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Temple fairs and the saga of economic boycott: Dakshina Kannada

The trend of disallowing non-Hindus from partaking in auction of stalls at temple fairs is a new low for Hindu fringe groups and temple authorities are being forced to follow suit

Sabrangindia 23 Jan 2023

boycott of Muslim vendors during the Panchalingeshwara temple fairRepresentation Image

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) gave a call for economic boycott of Muslim vendors during the Panchalingeshwara temple fair in Vittal town in Dakshina Kannada district. According to a Times Now report, the Muslim vendors were forced out by VHP workers.

VHP, along with Sri Ram Sene workers “evicted” the shop of a Muslim and the video of the same was also made available by Times Now. Those who did not vacate their shops after the call for boycott, taking law into their own hands, these VHP members forced them to vacate their shops.

The local correspondent of the channel confirmed that VHP had declared that “no Muslim vendors will be allowed near temple fair areas. This call was given in the beginning of January itself. He also said that the police had no arrested anyone from the VHJP or Sri Ram Sene for their culpability.”

 

 

It was also reported that the boycott banner was raised at a religious fair in Kavuru near Mangaluru city by VHP and Bajrang Dal early this month. The banner was put up on the premises of Sri Mahalingeshwara temple which comes under the Religious Endowment department where a fair was held between January 14 to 18, reported Siasat. “There is no scope for anyone who believes that worshiping an idol is ‘haram’,” the banner read.

These calls for boycotts are not the first of their kind. There are several reports in the news media of prominent Hindutva groups calling for such economic boycott of non-Hindus. Or in some cases specifically Muslims. Early in January, management committee of Sullia Sri Channakeshava Temple, Mangaluru had decided to have an open auction of the stalls irrespective of religion but after pressure mounting from  the local Hindutva group Hindu Hitarakshana Vedike, the temple management decided that Muslim vendors will not be allowed at the fair held between January 2 to January 12. 

Similarly, last November, 2022, during the Champa Shashti festival of Kukke Sri Subrahmanya temple as well, Non-Hindu traders were disallowed as per banners erected by the Hindu Jagaran Vedike. The temple management said that it had no part to play in the boycott but that they were following Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act whereby Rule 12 states that no property including land, building or site located near the institution shall be leased to non-Hindus.  reported Hindustan Times.

These diktats for boycotts from Hindutva groups caught on with temple fairs across the state last year. What had begun at a Shimoga temple and was followed by more in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi has spread to shrines in Tumkur, Hassan, Chikmagalur and other districts, reported The Telegraph. These included temples of Belur Channakeshava in Hassan, Siddhalingeshwara in Tumkur and the 800-year-old Bappanadu temple (built by Muslim merchant Bappa Beary of Kerala) which has been a symbol of communal harmony.

Banners had also erupted in front of Bappandu Durgaparameshwari Temple, Mangaladevi Temple and Puttur Mahalingeshwara Temple in Dakshina Kannada.

Clearly, these calls for boycott have become the trend that these Hindutva group aim to spread across the state and possibly in many other BJP ruled states. As per the  traders associations in most of these places, Muslim vendors have been a part of these fairs for decades and this is the first time they have faced such a boycott.

Background

On the back of the ‘hijab’-driven controversy in the state, Karnataka first saw such brazen boycotts in March 2022. At the time, Citizens for Justice and Peace, had analysed the unconstitutionality of these acts that were silently left un=controverted by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the State and Karnataka.

Also Read: With calls for economic boycott of Muslims, are we at the precipice of a genocide? Othering, ridicule and exclusion are just precursors to violence

The Bangalore-based unit of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) had, in a representation to the chief minister Bommai and Governor Thavar Chand Gehlot, stated that,

“The boycott calls are sought to be given a fig leaf of legitimacy by referring to Rule 31(12) of the 2002 Rules of the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1997, which state that no property, including land, building or sites situated near the institution shall be leased out to non-Hindus. However as Senior advocate Chander Uday Singh pointed out this is a deliberate misinterpretation of the provision as Rule 31 only deals with long-term leases of immoveable property owned by a temple.  It does not deal with the short-term licences which would be used to allot stalls or spaces to vendors during a festival. Rule 7 also specifically prohibits sub-lease, leading one to the conclusion that the contract temple authorities enter into with traders can only be a licensing agreement. 

