Rowdy-sheeter raised ‘Quran Zindabad’ for mischief, say police; deny lathi charge

The Hindu organisations, including the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal, had taken out a procession in Belur, but the situation turned serious when a Muslim youth raised 'Quran Zindabad' slogan.

Hassan: Quran Zindabad slogan was raised during a procession by Hindu activists by a rowdy sheeter to create mischief at Belur town in Hassan district on Tuesday, according to the Karnataka police.

The police also denied resorting to lathi charge on Hindu activists during the protest opposing the recital of verses from Quran during a Hindu religious fare in Belur.

The Hindu organisations, including the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal, had taken out a procession in Belur, but the situation turned serious when a Muslim youth raised ‘Quran Zindabad’ slogan.

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Hariram Shankar, Superintendent of Police, Hassan district, told IANS that around 80 to 100 people were taking out a procession towards the Belur temple. The VHP and Bajrang Dal activists were also part of the procession. However, an old rowdy-sheeter standing at a bus stand shouted ‘Quran Zindabad’ to create mischief.

“Hearing this, the crowd became aggressive. I had already deployed 150 men there along with two Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP) platoons. We had more policemen than the protesters, because we were anticipating something untoward to happen. Our teams immediately picked up the rowdy-sheeter and put him in a police vehicle.

“However, the crowd gathered around the vehicle and kept shouting at him. We pushed away the people and moved the vehicle. The accused was taken to the police station. We are filing a case against him based on the complaints received by the police. He will be produced before a magistrate for creating mischief to foment communal tension in the area,” Shankar said, adding that the police did not resort to lathi charge.

When asked about the April 4 Rathotsav ceremony at the Belur temple, Shankar said that last year the same thing had happened. At the time of recital of the Quran, Hindu organisations had raised slogans but there was no obstruction.

“Similar protests are expected this time also. Since elections are around the corner, we will definitely beef up the security as much as possible to ensure no untoward incident takes place,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sharat Yalagunda, divisional convenor of Bajrang Dal, told IANS that they are not planning any protest during Rathotsav.

“We can’t take chances when 25,000 people gather at one place… We can’t risk their lives,” he said.

However, a memorandum has been submitted to the administrator of the Belur temple and tehsildar not to allow Quran recital.

“They recite that there is no god other than Allah and nothing could be believed other than the path of Allah. We will agree if they say that all gods are equal,” Yalagunda said.

“We will put pressure on the government to take legal action regarding the ritual,” Sharat stated.

Meanwhile, eye witnesses said that police did resort to mild lathi charge after ‘Quran Zindabad’ slogan was raised.

They said that Hindu activists had questioned the youth after surrounding him. The situation turned serious when the Muslim youth got into an argument with the agitators. Later, he was chased down by the protesters. Meanwhile, another group of agitators blocked the road.

Hindu activists have opposed the ritual of reciting the Quran during the historical Chennakeshava Rathotsava in Belur. The Hindu outfits maintain that the ritual should not be observed as it is against Hindu religion.

The religious fair is scheduled to be held on April 4 and the district administration is concerned with the developments taking communal turn at the time of elections.

The Chennakeshava temple is a 12th century Hindu shrine. It was built over three generations and took 103 years for the construction work to complete. The temple is expected to get a heritage tag from UNESCO.

Last year, despite opposition from Hindu activists, the Quran recital tradition was carried out during the fair. Hindu activists claim that the ritual was forcefully added in 1932.

The Rathotsav ceremony is performed over a period of two days. On the occasion, the idol of Channakeshava is embellished with gold and diamond jewellery gifted by the erstwhile kings of Mysuru kingdom. Lakhs of devotees gather for the temple fair.

Last year, the administrator of the temple had written to the Muzrai department seeking clarification over the continuation of the ritual, which has been followed for years as a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity.

Rohini Sindhuri, then commissioner of Muzrai department, had given green signal for the continuation of the ritual. She had stated that according to Section 58 of the Hindu Religious Act 2002, there should not be any interference in the rituals and traditions of the temple.

After the direction, the temple committee had decided to carry out the ritual recital of verses from the Quran.

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