Society’s pushback could blunt bigotry

Over the past few months, Karnataka has gained a reputation for communal controversies.

Published: 30th March 2022 07:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th March 2022 07:27 AM   |  A+A-

Traders at Marikamba Jatra festival put up saffron flags on their shops set up around the temple on Kote Road and, for the first time, no traders from the Muslim community have been allowed to put up

Over the past few months, Karnataka has gained a reputation for communal controversies. Barely has the hijab row died down than fringe elements have taken it upon themselves to bar Muslim vendors at temple fairs. Right-wing activists are pressuring temple authorities to toe the line and banners are coming up around temples, banning non-Hindu vendors.

On its part, the government is keeping a studied distance from the controversy, preferring instead to cite the rulebook and a law that the Congress government had enacted in 2002. The Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act speaks of the long-term lease of properties and business on temple premises and not of temporary stalls put up at temple fairs. This has been conveniently twisted to suit the Hindutva agenda. Law minister J C Madhuswamy has said that the government does not encourage the ban and vendors are welcome to do business outside the temple premises.

At the same time, there is no effort to rein in the fringe groups that are enforcing the ban across districts. The canker is being spread in a deliberate manner and the government’s silence on this violation of rights of vendors gives rise to alarm. While the issue is petty and smacks of discriminatory tactics, it is expected to reap big political dividends for the BJP and will definitely be kept alive in an election year. 

At this point, it is heartening to note that the ground reality is different: vendors of all religious hues have put up a united front and said they do not wish to be divided along communal lines. A group of lawyers, too, has written to Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai over the trend of rising polarisation. A set of senior scientists, writers, academics and artists have also expressed concern over the “frequent violence against religious minorities”, hate speeches and public threats, and called out the government’s complicity in the deteriorating situation. There are some voices of dissent within the BJP too, but they may have little impact on the hardliners. It is this much-needed pushback from civil society that could blunt bigotry, and it brings hope to the ordinary citizen, who is looking for a progressive and peaceful existence.



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