However, going beyond the question of whether the temple actions are justified by the rule 31(2) cited by the Hon’ble law minister, the larger questions is the constitutionality of the same. Both economic boycott and calling for economic boycott is violative of the constitutional promise of non-discrimination enacted in Article 15. Article 15, explicitly prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, besides race, caste, sex or place of birth. Article 15(2) further proclaims that no citizen be subject to any ‘restriction’ with regard to ‘access to shops’, ‘maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public’.

In a nutshell, the said call for boycott and boycott both violate fundamental rights conferred under articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

Articles 21, 14 and 15 are all guarantors to every person has the right to life, equality and non-discrimination. Article 19 ensures freedom of movement and the right to undertake economic activity. While Article 14 says that the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India, Article 15 prohibits discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth. Further under article 15(2), no citizen shall be subject to any restriction or condition with regards to access to shops or the used of roads and places of public resort maintained out of state funds or made for the use of general public, merely on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.

Interestingly, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh apart from Uttar Pradesh have also seen similar blatant calls for a socio-economic boycott being left un-challenged by the senior echelons of the ruling party, allowing outfits like the VHP to function with impunity.

Related:

Don’t stop at Muslim-owned dhabas, VHP, Bajrang Dal warn buses in Gujarat

CJP moves NCM over hate crimes against Muslims in Madhya Pradesh

Why is iD dosa batter giving communal trolls indigestion?

Hate Watch: Hindutva group raises slogans outside Muslim-owned shop in Gujarat

Provocative poster in Delhi's Brahmpuri calls on Hindu landlords to not sell to Muslim buyers

Review of 2022: A year of discrimination & violence experienced by India's religious minorities

Temple fairs and the saga of economic boycott: Dakshina Kannada

The trend of disallowing non-Hindus from partaking in auction of stalls at temple fairs is a new low for Hindu fringe groups and temple authorities are being forced to follow suit

boycott of Muslim vendors during the Panchalingeshwara temple fairRepresentation Image

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) gave a call for economic boycott of Muslim vendors during the Panchalingeshwara temple fair in Vittal town in Dakshina Kannada district. According to a Times Now report, the Muslim vendors were forced out by VHP workers.

VHP, along with Sri Ram Sene workers “evicted” the shop of a Muslim and the video of the same was also made available by Times Now. Those who did not vacate their shops after the call for boycott, taking law into their own hands, these VHP members forced them to vacate their shops.

The local correspondent of the channel confirmed that VHP had declared that “no Muslim vendors will be allowed near temple fair areas. This call was given in the beginning of January itself. He also said that the police had no arrested anyone from the VHJP or Sri Ram Sene for their culpability.”

 

 

It was also reported that the boycott banner was raised at a religious fair in Kavuru near Mangaluru city by VHP and Bajrang Dal early this month. The banner was put up on the premises of Sri Mahalingeshwara temple which comes under the Religious Endowment department where a fair was held between January 14 to 18, reported Siasat. “There is no scope for anyone who believes that worshiping an idol is ‘haram’,” the banner read.

These calls for boycotts are not the first of their kind. There are several reports in the news media of prominent Hindutva groups calling for such economic boycott of non-Hindus. Or in some cases specifically Muslims. Early in January, management committee of Sullia Sri Channakeshava Temple, Mangaluru had decided to have an open auction of the stalls irrespective of religion but after pressure mounting from  the local Hindutva group Hindu Hitarakshana Vedike, the temple management decided that Muslim vendors will not be allowed at the fair held between January 2 to January 12. 

