Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
Last update: 19 December 2022, 18:43 IST
Karnataka’s BJP government has stirred a hornet’s nest by unveiling a portrait of controversial Hindutva ideologue Veer Savarkar in the Assembly chamber of the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha in Belagavi, the epicenter of the border row between the state and Maharashtra.
Assembly Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri and Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai unveiled Savarkar’s portrait alongside national icons like Swami Vivekananda, Subash Chandra Bose, BR Ambedkar, Basaveshwara, Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on the first day of the 10-day Winter Session. state legislature in Belagavi north Karnataka border district.
The BJP has projected the gesture as an act of nationalism, drawing angry protests from the protests. The Congress, keeping in mind next year’s Karnataka elections while not being too strict in its objection, has also demanded the addition of portraits of Maharishi Valmiki, Kanakadasa, Shishiunala Sharifa, Babu Jagjeevan Ram and Kuvempu. In response, Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah wrote to Speaker Kage.
The latest flashpoint also comes in the backdrop of Congress state chief DK Shivakumar’s comments on the Mangaluru blasts and what the BJP dubbed the Opposition’s “pro-terrorist” stance.
BJP leaders said the move was part of the party’s state-level campaign to “raise awareness about Veer Savarkar’s contributions” among the youth. Savarkar has a special role in Belagavi, where he was kept under preventive detention in Hindalga Jail in 1950 to prevent him from protesting the arrival of then Prime Minister of Pakistan Liaqat Ali Khan in New Delhi.
The politics over Savarkar’s portrait in the assembly chambers is not the first time that the Hindutva ideologue has been the subject of controversy in Karnataka.
Savarkar in Shivamogga at Flex
On Independence Day this year, a clash broke out between two groups in Shivamogga over the hoisting of Veer Savarkar’s poster at Ameer Ahmed circle in the heart of the city. The situation became tense as the opposing team wanted to put up a poster of the 18th century Mysuru ruler Tipu Sultan at the same place. As a result of the fight, a man was stabbed. After resorting to gentle lathicharges, the district officials hoisted the Indian flag at the spot.
BJP and Congress leaders engaged in a war of words over the flexible queue, with Siddaramaiah commenting that the BJP was responsible for the violence. “The BJP has a habit of pinching the baby and acting as if it is calming down when it cries. What was the point of installing a Savarkar flex in a Muslim-dominated area or even opposing a Tipu Sultan flex,” he asked.
The BJP, on the other hand, called the Congress way of communicating all the facts and supporting a ruler who was “anti-Hindu” and “anti-national”.
A day later, a picture of Savarkar surfaced on the premises of Majestic Metro station along with Chandrashekhar Azad and Udham Singh.
Savarkar in a Bulbul
In August this year, a Class 8 Kannada textbook raised eyebrows and sparked a meme fest with a passage that claimed Savarkar flew through a locked room on the back of a bulbous bird. The textbook creator called it an act of “beautiful prose” to illustrate Savarkar’s time spent in solitary confinement in Andaman’s Cellular Jail from 1911 to 1924. Controversial chapter, Kalavanu GeddavaruIt was written by Kannada writer KT Gatti and replaced an earlier chapter Blood typeWhich was written by Vijayamala Ranganath.
Savarkar on a flight
Despite opposition in 2020, then Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa planned to inaugurate the 400-metre flyover named after the RSS ideologue. The Congress and JD(S) staged protests on May 28, Savarkar’s birth anniversary, against the inauguration of the 34-crore flyover at Yelahanka in Bengaluru.
The flight was meant to connect Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan Road and Yelahanka New Town with the Vidyaranyapura area in north Bengaluru. However, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) canceled the event at the last minute citing the Covid-19 lockdown.
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