The Bengaluru police have received at least five complaints against a right-wing Hindu group for allegedly raising saffron flags at shops in the Vijaynagar market area in the city. The complaints point to social media posts which say that only certain shops owned by members of the majority community were being marked. The police have not filed a first information report (FIR) over this.
On May 18, members of a pro-Hindu group installed saffron flags on shops in the area. A video of the incident, too, had surfaced on social media. After some of the flags were removed over the next two days, the members of the Hindu group returned two days later to tie saffron flags again on pushcarts and shops in the area.
Following this, residents and advocates filed five separate complaints at Vijayanagar police station, highlighting social media posts stating that shops were being marked along religious lines in an attempt to communalise the area.
"They tied saffron flags to pushcarts of street vendors and shops. This was done when the shops were closed and no one was around. Some of us removed the flags but they returned to place the flags back two days later," Manjanna, a street vendor who sells vegetables in the market, told TNM.
"We were trying to re-start our business after the lockdown when this happened," Manjanna added.
ML Shivakumar Gowda, a Bajrang Dal leader who led the move to raise flags, had uploaded a video of the act on social media. "A few miscreants have deliberately removed the flags that were tied to the shops of all Hindus in Vijayanagara on Monday (May 18). We have once again tied the flags," he said in a social media post.
"We asked shop owners and vendors to voluntarily put up the Bhagwa Dhwaja (saffron flags) and many have done so. It is not against any rule to do that," Harsha Muthalik, a member of the Bajrang Dal says.
Two street vendor associations — Bengaluru Jilla Beedhi Vyapari Sanghatanegala Okkuta and Vijayanagar Street Foods and Vegetable Vendors Welfare Association — filed complaints at the Vijayanagar police station against what they described as attempts to communalise the market area.
Additionally, advocate Maitreyi Krishnan of the All India People's Forum, Sindhu Rao, resident of the area and activist Gowri of the Karnataka Janashakti Organisation, too, filed complaints at the police station.
Speaking to TNM, Gopi Naidu of the Street Foods and Vegetable Vendors Welfare Association, said that the market has maintained communal harmony since it was started in the 1980s. "There is no overt communalisation of the market area in Vijaynagar. We are a community that celebrates all religions," he says.
Although officials of the Vijayanagar police station have given an acknowledgement of the complaint filed on Saturday, they are yet to register an FIR.
Ramesh Bhanot, Bengaluru (West) Deputy Commissioner of Police, told TNM, "We have written to BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) to check if any permission was taken to raise the flags. In some cases, the shop owners said that they have raised the flags and some other shop owners said that they have not raised flags and found it when they came to the shop. Some of the flags are even raised in public places and we are verifying the details of this.”