The prohibitory orders, which were imposed for two days in the north Karnataka city of Belagavi following vandalisation of government vehicles, have been extended till Wednesday night.
The decision to extend restrictions till Wednesday night was taken over concerns that protests taken out by Kannada and Marathi language chauvinists may lead to untoward incidents. Tension has been simmering between the two groups over the desecration of statues of Shivaji Maharaj and Sangolli Rayanna—Marathi and Kannada icons respectively.
On Friday, a statue of Shivaji Maharaj was allegedly blackened in a locality in north Bengaluru, leading to the registration of a police case and the subsequent arrest of seven suspects.
The news of the desecration of the Shivaji statue led to a crowd of protestors gathering in Belagavi on Friday night, after which there was an attack on Karnataka Police and government vehicles by a group of vandals. A statue of the Kannada warrior and freedom fighter Sangolli Rayanna was also damaged in Belagavi.
The incidents have occurred at a time when the 10-day Winter Session of the Karnataka Assembly is underway in the city of Belagavi. The incidents of violence are likely to be raised as the Assembly reconvenes on Monday after the weekend break.
Earlier on Saturday, the office of the Belagavi police commissioner had issued prohibitory orders for Saturday and Sunday. “In view of night activities in Belagavi city a prohibitory order is imposed under section 144 CrPC from Saturday morning 8 am to Sunday evening 6 pm, for Belagavi police commissionerate area which comprises of Belagavi taluka,’’ said an official release from the office of the Belagavi city police commissioner.
The prohibitory orders have now been extended to Wednesday. The state legislature session in Belagavi is scheduled to officially end on December 24.
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has condemned the vandalism in Belagavi. “I have instructed the home minister to take stringent action against those who violate law and order. A few persons have been arrested,” he said.
“Those indulging in acts of vandalism like stone-pelting, destroying public property, and damaging government vehicles will be dealt with sternly. Statues are erected so that people can pay respect, not to cause social unrest. A few elements are indulging in such intolerable acts,” he said.
He added, “Responsible people should never incite anyone under any circumstances. Chatrapati Shivaji, Sangolli Rayanna and Kitturu Rani Chennamma fought against the British for freedom. They fought to unite the country. We will be doing a disservice to them [if acts of vandalism like this are allowed]. Nobody should incite people to take law into their own hands,” he said.
Karnataka Opposition leaders Siddaramaiah, D K Shivakumar and H D Kumaraswamy have said that those involved in the desecration of statues of freedom fighters are “anti-nationals”.