Temple ‘checkmate’ for ruling BJP in Karnataka

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Karnataka is caught between the devil and the deep sea after the Supreme Court’s order on vacating places of religious worship built on public properties in the state.

As the district administration has begun the work of clearing places of religious worship across Karnataka, the government has received criticism from Hindu groups, opposition parties and even its own leaders.

Hindu Jagaran Vedike, a strong pro-BJP and Hindu organisation, has announced that it will launch a protest on September 16 against Mysuru district administration where the latter will demolish 97 places of worship, of which 93 are Hindu temples.

Jagadish Karanth, the Hindu Jagaran Vedike south India Chief, known for his firebrand speeches on Hindutva, will visit Mysuru.

Siddaramaiah, the Leader of Opposition in Karnataka Assembly, has posted a video of a temple being demolished near Nanjangud town and chided the government that even temples are not safe under the current regime.

BJP MP Pratap Simha said when it comes to religion he will not listen to anyone.

“The state officials are targeting only Hindu temples. The demolition is taking place in such a way that ample time is not given to shift sacred ‘kalasa’ (the pinnacle element in the form of vase finial of a temple’s tower). The administration is twisting the Supreme Court order. It has never prescribed direct demolitions. There is scope for shifting of temples. The officials are targeting Hindu temples as they think they can be soft targets. We will not tolerate this. Will they dare to touch illegal masjids and dargahs?” the BJP MP added.

He also maintained that he had spoken to Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on the issue and he had assured to maintain the status quo in Mysuru.

Responding to BJP’s Pratap Simha, Mysore Congress leader and former minister Tanveer Sait said if unnecessarily the matter of ‘masjids’ and ‘dargahs’ are dragged, he will not sit quiet. “I am not wearing bangles to sit quiet,” he added.

Meanwhile, BJP MLA M.P. Renukacharya has reacted angrily that thousands of temples are listed for demolition without proper consultation and some officers in bureaucracy are showing high-handedness.

Former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy said temples are being demolished at the behest of the ruling BJP government. “They are the ones who pinch the baby and they will only pose to pacify the child. This statement holds good for BJP regarding demolition of temples,” he added.

On the one hand, the ruling BJP government demolishes temples while on the other, Hindu Jagaran Vedike, a pro-BJP organisation protests. “Let the BJP government appeal before the Supreme Court on vacating places of worship. The BJP is directly responsible for this development,” he alleged.

The BJP government is treading cautiously on the issue as the matter is heard by the Supreme Court. BJP State President Nalinkumar Kateel said that the order of the apex court will have to be kept in mind, at the same time, religious sentiments should also be considered.

Minister for Revenue R. Ashok stated that he will pass an order to take care of sentiments of people while carrying out the orders of the Supreme Court. The officers will have to discuss with local legislators and people.

The government has given a list of 277 unauthorized constructions of religious places and served notices to 200 of them in Bengaluru. The government has identified and is preparing to vacate 324 places of worship in Hubballi and Dharwad.

The government has vacated 35 temples out of 36 in Chamarajanagar district. The Hindu organisations are alleging that the government is only issuing notices to Masjids and Churches, whereas Hindu temples are ruthlessly demolished.

The Supreme Court issued orders in 2009 to demolish/relocate/regulate unauthorized structures from public places. Even the High Court of Karnataka rapped the government in December, 2020 for not implementing the apex court order.

According to the government, Karnataka has 6,395 unauthorized religious structures in public places. The state has vacated 2,887 temples, mosques, churches and other religious structures.

Coming under severe criticism by the courts, the chief secretary has ordered deputy commissioners to file an affidavit on their action plan how they are carrying out the work of vacating religious places that have come up on public properties.