Kannada channel report on Hindu drivers opposing Muslim colleagues false says BMTC

The report had also claimed that the saffron-sporting employees had also formed an organisation and had some 1,500 registered members.
An employee of BMTC bus
An employee of BMTC bus
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A few days after a Kannada news channel alleged that Hindu drivers from Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) were wearing saffron shawls to protest against Muslim employees sporting skull caps at work, both BMTC and workers unions have said there was no such planned protest. A private news channel had recently showed montages of BMTC drivers and insisted that some Hindu employees, irked by their Muslim colleagues wearing skull caps during work hours, had registered their protest by wearing saffron coloured shawls. BMTC officials however denied any such incident taking place and said that after a detailed inquiry, had shown that the claims of the news channel were false.

An official of the BMTC told TNM, “They showed a montage of unrelated clippings and then claimed that Hindu employees were wearing saffron shawls to protest against Muslim employees wearing skull caps. This is not true at all. The driver they spoke to had a saffron coloured cloth and when the reporter asked him about it, the driver had answered saying he was using it to dry his face. But they went ahead and reported it as a protest against Muslim employees. This news is fake.”

The report had also claimed that the saffron-sporting employees had also formed an organisation and had some 1,500 registered members. BMTC has a uniform that has to be worn by its drivers and conductors and other staff and according to BMTC, some of them wear skull caps along with the uniform. This has been in practice for several years now. Speaking to TNM, KSRTC Staff and Workers Federation President HV Anantha Subbarao said even they had gone by media reports of the incident and had not received any complaints from the staff about it. “This has not been reported anywhere in the state. We only heard about this from media reports.

The practice of wearing skull caps by some Muslims has been around for some time and they also offer prayers. But this has not caused any problems before. Each depot also celebrates Ganesha festival where all employees regardless of their religion take part. Never has there been any communal tensions here,” he said. Subbarao also said that if some Hindus wanted to wear saffron shawls due to their beliefs, then it was their prerogative. “But they should not wear it as a form of retaliation. In general, there are a lot of Muslims working in this sector and we have never faced a problem of communal disharmony. The transport segment has always co-existed very peacefully and we condemn any hateful propaganda,” he added.

What has incensed leaders from the unions are the already existing caste-based groups and they fear the slightest spark of communal tension might aggravate tensions. “We need the higher-ups to be more vigilant. If the ruling political dispensation chooses to encourage such division among people, then it will become very difficult. The Chief Minister has to be more alert and make sure no dissension surfaces,” he cautioned.

CITU-affiliated Karnataka Transport Employees Federation’s Vice President Prakash also denied there were problems among the employees. “There might be a few individuals who might be following their religious beliefs and wearing shawls. But to say there is a planned campaign or a formation of an organisation is totally false,” he said. Prakash acknowledged that some people might be following political parties whether it was BJP or Congress. “The action of a few individuals who might be wearing something in their personal capacity cannot be construed as a planned campaign. Saying there is an organisation formed with so many members is completely untrue,” he said.

In January this year, a BMTC bus passenger had complained about saffron flags found fixed inside the bus. The passenger tweeted to BMTC and Transport complaining about communalising government vehicles. Following the complaint, BMTC had immediately removed the flags. There was a similar controversy in Kerala recently after a photo of Kerala Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus driver wearing a skullcap went viral. It was alleged that he wasn't wearing a uniform but a fact check proved it wrong.

(TNM has not named the channel only because the news report is not available anywhere.)

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