Similarly, last November, 2022, during the Champa Shashti festival of Kukke Sri Subrahmanya temple as well, Non-Hindu traders were disallowed as per banners erected by the Hindu Jagaran Vedike. The temple management said that it had no part to play in the boycott but that they were following Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act whereby Rule 12 states that no property including land, building or site located near the institution shall be leased to non-Hindus.  reported Hindustan Times.

These diktats for boycotts from Hindutva groups caught on with temple fairs across the state last year. What had begun at a Shimoga temple and was followed by more in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi has spread to shrines in Tumkur, Hassan, Chikmagalur and other districts, reported The Telegraph. These included temples of Belur Channakeshava in Hassan, Siddhalingeshwara in Tumkur and the 800-year-old Bappanadu temple (built by Muslim merchant Bappa Beary of Kerala) which has been a symbol of communal harmony.

Banners had also erupted in front of Bappandu Durgaparameshwari Temple, Mangaladevi Temple and Puttur Mahalingeshwara Temple in Dakshina Kannada.

Clearly, these calls for boycott have become the trend that these Hindutva group aim to spread across the state and possibly in many other BJP ruled states. As per the  traders associations in most of these places, Muslim vendors have been a part of these fairs for decades and this is the first time they have faced such a boycott.

Background

On the back of the ‘hijab’-driven controversy in the state, Karnataka first saw such brazen boycotts in March 2022. At the time, Citizens for Justice and Peace, had analysed the unconstitutionality of these acts that were silently left un=controverted by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the State and Karnataka.

Also Read: With calls for economic boycott of Muslims, are we at the precipice of a genocide? Othering, ridicule and exclusion are just precursors to violence

The Bangalore-based unit of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) had, in a representation to the chief minister Bommai and Governor Thavar Chand Gehlot, stated that,

“The boycott calls are sought to be given a fig leaf of legitimacy by referring to Rule 31(12) of the 2002 Rules of the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1997, which state that no property, including land, building or sites situated near the institution shall be leased out to non-Hindus. However as Senior advocate Chander Uday Singh pointed out this is a deliberate misinterpretation of the provision as Rule 31 only deals with long-term leases of immoveable property owned by a temple.  It does not deal with the short-term licences which would be used to allot stalls or spaces to vendors during a festival. Rule 7 also specifically prohibits sub-lease, leading one to the conclusion that the contract temple authorities enter into with traders can only be a licensing agreement. 

However, going beyond the question of whether the temple actions are justified by the rule 31(2) cited by the Hon’ble law minister, the larger questions is the constitutionality of the same. Both economic boycott and calling for economic boycott is violative of the constitutional promise of non-discrimination enacted in Article 15. Article 15, explicitly prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, besides race, caste, sex or place of birth. Article 15(2) further proclaims that no citizen be subject to any ‘restriction’ with regard to ‘access to shops’, ‘maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public’.

In a nutshell, the said call for boycott and boycott both violate fundamental rights conferred under articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

Articles 21, 14 and 15 are all guarantors to every person has the right to life, equality and non-discrimination. Article 19 ensures freedom of movement and the right to undertake economic activity. While Article 14 says that the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India, Article 15 prohibits discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth. Further under article 15(2), no citizen shall be subject to any restriction or condition with regards to access to shops or the used of roads and places of public resort maintained out of state funds or made for the use of general public, merely on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.

Interestingly, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh apart from Uttar Pradesh have also seen similar blatant calls for a socio-economic boycott being left un-challenged by the senior echelons of the ruling party, allowing outfits like the VHP to function with impunity.

Related:

Don’t stop at Muslim-owned dhabas, VHP, Bajrang Dal warn buses in Gujarat

CJP moves NCM over hate crimes against Muslims in Madhya Pradesh

Why is iD dosa batter giving communal trolls indigestion?

Hate Watch: Hindutva group raises slogans outside Muslim-owned shop in Gujarat

Provocative poster in Delhi's Brahmpuri calls on Hindu landlords to not sell to Muslim buyers

Review of 2022: A year of discrimination & violence experienced by India's religious minorities

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