It was an event to promote communal harmony that was appreciated by many people: On Saturday, the Udupi Sri Krishna Temple, led by Paryaya Sri Vishweshteertha Swamiji, hosted an Iftar event called Souharda Koota, to promote harmony between Hindus and Muslims.
But some groups exist to hate any coming together of communities - and Sri Rama Sene has proved, once again, that it’s one of them.
The radical right-wing group’s leader, Pramod Muthalik, lashed out at the Krishna Mutt and its seer for hosting the Iftar, and has called it an ‘insult’ to Hindus.
In fact, Muthalik said this right after a meeting with the seer of the Pejawar Math, where he urged Sri Vishweshateertha Swamiji to never hold such get-togethers inside the Mutt agaib.
“Two days ago, Iftar Koota was held in the Sri Krishna Mutt. I cancelled all my programmes today to come here and strongly condemn it. It is an insult to the Hindu community to invite cow slaughterers inside the Krishna Math and honour them by holding a harmony programme. It does not suit either the Mutt or the Swamiji,” Pramod Muthalik told media persons after the meeting.
The meeting with the seer did not go well for Muthalik. While the talks went on for over half an hour, the Pejawar Mutt seer was firm in his dealing with the Sri Rama Sene leader. He told Muthalik that he had done nothing wrong by holding the Iftar Koota, and criticised the radical leader for trying to create disharmony.
“Members of the Muslim community have always supported me, be it during the Paryaya or Udupi Chalo protest. Some people are deliberately trying to create differences between Hindus and Muslims by making unwanted statements. Neither the Hindu community nor the Mutt was harmed in any way by the Iftar Koota. It was a good initiative which wanted people to be more tolerant and welcoming. It was meant to foster warmth and affection between the two communities,” the seer said, speaking to media persons.
Condemning Muthalik for calling the members of the Muslim community “cow slaughterers”, the seer said that most of the people from the Hindu community, too, eat beef and “we cannot boycott them.”
“One can try to convince them not to eat beef. Sri Rama Sene is unnecessarily trying to outrage members of the Hindu community and create communal tensions. I did whatever I thought was right and fair. I am an independent person. I never insulted Hindu religion by organizing the get-together,” he added.
Muthalik was clearly miffed, and declared that the talks with the seer had failed. He then said that his group would discuss the matter and decide on a further course of action.
“Sri Vishweshateertha is not the Swamiji for Udupi alone but for the entire Hindu community, and a beacon for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. When Hindu leaders are laying down their lives to protect cows, calling beef eaters to the Math premises and offering them respect is unacceptable. The entire state is angry with the Mutt.”
Contradicting himself, Muthalik further said: “The Swamiji said that religious tolerance is one of the basic tenets of Hinduism. We are not against religious tolerance, but holding the Iftar get-together inside the Mutt premises and offering prayers here is wrong.”
He went on to offer his version of “logic” and said that Iftar should not be observed in a temple as Ganeshotsava and Ugadi were not celebrated in mosques.
“Is there any example of Ganeshotsava or Ugadi being celebrated in the premises of any mosque? Being a Hindu leader, if Swamiji does this, what will happen to us who protect cows? What kind of message is he conveying to the cow protectors? This Iftar Koota may be continued by the next Swamiji who ascends the Paryaya Peetha too. Hence, we should condemn it and not allow it to happen again,” Muthalik said.
"Political parties are competing with each other to host Iftar parties, but when it comes to the Mutt, it is a question of Hindu religion and culture. It is not political," he added.
The Pejawar Mutt seer, though, was completely unfazed by Muthalik’s bigotry.
On Muthalik's objection to allow the performance of Namaz in the Mutt premises, he said, “The Namaz was offered in the public dining hall and in accordance with the practice of the Muslim community. It has not demeaned the Hindu religion in any way, but some people want to create intolerance. Sri Krishna Mutt has been striving to foster Hindu-Muslim unity for ages.”
The seer also said that even historically, the two communities have managed to peacefully coexist in Karnataka.
“In 1904, one of the Mutt’s senior seers had received offerings from Haji Abdullah at his house. Sri Madhwacharya had good relation with the Muslim community. As many as 800 years ago, Mantralaya Mutt’s land was donated by a Muslim sultan to Raghavendra Mutt’s swamiji. Sathyabhodha Swamiji of Uttaradhi Math was in good terms with members of the other community. Just like all of them, I too intend have good relations with the Muslim community. There should be peaceful co-existence between people,” he said.
"Members of the Muslim community have invited me for many programmes and I have visited inaugural functions of many mosques. I was received warmly in areas like Bhatkal, Kasargod and some parts of Uttara Kannada district. All is well, but Sri Rama Sene looks disappointed,” he added.
The Sri Rama Sene is planning to hold a protest against the Pejawar seer on July 2. Lashing out at the Sene's move, the Youth Congress leader, Vishwas Amin said that the party would stop Pramod Muthalik from holding the protest.
"On July 2, the Sri Rama Sene will hold a protest against Sri Vishweshateertha Swamiji's gesture to host Iftar get-together for Muslims in Sri Krishna Math premises. Youth Congress strongly condemns this. We will not allow the protest to take place, and if need be, will hold a counter protest on the same day with police permission. And if they try to gherao the Sri Krishna Math, we will stand with Sri Vishweshateertha Swamiji and extend support," he said.
"Udupi has set an example for peace and communal harmony with people from different communities co-existing here for centuries. Though the neighbouring district of Dakshina Kannada has witnessed communal violence time and again, it has not affected Udupi. The reason for this is Udupi's peace-loving population. But people like Pramod Muthalik are trying to disrupt peace and spark communal unrest here by blowing small issues out of proportion,” he added