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Again a Hindu sacred spot, which communalists want to usurp

Again a Hindu sacred spot, which communalists want to usurp

Author: K.R. Vadiraja
Publication: Organiser
Date: January 24, 2005
URL: http://www.organiser.org/dynamic/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=61&page=19

Introduction: The shrine is kept open for Muslims throughout the year, whereas the government permits only three days (during Datta Jayanti) for Hindus to offer pooja.

A socio-religious hot spot in Karnataka is immersed in the quagmire of controversies and is projected to manifest as a communal cauldron. Located in Bababudangiri Hills (also known as Chandradrona Parvat), Chikmagalur district of south Karnataka, the shrine is centripetal to thousands of devotees cutting across religious lines. The place has become a potential source of struggle led by the VHP and the Bajrang Dal against persistent Islamisation, which is in vogue since 1976. The successive governments in the state have been supportive of the clandestine policy directed towards suppression of the majority interests in that area.

At this juncture, a detailed description of historical events is imminent. Some people claim that the shrine is a dargah (grave) of a Sufi saint, Bababudan Mir Hayat Kalandar (the Chandradrona Parvat is renamed after the Sufi saint), who is also addressed as Datta. Muslims and secularists opine that the Sufi dargah has been a common place of worship for centuries.The Hindus consider the place as a seat on which Dattatreya (a three-headed incarnation of Lord Vishnu) had performed penance and therefore became a significant place of worship.

During Hyder Ali's time, the administration of Datta Peetha was handed over to the Shakhadris, a family which was regarded as pontiffs/managers of the shrine. The Shakhadris appointed a suitable person to oversee and assist the daily poojas and urs conducted by the devotees. This system continued under the rule of Mysore state and by the government of Karnataka. But, in 1976, the shrine was transferred from the Mujrai Department to the Wakf Board. The Shakhadris appointed a mujawar (Muslim priest) and the Muslim localites gave vent to absolute Islamisation of the shrine by burying the dead belonging to their community.The newly appointed mujawar added salt to the wounds of the Hindus by denying adequate opportunities for them to offer their pooja at the place. At times they were also prohibited from entering the shrine. The blatant act was perpetuated, notwithstanding the Chikmagalur District Court, Karnataka High Court and orders of Commissioner, Charitable Endowments to maintain the pre-1976 status quo.

These developments led to serious discontent among the Hindus in the surrounding areas. The struggle was initiated in the form of petitions, small protests, house-to-house mobilisations and mass demonstrations in and around Chikmagalur district. The government's indifference and the Muslim intransigence culminated in VHP's intervention in 1992. The Bajrang Dal's active participation in 1996 elevated the issue to a statewide agitation. From 1998 onwards, a concrete movement to restore the Hindu element in the shrine was initiated in the form of a Shobha yatra, which is taken out in the streets of the district. Since then, for a period of six years, from 1998-2003, Datta Maala, Datta Jayanti, Shobha yatra, yagnas, recital of Vedic hymns, etc. have attracted the ire, not of the local Muslims who are reticent in their response, but of the secularists. The secularists have taken up cudgels against the ongoing so-called saffronisation, but they were the ones who kept quiet when the shrine was subjected to Islamification for 22 years, between 1976-1998. To name some-Girish Karnad (Jnanpith award-winner as playwright), Arundathi Nag (theatre personality), G.K. Govinda Rao, Gauri Lankesh, etc. Under their aegis, the Komu Sauhardha Vedike (Communal Harmony Forum) came into existence to combat saffronisation in Karnataka. Other arrows in this intellectual quiver include the DYFI, the CPI and its affiliates including some jobless NGOs. Their paramount aim is to confront and halt Brahminical rituals and restore the pre-1998 status quo. There are two more Peethas in the precincts of that area in which rituals, as stipulated in the Vedic texts, are observed.

By doing so, the secularists are tacitly accepting the Islamisation. This is nothing but observance of sheer double standards, majority bashing and minority pampering-an attitude which even the present government seems to toe. The preceding government under S.M. Krishna had consented to the holding of Datta Jayanti and Shobha yatra. The current dispensation is backtracking on the established practice. The celebrations for 2004 were banned. Repressive measures were enforced resulting in incarceration of various leaders who were in the vanguard of the festivities. To name some, they are C.T. Ravi (Chikmagalur MLA), Sunil Kumar (Bajrang Dal convener), B.S. Yediyurappa (Opposition leader in Karnataka) and Jagadish Shettar (BJP president, Karnataka). The attitude of the district administration has earned the wrath and anguish of thousands of devotees who boycotted the government-sponsored festivities.

The claim of Hindu organisations is not to exercise absolute control over the shrine; it is to perform pooja in a manner guided by the conscience of the devotees and not dictated by the mujawar. Also, a demand for drawing a clear demarcation between the Peetha and the dargah is on the cards. The local people have also humbly requested the state government to appoint a Hindu priest in condomonium with the mujawar.

The shrine is kept open for Muslims throughout the year, whereas the government permits only three days (during Datta Jayanti) for Hindus to offer pooja. In order to terminate this flagrant discrimination, the Bajrang Dal has avowed to conduct a pooja every full-moon day at the shrine.

The determination of pious Hindus led by like-minded organisations to confront the malicious propoganda unleashed by pseudo-secular glitterati through various publications, dailies and weeklies, both English and vernacular (Kannada) newspapers, has paid rich dividends. This is evident from the fact that not less than 40,000 people have agreed to uphold a genuine cause. A Satya sandesh yatra, to propagate truth and counter the misinformation campaign of the perverted intellectual jaggernauts, is in the offing.

(The author can be contacted at No. 56, 4 Cross, KSRTC Layout, J.P. Nagar, Phase-II, Bangalore-560 078.)

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