Ambedkar photo row: Massive protest by Dalit groups in Bengaluru against judge

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai met the protesters, accepted their memorandum and promised to try to fulfill their demands.
A sea of protesters with blue flags making their way on the Race Course Road flyover in Bengaluru
A sea of protesters with blue flags making their way on the Race Course Road flyover in Bengaluru
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A huge protest march was held in Bengaluru on Saturday, February 19, demanding that a Karnataka district judge who objected to placing BR Ambedkar's portrait next to Mahatma Gandhi’s portrait on Republic Day in Raichur be suspended. The massive rally which clogged the Anand Rao circle flyover, prompted Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai to meet the protesters in Freedom Park. Accepting their memorandum, Bommai promised to convey their demands to the relevant people. CM Bommai meeting protesters at the park was unusual in itself. 

Visuals of the protest showed a sea of people holding up the blue flags of the Karnataka Dalit Sangharsha as well as that some flags of the SDPI. According to reports, the rally saw sloganeering as well, with people shouting ‘We want justice’ and that the ‘Government does not belong to anyone’s father’. Scores of people were also seen in blue t-shirts, holding up placards with BR Ambedkar’s photo on it. Photographs also showed a sea of people taking up the Maurya Circle flyover as they looked to march towards Vidhana Soudha. 

Protesters from the Dalit Sangharsha Samiti and allies from labour unions, farmers, women and student groups from Bengaluru and other parts of the state gathered responding to the call by Samvidhana Samrakshana Maha Okkutta at the City Railway Station. TThey demanded the suspension of Judge Mallikarjuna Gowda who belongs to the Vokkaliga community and that strict legal action be initiated against him. They also demanded that Ambedkar's portrait be displayed in every court hall of the state, apart from his picture being placed at all judicial programmes.

Following the incident on Republic Day, there were multiple small-scale protests held in various parts of the state demanding strict action. But so far, he has only been transferred from his position of Principal District and Sessions of Raichur District to the presiding officer of the Karnataka State Transport Appellate Tribunal, Bengaluru. 

Responding to the criticism, Judge Malikarjuna had claimed that he did not mean any disrespect to Ambedkar. In a press statement, he said the portrait of Ambedkar was never removed and there was false propaganda against him. He said, “Some advocates approached me and demanded that Ambedkar’s portrait be placed next to that of Mahatma Gandhi as per a government order. I told them that the High Court Registrar had informed us in our Leaders Group that the government order was before the full bench (of the High Court) and asked us to wait till the decision was made on the matter and requested them not to force me.” 

Later on February 4, the full court of Karnataka High Court had decided to place the portrait of Ambedkar at all official functions of the HC, district and taluk courts of the state. 


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