Lowering of saffron flag triggers tension in village in Mandya district

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The police controlling protestors at Keregodu village in Mandya district.

The police controlling protestors at Keregodu village in Mandya district.
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Authorities hoisted the tricolour atop a 108-ft flagpole at Keregodu in Mandya district on Sunday hours after the lowering of a saffron flag with an image of Lord Hanuman on it, sparked a protest in the town.

Local people along with BJP and Janata Dal (S) leaders staged a protest soon after the authorities lowered the saffron flag, citing rules that permitted only the national flag to be flown on government land.

Amid the rising tension in the town, with protesters gathering at the venue in large numbers and shouting slogans against the Congress government and the police tightening security by deploying additional forces, the authorities managed to hoist the national flag.

In the melee the crowd broke the barricades erected in the area, forcing the police to resort to lathi-charge to maintain law and order.

Meanwhile, a host of BJP and JD (S) leaders, including Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly R. Ashok and former MLA Suresh Gowda, who joined the protesters at Keregodu, were taken into custody by the police.

Permission

The local youths had obtained permission from the gram panchayat to hoist a flag in front of the Hanuman temple on January 22 to mark the inauguration of Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

However, local Congress MLA Ravi Kumar Ganiga maintained that the gram panchayat had given the nod as the local youth organisation had sought permission to hoist the national flag in their application. The land belonged to the government and rules provided for hoisting only the national flag on such land, he said.

Also, Mr. Ganiga said there were plans to build a bus stand on the same land out of grants from the Chief Minister’s Special funds and the KSRTC.

When the local organisation hoisted the saffron flag, Mr. Ganiga said the authorities started receiving requests from the local Dalit Sangharsha Samiti, Kurubara Sangha, and the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha too for hoisting their flags on government land.

The government would not have objected to the saffron flag if it had been hoisted on private land or temple land. “The law of the land is the same for everybody. We can’t give permission to one section and deny the same to the other,” he said, citing requests for hoisting flags from other groups.

He blamed the BJP and JD (S) for fuelling unrest over the flag so that the issue was kept alive till the Lok Sabha elections.

Mr. Ashok said the BJP and JD (S) would launch an agitation against the Congress government with a padyatra from Keregodu on Monday. He said the protesters would lay siege to the office of the Deputy Commissioner in Mandya.

He said the BJP would take up the issue like the agitation for “Datta Peetha”. “We will not rest. Why do we need permission to hoist the saffron flag in front of Hanuman temple?,” he questioned before adding that the saffron flag had to fly along with the national flag.



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