By Shankar Raj*
The ban comes at the traditional fair at the Hosa Margudi temple in Udupi
Bengaluru: Tension based on religion continues to dog Karnataka. Soon after the ban on the hijab, Muslim vendors have been banned from operating stalls at temple fairs in a few places in Udupi – the epicentre of the hijab row.
The ban was announced through posters that were put up overnight in many places even as the state government promised and distanced itself from the move.
The ban came at the famous traditional fair at the Hosa Margudi temple in Udupi along Karnataka’s coast – a fair that never discriminated against vendors based on their religion. Every year, more than 100 Muslim vendors used to set up stalls at the fair.
“We went and met the temple committee members,” Mohammad Arif, General Secretary of the Street Vendors Association in Udupi, was quoted in the media. “But they told us that they would auction the slots only for Hindus. We had to agree. They for sure are under pressure,” he added.
Officials in charge of the temple admitted that they were pressured by right-wing organisations.
“Yes, we had the pressure from right-wing organisations… after discussions, we decided to ban,” (Muslim vendors) said Prashanth Shetty, Executive Officer, Hosa Marigudi Temple.
The right-wing organisations quoted the Endowments Act which said that buildings or sites of a temple cannot be given away to non-Hindus. But this rule was seldom imposed for years. This is the first time that the rule is being put into action.
Sources say that the ban was a reaction by Muslim groups that imposed a ban on the hijab issue and forced Hindu vendors across the state to shut down their shops.
“We all called for a bandh last week in support of those demanding hijab and against the verdict… the issue backfired,” Arif conceded.
The state government assured action after the matter was flagged in the state assembly. Deputy leader of Opposition in the Karnataka Assembly and Congress leader U T Khadar, said Muslims are not being allowed to put up stalls not just at temple fairs but also on the streets.
Law Minister JC Madhuswamy has said that the government does not encourage the ban.
*Shankar Raj is former Editor of The New Indian Express, Karnataka and Kerala, and writes regularly on current affairs.