Around midnight on Tuesday, the police from Karnataka's Kodagu district arrived in Madhugiri and arrested journalist Santosh Thammaiah, who is the editor of right leaning magazine Aseema, for making an inflammatory speech against Prophet Mohammed and Tipu Sultan. The Gonikoppa Police had allegedly waited for the completion of Tipu Jayanti celebrations before arresting Santosh in order to avoid any clashes.
On November 6, a resident of Siddapura, Askar KV, filed a complaint with the Gonikoppa Police alleging that Santosh Thammaiah had made an inflammatory speech against Prophet Mohammed at an event organised by a Hindutva group Pragnya Kaveri titled 'Tipu Karaala Mukha Anaavarana' (Exposure of Tipu's dark side).
According to Askar’s complaint, Thammaiah said, “It was because of the Prophet’s ideologies that Tipu Sultan carried out terrorist acts.”
A poster of the event
“Such speech can lead to unrest and disrupt the peace in Kodagu as Santosh Thammaiah has insulted the Prophet in his speech," Askar's complaint states.
Askar's complaint alleges that Santosh's speech was aimed at creating unrest between the minority community of Muslims from Kerala, who are residing in Kodagu, and the Hindus in the region. Askar also filed a complaint against an RSS man from Mysuru, Santosh Hosalli, alleging that Hosalli, too, made inflammatory statements against the Muslim community residing in Kodagu. Askar states in his complaint, “He (Santosh Hosalli) is using the Tipu Jayanti event as an excuse to create communal unrest when all we want is to live in peace.”
According to the Gonikoppa Police, the event was organised by members of a Hindutva group in order to oppose the state-sponsored celebration of Tipu Jayanti.
"They did not have police permission to organise the event. Yet they went ahead and held the programme. The complaint was filed on November 6 and we told the complainant that we can arrest Santosh after Tipu Jayanti celebrations, as there was a possibility that some clashes may have erupted," the Gonikoppa Police said.
However, several Muslim organisations protested outside the Gonikoppa Police Station on November 11 calling for Santosh's arrest.
"We arrested him around midnight on Tuesday. He has been booked under Section 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the IPC. He will be produced before the Ponnampet Court later today (Tuesday)," the police added.
According to police sources, Santosh was also a columnist for another right leaning published in Hubballi and Mangaluru – Hosa Digantha. He also has a website dedicated to publishing content against members of the Muslim community.
Reacting to Santosh's arrest Chikkamagaluru MLA CT Ravi took to Twitter to defend the journalist.
"Santosh Thammaiah who spoke about the brutalities against Hindus by Tyrant Tippu Sultan has been arrested by the Communal Government in Karnataka. Bhagavan & Pseudo Intellectuals like him who have consistently abused Hindu Gods are roaming free," CT Ravi said in his tweet.
Santosh Thammaiah who spoke about the brutalities against Hindus by Tyrant Tippu Sultan has been arrested by the Communal Government in Karnataka.— C.T.Ravi (@CTRavi_BJP) November 12, 2018
Bhagavan & Pseudo Intellectuals like him who have consistently abused Hindu Gods are roaming free.#IStandWithSantoshThammaiah
Soon after, BJP MLA from Mahadevapura, Aravind Limbavali too tweeted in support of Santosh.
"Death of democracy is when your freedom of speech is curbed. Arresting a Journalist #Santosh Thammaiah for speaking against barbarism of fanatic Tippu shows this Cong-JDS govt is all about appeasement politics. It’s a shame that govt is imposing emergency like situation in state," MLA Aravind Limbavali's tweets states.
Death of democracy is when your freedom of speech is curbed. Arresting a Journalist #Santosh Thammaiah for speaking against barbarism of fanatic Tippu shows this Cong-JDS govt is all about appeasement politics. It’s a shame that govt is imposing emergency like situation in state pic.twitter.com/MphR6ejKAy— Arvind Limbavali (@bjparvind) November 13, 2018
On Tuesday afternoon, members of various Hindutva groups took to the streets of Gonikoppa to protest Santosh's arrest. Protesters resorted to sloganeering and called for Santosh's release. They alleged that Santosh's right to free speech had been breached.
Soon, several members of Hindutva groups took to Twitter and expressed solidarity with the arrested journalist using #IAmWithSantoshThammaiah