In the backdrop of the row over hijab, which has deepened the religious faultlines, especially in coastal Karnataka, reports emerge of Muslim shopkeepers being banned from local annual fairs.
The organising committees of these fairs have reportedly succumbed to the pressure exerted by right-wing Hindu groups to exclude shops owned by Muslims. After the Karnataka HC had upheld the ban on hijab in educational institutions, many Muslim shopkeepers had downed shutters as a mark of protest.
The annual festivals of temples in the coastal region of the state, usually held in April-May, draw a huge revenue running into crores. Despite simmering communal tension, such festivals in the past rarely harmed the business prospects of any community. But after a bandh called by Muslims over the HC verdict on hijab, many temples in the region bar entry to Muslims at its festivals.
Organisers of the annual festival of the Mahalingeshwara Temple scheduled on April 20 have barred Muslims from participating in the auction. In the invitation, the organisers have made it clear that only Hindus are eligible to participate in the bid on March 31. The temple authorities were unavailable for comment.
Similarly, the Hosa Marigudi temple in Kaup in Udupi district refused to allot stalls to Muslims in an auction held on March 18 for the annual fair that is being organised this week. Ramesh Hegde, president of the temple administration committee, said that they passed a resolution allowing only Hindus to participate in the auction of shops.
Prakash Kukkehalli, Mangaluru division general secretary of the Hindu Jagarana Vedike, said the local temple worshippers were outraged after Muslims closed their shops against the HC verdict on hijab.
In Dakshina Kannada district, a hoarding of the Bappanadui Sri Durgapameshwari temple’s annual festivities stated, “People who don’t respect the law or the land and who kill the cows that we pray and who is against the unity will not be allowed to do business. We will not allow them to do business. Hindu is aware.”
Mangaluru city police commissioner N Shashi Kumar said, “We are finding out who installed these flexes. If the civic agency is ready to file a complaint, we will consult our legal team and take action accordingly.”
Mohammed Arif, secretary of Udupi District Street Vendors’ and Traders’ Association, said there was never such a situation before. “There are about 700 registered members of which 450 are Muslim. We did not have any business for the last two years because of Covid-19. Now as we begin to start earning again, we have been left out by the temple committees,” he said.
In Shivamogga, where a Bajarang Dal activist was murdered, Muslim shopkeepers were kept out from the Kote Marikamba festival that began Tuesday. SK Mariyappa, president of the temple committee, told reporters that the committee was never communal in the past but recent developments, especially on social media where many have launched campaigns against Muslims shopkeepers, forced them to agree to the demand in the interest of smooth conduct of the festival.