Chikkamagaluru police are investigating whether violent incidents in the lead up to Datta Jayanti celebrations at Bababudangiri were planned in advance by activists of Hindu extremist outfits.
Police officials in the district resorted to a lathi-charge during Datta Jayanti celebrations at the Inam Dattatreya Peeta on Sundayafter a few people entered the burial ground next to the temple and damaged plaques in it. In the evening, some members of a pro-Hindu outfit also pelted stones at a private bus.
The police are now examining videos of speeches by leaders, including Bajrang Dal district convener Tudukuru Manju, which reportedly indicate that the disruptions on Sunday were planned by the organisation beforehand and were not a spontaneous act by the mob gathered.
“We are examining footage of speeches by several leaders going as far back as August this year. Bababudangiri is a unique area, both in terms of its geography and the communally charged atmosphere surrounding it. This year, with the elections coming up, we had deployed high security in the area but few people disrupted a tombstone in a graveyard outside the temple premises,” said K Annamalai, Superintendent of Police (SP), Chikkamagaluru.
Datta Jayanti celebrations at Bababudangiri were fraught with tension with over 25,000 devotees gathering at the hill-top shrine. Over 2000 policemen were deployed in the area as a precautionary measure.
For decades, the shrine has been a pilgrimage spot for both Hindus and Muslims. While Hindus consider the hill to be the final resting place of Dattatreya, the Muslim community believe the dargah is one of the earliest centres of Sufism in south India.
Over the last two decades the BJP, Bajrang Dal, VHP and other pro-Hindu outfits have been demanding that the shrine be declared a Hindu temple, with the first incident of saffron flag-hoisting in 1998.
On December 3, Chikkamagaluru MLA CT Ravi, who belongs to the BJP, and Suryanarayana Rao of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) gave provocative speeches regarding the disputed site of the holy shrine and claimed that “official records proved” that the shrine “belonged to the Hindus”. Since 1975, the shrine has been at the centre of a prolonged dispute over its ownership, with Syed Ghouse Mohiuddin Shah Khadri, the hereditary administrator of the shrine involved in a series of legal battles with the Wakf board and members of pro-Hindu groups.