A VHP activist died and several people were injured at Madikeri in Karnataka Tuesday after the birth-anniversary celebrations of 18th century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan led to a clash between two groups, police said.
Police identified the deceased as D S Kuttappa, 67, a retired official from the state horticulture department and an organising secretary of VHP’s Kodagu district unit. Kuttappa succumbed in a local hospital to head injuries suffered during stone-pelting amid the clash, police said.
The clashes erupted after a Muslim group that took out a procession to mark the state government’s Tipu Sultan Jayanti celebrations came face-to-face with Hindutva activists protesting the event.
Police resorted to a lathi-charge to bring the situation under control, even as additional forces were rushed to Madikeri.
The decision by the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government to celebrate Tipu Sultan Jayanti on November 10 had been marked by warnings of protests by Hindutva groups led by the BJP and the RSS.
Reports of skirmishes between right-wing activists and security officials were also reported Tuesday from many other parts of Karnataka.
Tipu Sultan, who is considered one of the early freedom fighters who took on the British, is not regarded highly by the people of Kodagu, a tribal community, who were part of a bloody rebellion against the Mysore ruler.
On Tuesday, the BJP blamed Kuttappa’s death on Siddaramaiah’s “adamant stance” to go ahead with the celebrations and the failure of police to anticipate trouble.
Former BJP chief minister Jagadish Shettar questioned the necessity of celebrating the anniversary due to Tipu Sultan’s “controversial” stature. “Some people say he was secular but many say he was communal and converted many Hindus to Islam. So what is the need to celebrate the birthdays of such people?” Shettar said.
Siddaramaiah responded by blaming the “bandh call” given by right-wing outfits for the violence.
“They are the ones who are responsible. They tried to disturb the celebrations organised by the government by calling for a bandh. We have taken all measures to protect communal harmony. There is no government responsibility in this,” Siddaramaiah said.
The activist did not die in stone-pelting or a police lathi-charge but was injured after he fell in a pit while running, the CM said.
Despite the protests, a function to mark the birth anniversary was held at the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru on Tuesday morning with Siddaramaiah and several of his Cabinet ministers in attendance.
Taking a dig at the protesters, noted writer Girish Karnad said at the event that the Bengaluru International Airport would have been named after Tipu Sultan by now if the ruler had been a Hindu.