MYSURU: Tension gripped Keragodu village in Mandya district as hundreds of people, and BJP and JDS leaders protested against the district administration’s move to bring down a Hanuman flag that was hoisted on a 108-foot pole by the gram panchayat to mark Ram Mandir inauguration.
The police resorted to a mild lathicharge and arrested a few protesters, including Assembly Opposition leader R Ashoka, MLA Dr CN Ashwath Narayan and other leaders, when they proceeded towards the barricade put up to protect the flagpole. They were released later. The police snatched a knife from a youth, who threatened to kill himself if the Hanuman Dhwaja was brought down.
It all started when Assistant Commissioner Shiva Murthy and Tahsildar Shivakumar arrived at the village early on Sunday morning to lower the Hanuman flag and hoist the Tricolour. Keragodu villagers, including women, protested and claimed that they had taken permission from the village panchayat to hoist the flag.
Prohibitory orders issued, police camp in village
The villagers had pooled in money to erect the pole and the Hanuman flag was flying since the inauguration of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya on January 22, they told the officers.
As the news spread,villagers from the neighbouring Sidde Gowda Doddi, Manche Doddi, Marlinga Doddi, Hosur, Thalamerla Doddi, Panjegowda and Kalmati Doddi joined the protest. They raised Ram and Hanuman chants, waved saffron Hanuman flags and raised slogans against local MLA Ravikumar. As tension rose, the district administration clamped prohibitory orders and stationed KSRP and DAT platoons.
After the lathicharge, the villagers blocked the Mandya-Yediyur highway and tried to cook food in the middle of the road, but were stopped by the police. The villagers announced that every house will hoist a Hanuman flag which will be distributed free to register their protest against the district administration.
District in-charge Minister N Chaluvarayaswamy said the administration is not against hoisting the Hanuman flag in private land or at temples, but the gram panchayat should not have given permission to hoist it at a public place. “Neither the local MLA, nor me are connected to the Hanuman flag issue,” he clarified.
Local legislator Ravikumar alleged that R Ashoka and JDS state president HD Kumaraswamy are spreading hatred among people for their political gains. As the Hanuman flag controversy erupted, JDS leaders DC Thamanna and Suresh Gowda, district BJP president Indresh and others rushed to the spot and raised slogans against Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
Ashoka alleged that Siddaramaiah is against Lord Rama and Hanuman. He said that Lord Hanuman has no place in his own land and criticised the police for hoisting the national flag at 3 pm, when it should be done before 9 am as per flag code. BJP leader Chandagala Shivanna said 18 out of 20 members at the gram panchayat were in favour of erecting the pole.
Bajrang Dal activists threatened to call for a Mandya city bandh.