By Akhlad Khan – Twitter @BawaNaaved
As the ban on Muslim traders from setting up stalls on temple premises or at temple fairs in the Indian state of Karnataka spreads, dismay is growing among temple committees organising the festivals as well as traders. On Monday, two BJP leaders went vocal on their opposition to the move, urging the state government to take action.
The call first came after Muslim traders in coastal Karnataka downed shutters in protest against the hijab court order. Since then, a rule in a previous Act is being cited to keep them out of temple premises and fairs.
Among the fairs and temples are Muslim traders, who have run shops for years, and were recently kept out of are the annual Hosa Margudi and Kollur Mookambika fairs, and the Bappanadu Durgaparameshwari, Mangaladevi and Puttur Mahalingeshwara temples in Dakshina Kannada.
Bappanadu, a shrine near Mangaluru, incidentally is considered a symbol of communal harmony. The Durgaparameshwari temple there is said to have been built with the contributions of Bappa, a Muslim merchant. The head of its management committee said he had turned down the VHP’s demand to keep Muslim traders out, but they had themselves stayed away due to the row.
The ban has hit Muslim traders just when they were looking forward to normal profits post-Covid. The six-month temple fair season in coastal Karnataka, from November to April, is nearing its end. During this period, the region sees 40-50 annual festivals, with traders from outside of Karnataka coming to pitch up stalls.
“The annual festival season and Urs starts around November and ends by April. All these years, we would do business in at least 40-50 places. Never did we imagine that religion would become a reason to boycott us.”Hussain, 54, of Haleangadi village in Dakshina Kannada district, a toy seller of 35 years
Hussain, 54, of Haleangadi village in Dakshina Kannada district, has been selling toys for 35 years, having taken up his father’s business. “The annual festival season and Urs start around November and end by April. All these years, we would do business in at least 40-50 places. Never did we imagine that religion would become a reason to boycott us.”
Hussain says fellow shopkeepers who are Hindus also feel bad about what is happening. “We live together for at least six months during this time. We share food, work for each other… Those who are in this business will never join this anti-Muslim campaign because they know our pain. It is outsiders who are pressuring the temple authorities.”
He says that after paying rent for setting up stalls — Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 – and salaries to staff, their profits are minimal and have been falling. “In some places, we earn up to Rs 30,000, but in others, we barely break even or end up with losses. But, if we do well, these six months help us through the remaining six.”
Suleiman, 55, from Mangaluru, says the ban is the last straw and he has made up his mind to give up the toy selling business he has been in for 25 years. “It is sad… When we meet temple committee members, they request us to stay away saying they are under pressure, that some Hindu organisations have threatened them with dire consequences if they allow Muslims to do business at festivals.”
Mahaveer, who heads the management of Bappanadu Shri Durgaparameshwari Temple and is its ‘Dugganna Savantharu’ since coronation in 2008, says it is the first time such a situation has arisen at the temple’s annual festival, which goes back at least 400 years.
“As part of the administration we have not barred any Muslim from the festival as this temple also symbolises harmony between communities. Yes, we did receive a request from the VHP to not allow Muslims to do trade, but we declined it. But, sensing the situation, the Muslims who had enrolled stayed away. Some of them who had registered withdrew their applications while others never applied.”
The Duggana Savantharu said calls to bar Muslims first started after the emergence of Covid, with hate messages spreading on social media. “We faced this for the first time at the Durga Parameshwari temple in Kateel last January. From then, it spread to other parts.”
The Rule 12 of the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 2002, being cited to keep Muslim traders out, states, “No property, including land, building or sites situated near the premises shall be leased to non-Hindus.”
Prakash Kukkehalli, the leader of the Hindu Jagaran Vedike, which was at the forefront of the anti-hijab protests, has said they are just following rules set by the government and that people who do not subscribe to the same cannot be allowed to do business.
A Hindu shopkeeper who had installed his toy shop at the recently concluded Bappanadu Shri Durgaparameshwari Temple festival said that everyone has been silenced by the threat posed by pro-Hindu outfits. “If I speak out against them, they will ensure I can’t install shops at other festivals.”
The shopkeeper also asks why police had not taken any action against people who had put up posters spreading hateful propaganda.
With the inputs of Indian express agency.