On Republic Day, nearly three dozen eminent personalities wrote a letter to Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai and all legislators expressing their concern over the “frequent violence against religious minorities” in the state.
“Over the past few months, the State has witnessed the brutal killing of youths in several districts, rampant hate speeches, public threats and disruptions of worship by religious minorities, honour killings, moral policing, misogynistic statements by legislators, and incidents of hostile and violent encounters between various religious groups. These trends have been encouraged by the callous and un-constitutional statements made by legislators and the inability of the State machinery to rein in fringe anti-social groups,” read the letter.
Karnataka has seen a rise in attacks against Muslims and Christians since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power.
Most recently, two Muslim youth Sameer (19) and Shamseer (21) from Nargund in Karnataka’s Gadag district were brutally attacked by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) cadres. 19-year-old Sameer succumbed to injuries at Karnataka Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) hospital in Hubli. Four men including a Bajrang Dal were arrested. In Udupi, a group of Muslim students at a government college has been forced to sit outside the classroom for wearing Hijab for weeks now.
Last month, a Hindutva group had barged into a convent school and disrupted Christmas celebrations. This incident happened on the same day the draconian Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021 was passed by the Karnataka Assembly. There has been rising intolerance and attacks against Christians in Karnataka, by right-wing Hindu groups such as the Hindu Jagarana Vedike.
Such trends go against the long history of Karnataka as a progressive State that facilitated the social harmony of a plural society, said the signatories including historians Ramachandra Guha, Prof. Janaki Nair, scientists Prof. Sharadchandra Lele, Prof. Vinod Gaur, and Prof. Vidyanand Nanjundiah; sociologists A. R. Vasavi and Prof. Satish Deshpande, Kannada writers Vivek Shanbhag, Purushottam Bilimale and K. P. Suresha, and activist Bezwada Wilson.
“Instead, the State is losing its identity on multiple fronts. On the fiscal, administrative, and political fronts, Karnataka is losing its federal strength. Recent legislation, such as the ‘cow protection’ and ‘anti-conversion’ Acts, are pogroms against the economic and cultural rights of religious minorities. No longer are harmony, peace, and tolerance the hallmarks of the state,” read the letter.
“As elected representatives, it is the responsibility of the chief minister and all legislators to deliberate on all legislations, programs and policies in a democratic and open manner. Implementing received ideas and suggestions that seek to assert only narrow, sectarian agendas will only be antithetical to the interests of the state and its people,” they urged.
“On this special day, as we celebrate our national status as a ‘Republic’ and as a state within this federal republic, we write this with hope that you will initiate a period of social harmony, just legislations and democratic functioning of the state machinery,” the letter concludes.