INDIA

‘Desecration’ of Shivaji’s statue triggers vandalism, war of words between Maha, K’taka

The alleged desecration of Maratha warrior king Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in Bengaluru caused a snowball effect with vandals targeting freedom fighter Sangolli Rayanna’s statue in Belagavi and Karnataka and Maharashtra locked horns yet again on Saturday.

 

IMAGE: The statue of Shivaji Maharaj opposite the Gateway of India in Mumbai

While Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai condemned the untoward incidents and ordered action against culprits, his Maharashtra counterpart Uddhav Thackeray demanded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention to stop “Kannada atrocities” and the “pervert mindset.”

Also, Thackeray asked Karnataka to act immediately over the alleged incident.

The ruling Shiv Sena and other organisations staged protests in Maharashtra.

Amid reports of attack and defacement of vehicles with Karnataka registration in Maharashtra, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said it is the duty of the neighbouring state to maintain law and order and prevent such incidents.

Following the alleged desecration of the Maratha king’s statue, miscreants in Belagavi shouted slogans and pelted government vehicles with stones and freedom fighter Sangolli Rayanna’s statue was subsequently vandalised.

 

Police sources said so far 27 people have been arrested in connection with the incidents.

With Belagavi playing host to the winter session of Karnataka legislature, police promulgated prohibitory order to prevent untoward incidents and maintain law and order.

The decades old border dispute over Belagavi between the two states is seen as the undercurrent that connected the untoward incidents and its fallout.

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai told reporters, “Shivaji Maharaj, Sangolli Rayanna, Kittur Chennamma are fighters, who fought for the country, in their name, if we start fighting and dividing, it will be a disservice to them. Any responsible person should not incite people to violence and take law and order into their hands.”

Bommai was responding to a question on Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut’s tweet calling Maratha people to unite over the alleged desecration. The Karnataka CM said factors including the timing of the incident, “several other factors including the timing of incident when the legislature session is on, will all be part of the investigation.”

Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra said,”Police have been asked to see to it that such incidents don’t repeat. Both Marathi and Kannada speaking people are living peacefully in Belagavi, but some miscreants are trying to disturb and vitiate the atmosphere.”

Thackeray, who heads the Shiv Sena, said Shivaji Maharaj is the “deity” of not only Maharashtra but of the entire country, adding any disrespect and insult to the founder of the Maratha empire would not be tolerated.

Further the Maharashtra CM said, “PM Modi should direct the Karnataka government to take action in the matter. This incident (alleged desecration of the statue) cannot be taken lightly. For several years, Marathi-speaking people in Karnataka are facing atrocities. Now, the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is desecrated,” he said in a statement.

“It should be kept in mind that hurting the Marathi pride will prove costly. The Centre should give up double standards and take stern steps,” he said.

“PM Modi had said in Varanasi that whenever India’s culture was crushed, warrior kings like Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj have risen. But just a few days after Modi’s remarks, Shivaji Maharaj’s statue is attacked in Karnataka which is ruled by BJP. Instead of taking action, the voice of the Marathi people is being suppressed. This is condemnable,” Thackeray said.

Nationalist Congress Party leader and Maharashtra minister Chhagan Bhujbal said BJP had used Shivaji Maharaj only for its election campaign.

“Maharashtra will not tolerate the insult of the warrior king,” said Bhujbal, who is also the coordinating minister for the Marathi-dominated border areas in Karnataka.

“The Karnataka government started holding a legislature session in Belgaum to claim its right over the city,” he said, adding that “moves” of the Karnataka government against Marathi people would never succeed.

“We will win the fight on the streets and in courts (over the inclusion of Marathi-speaking areas in Maharashtra),” he said

While the pronunciation is ‘Belagavi’ in Karnataka, it is ‘Belgaum’ in Maharashtra.

Former Karnataka Chief Ministers B S Yediyurappa, Siddaramaiah, H D Kumaraswamy, state Congress chief D K Shivakumar condemned the untoward incidents and sought action against the miscreants and appealed to people to maintain peace. 

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