Once a small-time Kannada actor, Rishi Kumar, also called Rishikumara Swamy, is now hoping to be better known in his real life self-styled, self-declared godman’s role as Kali Swami. That he was an actor in his past life, perhaps has given him the trained foresight to finally realise that it is in being a Hindutva ‘hero’ that will earn him the recognition, fame and perhaps money, more than acting in bit roles, or appearing in game shows like Bigg Boss ever will.
Active in this role for nearly a decade, he has now been sharing the stage with serial hate offender Pramod Muthalik, of Rashtriya Hindu Sena, in the aftermath of the murder of Bajrang Dal member Harsha Jingade aka ‘Harsha Hindu’. In a press recent conference, Kali Swami has made a declaration that roughly translates as a genocial call. He said, “Every Hindu’s death/murder will be avenged by beaheding 10 Muslims.” He has not been arrested for this blatant call for Muslim genocide so far.
His attention to the aftermath of Harsha’s death came soon after when Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj KS Eshwarappa and other Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders ignored warnings by the Shivamogga district administration, and took out a funeral procession for Harsha on Monday. According to news reports in a bit to prevent communal unrest after Bajrang Dal activist Harsha Jingade’s murder on February 20, the district administration had imposed prohibitory orders, which were defied by Eshwarappa and Shivamogga member of Parliament (MP) BY Raghavendra and other right-wing leaders. Communal unrest had followed where a mob attacked several Muslim neighbourhoods, pelting stones and damaging property in the violence that lasted several hours on Monday, reported Hindustan Times.
After Harsha’s final rites and the procession, Kali Swami, Pramod Muthalik and their supporters, called for a press conference and detailed how they too wanted to hold a ‘yatra’ ceremonial journey from Shivamogga to Mysore. Kali alleged that the BJP government denied them permission and accused the party of “protecting Muslims only, and not Hindu interests.” He added, “Harsha’s martyrdom will not go to waste.” Muthallik said that the ‘hindutva movement’ will next intensify in Srirangapatna. He also said the “Srirangapatna mosque will be liberated.”
It was Kali Swami who had given the calls for demolition of the Srirangapatna Mosque “in the same Way As Babri Masjid” a month ago. He had made a video, claiming the mosque in Srirangapatna “was once a temple” and “must be demolished in the same manner as Babri Masjid was.” He called on Hindus to “wake up, this needs to be done.” He was arrested by the Chikmagalur police. “He was released two days later,” recalled Karnataka based journalist and activist Shiv Sundar. The arrest was after an officer of the Archeology department had complained that he was trespassing a protecting monument and had distrubed the communal harmony and peace in the region. However, Rishi Kumar/ Kali Swami did not really get much support or popularity after that short stint behind bars.
Luckily for him, Pramod Muthallik is now seen as a fading hate offender, and a near-retirement saffron brigade foot soldier. These are the perfectly sized saffron shoes he may want to fit into. As a younger bigot, his hate speech career may last longer than that of the aging ones. Kali reportedly told TV9 Kannada that he was “still committed” to his call for demolition of the mosque, adding that like in Ayodhya, “Srirangapatna we’ll build a Ram temple.”
Coastal Karnataka is the playground of Bajrang Dal, which is at its most active now, perhaps Kali Swami’s statement, of calling for “demolishing the mosque” is also to seek their attention and favour. He has for years been a regular on Kannada channels and YouTube channels of various credibility. In 2015 ‘godman’ Rishikumara Swamy shed his religious attire and set to don flashy Sandalwood clothes reported Bangalore Mirror. “After a fling with reality television, cameo roles and even the role of a villain in a new film, he is turning leading man” stated the report. Then too it mentioned how the man had “shot to fame as a ‘moral policing spokesperson’ on Kannada news channel discussions. But a sting operation at the small-time mutt he founded, Kali Mutt, put him in the dock. The sting operation had caught him promising deals. A crying Rishikumara claimed it was fake and that itself became a topic of TV discussions.”
He tried to resurrect his career by participating in the first edition of the Kannada Bigg Boss and lost. Soon his acting career faded over time. But now he hopes that as the Hidutva fires rage on, he too will find a way to set up shop.
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