Rayanna statue row: Kannada groups call for state-wide bandh on Dec 31

They are demanding a ban on Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti over its involvement in ‘anti-Karnataka and anti-Kannada activities’

Protestors in Bengaluru carry Kannada flag in front of Sangolli Rayanna's statue during a protest against the incident in Belagavi last Sunday | PTI

Kannada organisations on Wednesday announced a state-wide bandh on December 31 to protest against the defacing of a statue of freedom fighter Sangolli Rayanna in Belagavi allegedly by activists of the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES).

They demanded a ban on MES over its involvement in “anti-Karnataka and anti-Kannada activities”.

“If the state government does not order a ban [on the group] by December 29, we will go ahead with the Karnataka bandh on December 31,” said Vatal Nagaraj, former MLA and chairperson of the federation of pro-Kannada organisations. As many as 35 organisations have extended support for the dawn-to-dusk bandh.

“This is not an ordinary bandh, it is the echo from the breath, heart and soul. This is above the Congress, BJP and the JD(S). All are with us going beyond their political differences. No one should stop this bandh,” Nagaraj said.

Last Saturday, the president of Sangolli Rayanna Sene Shivaraj Holimath had complained to the Tilakwadi police that the Sangolli Rayanna statue that was not yet installed, but was kept in front of his house at Angol in south Belagavi, had been damaged. He alleged that some unknown people had caused the damage on Friday night.

Earlier in an incident in North Belagavi, a crowd gathered near Sambhaji Circle around midnight and started shouting slogans and began pelting government and police vehicles with stones. They reportedly became violent after news broke about the alleged desecration of Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in Bengaluru.

While 35 organisations expressed support for the strike, the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike led by T A Narayana Gowda distanced itself. Gowda said: “Observing Bandh is not the only solution. People have already suffered due to the pandemic. There are several other ways to express our anguish.” 

Gowda, however, said his group supported the growing demand for a ban on MES.