right. I have asked to hoist the national flag.”

Mandya District in-charge Minister N Cheluvarayaswamy clarified that the flagpole’s location fell under the panchayat’s jurisdiction, and permission was obtained to hoist the national flag, which was done on Republic Day, “but it was replaced by another flag that evening”.

However, he expressed readiness to support the installation of the Hanuman flag at a private place or near a temple.

“There may be politics behind it (the installation of the Hanuman flag replacing the National Flag). I don’t know who is behind it …This country works under democracy and the Constitution.

“Tomorrow they may say they want to hoist the flag (saffron flag) in front of the DC’s office. Can it be allowed? If it is permitted in one place, it will extend to other places. This is the only reservation,” he said.

“We are not here to hurt our youth. I have spoken to officials, police and youths. We are ready to install the Hanuman flag at a private place or near a temple. We will support them. We too are Rama Bhaktas,” he added.

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‘Anti-Hindu stance’

Leader of Opposition and BJP leader R Ashoka in Bengaluru condemned the government’s “anti-Hindu stance” and police intervention, stating that the Hanuma dwaja was raised with the gram panchayat’s approval, but the Congress government “all of a sudden” removed it.

Labelling the government’s action an anti-Rama stand and an insult done to lord Hanuman, he asked. “What was the need for police action? Why didn’t the administration speak to the villagers? There was a gram panchayat resolution to allow the flag.”

Ashoka visited Keragodu village along with other BJP leaders.

Karnataka BJP president BY Vijayendra accused the government of removing the flag using “police oppression” and creating a situation for law and order to deteriorate.

“If the state government has the audacity to remove the flag using police oppression and goondaism, it shows the height of Congress government’s arrogance of power,” he said.

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