Plaint filed over Saffron flags in Bengaluru’s commercial spaces

The saffron flags were being placed outside shops managed and run by Hindus

Bajrang Dal activists have put up saffron flags bearing OM on it in the Sanskrit language in front of Shops run by Hindus in Vijayanagar, Bengaluru. Photo: Prabhu Mallikarjunan

A Bengaluru-based lawyer on Friday (May 22) filed a complaint against an individual and administrator of a Facebook page for spreading communal disharmony by putting out saffron flags in commercial places in parts of the city.

Over the past few days, saffron flags bearing the ‘Om’ symbol have been put out by alleged Bajrang Dal and RSS members in front of commercial establishments and shops along the roads of Vijayanagar in the city. The flags were placed on communal lines and outside shops managed and run by Hindus.

The incident occurred barely 20 feet from the Vijayanagar police station limits.

Complainant Maitreyi Krishnan, a lawyer and member of the All India Central Council for Trade Union, Karnataka, on May 18, said, “A Facebook post by ‘Uttara Karnataka Mandi’ put out photos of people putting up saffron flags and identified one M.L. Shivkummar as the person behind it.”

She alleged that the perpetrators violated the Karnataka Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act, 1981, by putting up saffron flags on trees and poles in public places.

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Citing the Karnataka Police Manual, the complainant noted that when there was the likelihood of disturbance, the police should visit the place in question and try to gauge the extent of public feeling by getting in touch with important leaders of various groups and non-controversial citizens. However, the police failed to act on it even after an activist raised concern to the inspector over the phone earlier this week.

Shivkummar identifies himself as a Bajrang Dal member and had shared photos with BJP leaders including Arun Somanna, BJP Yuva Morch leader and son of BJP MLA and Kodagu District In-charge Minister V Somanna.

In a series of posts and videos on his Facebook page, Shivkummar, on May 19, showed his team putting out the saffron flags in Hindu owned/managed shops.

Speaking to The Federal, V. Somanna said he was not connected to the incident and if there was any violation, the police should act on it. “There are several people who take photos with me. It doesn’t mean I am responsible for all their actions. If they violated certain rules, let the concerned authority take action,” he said.

When The Federal visited the area, the Hindu shop owners pointed fingers at the owner of a ‘Wild West showroom.’ One of the staff members identified in the photos, standing outside the shop, refused to comment.

While they did not explicitly call for boycott of Muslims, the divide was clear on the streets.

In the aftermath of the Delhi communal riots, The Federal had in March reported about hate messages spread by WhatsApp and Facebook groups run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its affiliates in Karnataka.

The message was clear — that beyond the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) debate, Muslims were a greater threat to Hindus. Now, these actions reflect what happened in Delhi after the riots.

A vegetable vendor, whose shop had two flags, did not know who put the flags.

The shops where Bajrang Dal activists have put up saffron flags are a stone’s throw away from the Vijayanagar police station in Bengaluru. Photo: Prabhu Mallikarjunan

Another vendor, a Muslim man (name withheld), running a leather shop in the area and whose shop did not have the flag, said no one knows what was to come and the incident occurred last night without their notice.

“We don’t know what their agenda is. For now, these flags are threatening. But it seems to have put out to create communal tensions,” the vendor said.

Before the complaint was filed, inspector M.M. Bharath had said there was no violation and that it was all voluntary. “We are not taking any action as no one complained about it. We do not see any violation in putting out these flags,” the inspector said.

However, soon after the complaint was registered, contradicting his statement to The Ferderal, the inspector informed the complainant that they have already taken a suo motu action and issued a notice under police act and disfigurement act.

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