By Akhlad Khan
After hate speeches at a closed door Hindu religious conclave (Dharam Sansad) in Haridwar district of Uttarakhand state sparked outrage over open calls for genocide against Muslims in December last year, now, a Member of a Hindutva group in Karnataka state’s Vijayapura district said that those in veil/hijabs will be cut into pieces.
A video surfaced the social media, in which ABVP (a Hindu organization) activist, Pooja Veera Shetty, openly calls for Muslim genocide at an event organised to protest against the murder of a Hindu Organization ‘Bajrang Dal’ member, Harsha in Shivamogga of Karnataka.
“If you ask for water, Indians will give you juice. If you ask for milk, we’ll give you curd. But, if you want Veil/Hijab all over India, we will chop you all with Shivaji’s (a Hindu warrior) sword,” the ABVP activist referring to Muslim girls said amid applause and loud cheers from the crowd.
“Saffron is India. We are happy with all the arrests that have been made, but it’s not enough, if you (government) cannot do it, give us 24 hours, let the government give us just one hour, not just these six girls in hijab, we’ll cut 60,000 (Muslim girls) in hijab into pieces,” Pooja said referring to the hijab controversy which first broke out after six Muslim girls demanded permission to wear veil/hijab in classroom at a Government PU college in Udupi.
A 27-year-old Bajrang Dal activist, Harsha, was stabbed to death by a group of people on Sunday, February 20 night. Following the murder, right wing groups allegedly vandalised and set fire to vehicles in the area. Stone-pelting and instances of arson were reported in many Muslim localities of the district during his funeral procession. Right-wing groups and leaders have widely condemned his killing and held protests across the state.
The deceased Harsha had earlier participated in protests which were held against the wearing of veil/hijab in educational institutions organized by Hindu groups earlier this month, which had seen many Hindu students and protestors wearing saffron scarves in reaction against the wearing of veil/hijab by Muslim students. Pictures of Harsha in a saffron scarf, protesting with students at Sahyadri College in Shivamogga of Karnataka state on 7 February were shared on his social media accounts.
While the details of what led to the youth’s alleged murder are yet to be known, senior BJP leader and Minister for Rural Development, K.S. Eshwarappa, has accused “Muslim goons” of killing Harsha.
The 26-year-old being declared “dead on arrival” by a local hospital also sparked outrage among Hindu organisations, leading to violence, though district authorities downplayed the outburst as “minor incidents”. “There were a few minor incidents following the death of a young man, but the situation was brought under control quickly,” Dr R. Selvamani, Deputy Commissioner of Shivamogga told reporters Monday.
However, Violence and tension had gripped Shivamogga town and parts of Karnataka state. Videos that were shared by the independent journalists reported that the properties of Muslims were targeted, a Muslim truck driver was also allegedly thrashed by the Hindutva workers amid the protest. As violence spread, the police rushed in additional forces and the district administration imposed curbs on public gatherings and shut down schools and colleges. Despite the curbs, a large crowd of Bajrang Dal supporters accompanied the youth’s body as it was taken home. “There were strong rumours that the murder was linked to the hijab ban controversy, but the Home Minister said the probe so far has not revealed any such link”.
Meanwhile, speaking about the recent call of genocide raised by the ABVP activist Pooja, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) told reporters that it “supports” the ABVP activist’s genocide remark. “We support her comment. We are restricting her movement so that the issue is not blown out of proportion since the political climate is not good”, VHP said.
“We will always be against veil/hijab in schools and colleges. So, we support her remark,” a VHP leader told reporters.
The Karnataka High Court has reserved its judgement in the veil/hijab row on Friday after 14 consecutive days of hearing the case. A three-judge bench is hearing the case to decide if schools and colleges can order students not to wear the headscarf in classrooms. The HC had on February 10 restrained all students regardless of their religion or faith from wearing veil/hijab, saffron shawls (Hindu religious cloth), scarfs, flags or any religious items within classrooms until further orders.