Bengaluru: “Only those who worship the gods of this land are allowed to trade here,” proclaimed a banner at a temple fair in Karnataka last week.
A few weeks after Hindu groups put up posters in Varanasi discouraging non-Hindus from approaching the ghats of the river Ganga, similar banners — allegedly put up by the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal — sprang up along the road near the grounds of Ullal Bail temple in Dakshina Kannada district, some 13 km from Mangaluru.
They attempted to bar non-Hindus from setting up shop during a two-day festival, which would begin on 26 January.
While the banners were removed within hours by the local police, neither complaints nor action have followed — unlike in the Varanasi case, where FIRs have been filed — with police unsure whether this attracts any legal action.
“The posters were removed by the local police as soon as we got information about it. Neither the temple authorities nor private citizens have filed a complaint in this regard and no action has been initiated in the absence of a complaint,” N. Shashikumar, commissioner of police, Mangaluru, told ThePrint. After the posters were removed, the fair proceeded without incident.
But VHP members claimed they succeeded in their purpose.
“Muslims who come there disrespect the temple fair, they eve-tease and misbehave with women. For years, they have been setting up shop — but this time around, after our banners were hoisted, only Hindus set up shops. In that way, although the police removed the banners, we were successful in getting our message across,” Raghu Sakleshpura, convener, Bajrang Dal, told ThePrint.
The VHP and the Bajrang Dal were reportedly also behind the posters in Varanasi.
‘Take your business to Hindu brethren’
The banners also asked Hindus to patronise only shops run by their co-religionists — marked with saffron flags, as seen in videos accessed by ThePrint, which have since gone viral.
“Don’t take your business to communities that destroy and mock Hindu gods and daivas. Take your business to Hindu brethren who worship God,” said the first line of a banner signed by the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, specifically from a branch called the ‘Sri Vaidyanath Chatrapati Shakha’.
Speaking to ThePrint, U.T. Khader, Mangaluru MLA and deputy leader of the Congress legislative party in the state assembly, said, “this isn’t the first time such discriminatory and communally charged posters have come up, but doing this at a temple fair should not be allowed”.
Khader added, however, that no formal complaint had been filed.
“The temple authorities believe in communal harmony, and from time immemorial, people from all communities have set up shop during the fair. Only they have the authority to decide who should set up shops and who shouldn’t, and they have no such reservations. We do not want to file cases against youngsters and spoil their lives, but they must be deterred from such acts,” Khader said.
‘No grounds for legal action’
Discussing difficulties in taking legal action, a senior police officer from Dakshina Kannada district said putting up such posters didn’t constitute an offence.
“Had it been discriminatory towards SC/STs, then there are sections under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for social discrimination. Here, police can perhaps book them under IPC Section 505B (public mischief) — but that, too, can happen only as a supplementary charge of abetment if the banner caused any untoward incident,” the officer said.
Section 505B of the IPC deals with punishment for people publishing or circulating material with intent to cause fear or alarm to any section of the public, inducing them to commit an offence.
(Edited by Rohan Manoj)
Source: The Print