The civil society group Bahutva Karnataka on Tuesday, May 10, announced a harmony convention in Udupi that will take place on May 14, aimed at initiating interfaith dialogue amid recent communal tensions in the coastal district.
The convention was announced in a press conference held in Bengaluru's Press Club on Thursday by dignitaries including the historian Ramachandra Guha, social activist Mavalli Shankar and Kannada writer K Shariefa. "Karnataka is a land of many religions and cultures and coastal Karnataka is an important educational centre. It is tragic that the current wave of communal violence started in Udupi including in a college that is named after Mahatma Gandhi. We must not allow vigilantes to take the law into their hands," Ramachandra Guha said.
The speakers emphasised that there is a need for interfaith dialogue in Udupi, which has been a site of communal tensions since the start of this year. "Without communal harmony, there is no development. It is necessary to protect our social fabric because it is akin to protecting the idea of our nation," Kannada writer K Shariefa said during the press conference.
The convention in Udupi will include a unity march by leaders of various organisations starting from Hutatma Chowk in Ajjarkad in Udupi. A 'harmony convention' will be held with religious leaders of all faiths at the Christian School (Mission Compound) in Udupi later that day. The speakers at the convention are social activist Yogendra Yadav and former IAS officer Sasikanth Senthil. It also includes a music programme by MD Pallavi, a Kannada singer and activist.
"Thousands of people from different parts of the state and from various civil society groups will be in Udupi for the march and convention," said Vinay Sreenivasa, a Bengaluru-based advocate and activist, who is one of the organisers.
The convention comes months after the controversy over wearing the hijab in classrooms which began in a government pre-university college in Udupi. Following the Karnataka High Court verdict disallowing the wearing of hijabs in the classroom in March, an unofficial bandh observed by a section of the Muslim community further angered Hindutva groups. Muslim street vendors were later barred from doing business in temple fairs in the district in a move targeted by Hindutva groups in the region.