Once a nursery of progressive movements, Shivamogga now a communal cauldron
Bengaluru: The name Shivamogga is synonymous with socialist, farmer, Dalit and women-centric movements. The 1951 Kagodu satyagraha by farmers demanding ownership of the land they tilled was said to have paved the way for land reforms in the country.
However, the region has come a long way and is now turning into a communal hotspot in Karnataka. The Ganeshotsav in Shivamogga sees widespread violence, shoot at sight orders have also been issued after the 1980s. Now, the region is witnessing revenge killings and stabbing incidents.
Though political heavyweights like former chief minister B S Yediyurappa, and Home Minister Araga Jnanendra, who come from Shivamogga are playing an important role in state politics, they are not able to find a solution to the vicious circle of violence that the city has been trapped in.
Between 1950 to 1980, Shivamogga saw a slew of pro-people movements. The people here questioned the system of manual scavenging and stood for social justice. Ram Manohar Lohia, the socialist political leader, visited Shivamogga to witness the Kagodu agitation by farmers demanding their right over land.
According to the police, Shivamogga has seen three communal clashes in eight months. The brutal murder of Bajrang Dal activist Harsha made national news. It was followed by stabbing incidents over the installation of Veer Savarkar’s statue.
Prohibitory orders were clamped for more than eight days after the killing of Harsha. The city came under curfew again following incidents of stabbing during the celebration of the 75th Independence Day.
Congress MLA and state media in-charge Priyank Kharge stated that the BJP has turned Shivamogga into a communal laboratory. If the region from which Home Minister Araga Jnanendra hails witnesses three communal clashes in 8 months, is it negligence on his part or silent approval? The clashes have caused a Rs 300 crore loss, he said.
Senior journalist N M Ravikumar said that the greatest social revolutions have been brought to the region without any violence. The land was taken away from religious mutts and landlords and distributed to poor farmers. This land is the birthplace of Allama and Akka Mahadevi.
Allama went on to create the first parliament of the world in the form of ‘Anubhava Mantapa’ challenging the caste system. Akka Mahadevi is revered for her fight for gender equality centuries ago.
He stated that the people of Shivamogga rejected the violence propounded by the Naxal movement in the 90s. Likewise, the people are fed up with the present communal violence. “The BJP has been the beneficiary of communal clashes. Dalits and Muslims have been the deciding factors in the elections in Shivamogga city. The clashes are polarizing Dalit votes towards the BJP, ensuring its victory.”
Socialist leaders like the late S Bangarappa, who hailed from Shivamogga, went on to join the BJP. The socialist leaders identified with the Congress party failed to transfer the socialist ideology to the next generation leading to the rise of Hindutva and the BJP, he added.
Afsar Kodlipet, state general secretary of the Socialist Democratic Party of India (SDPI), maintained that former minister K S Eshwarappa has become a political refugee in the present times. The family of Bajrang Dal activist Harsha is trying for a BJP ticket from the constituency represented by Eshwarappa.
When asked about the SDPI being accused of provoking violence, Afsar said that the BJP tried to pin the murder of a Hindu youth on the SDPI, a year ago. The investigation showed that he was murdered in a family dispute over property.
“India Gate in Delhi has 60,000 names of Muslim freedom fighters. At a Shivamogga mall, not a single Muslim freedom fighter’s photo was installed. Hence, putting up Veer Savarkar’s flex was questioned. Hindu activists have assaulted a nine-year-old boy in the mall, stabbed a Muslim youth, which never got attention,” he said.
Afsar stated that Muslim maulanas, traders and masses celebrate Independence Day on a grand scale every year. This time, while celebrating I-Day, Hindu activists have targeted the event on the pretext of putting up a banner of Veer Savarkar.
Shivamogga has always been identified as a land of struggle in the history of Karnataka. The region has given birth to ‘Rashtra Kavi’ Kuvempu, who propagated the concept of “Vishwa Manava” (universal brotherhood), which is now at stake following the communal divide.
Today, Shivamogga has been turned into a police fortress. With the assembly elections fast approaching, more violence is feared in the city.