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Sop Box - Suprabha NK - The Sunday Indian
 
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Sop Box

 

Two hurriedly rescinded decisions have given Karnataka government the anti-Hindu tag
SUPRABHA NK | Issue Dated: December 1, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : Karnataka Pradesh Congress Samiti | KPCC | Karnataka | Siddaramaiah | Yeddyurappa | Deve Gowda |
 

In run up to Lok Sabha elections, the Congress government in Karnataka is pulling out all stops. There are sops galore to woo the electorate, and for every sop the Siddaramaiah government offers, the opposition parties leave no stone unturned to burst the bubbly, leading to more controversies than the state can afford.

 

Two recent decisions of the state government have come up for flack. Not surprisingly, both are intrinsically connected to vote bank politics. Even as the bidai scheme for girls from poor Muslim families was still raging, the state has been hit by a fresh controversy over the Anti-Superstition Bill.

 

The opposition sensing in it a chance to get even, are going all out to embarrass the government; both the Deve Gowda-held JD (S) and Yeddyurappa-led Karnataka Janata Paksh (KJP) accuse the government of opportunism and dividing communities. In an avalanche of criticism, the state government appears to have developed cold feet and the decisions seem to have taken a step back.

 

Recently the Karnataka government in an effort to woo the Muslim community came up with a novel bidai scheme where poor Muslim girls get Rs 50,000 as government assistance for marriage. Such decisions, as the Congress knows from its past, are bound to end in criticism and charges of minority appeasement.

 

KJP president and former BJP Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa refused to call off a 15-day demonstration, asking the government instead to enlarge the scope of the decision to include all poor brides.

 

A badly-slit opposition united for a change and demanded that the government extend the scheme to every poor bride. After facing a barrage of criticism from virtually all sections of a charged political electorate, Siddaramaiah announced that he will extend the schemes all APL card holders. Yeddyurappa remained defiant. “There is no question of withdrawing the agitation, unless the government issues an order extending the scheme to all,” refusing to accept mere promises made by chief minister Siddaramaiah.

 

If having the opposition at his throat was not bad enough, there were murmurs from even the Muslim community which the government wanted to please. Though the bidai scheme was mostly welcomed by the community, they say there is adequate lack of foresight, given the size of the allocations. For instance, they say a budget size of over Rs 1 lakh crore for a Muslim population of over 70 lakh in the state is grossly inadequate. ‘‘The beneficiaries of the scheme are 1000 odd persons – about four each will be selected from the 224 assembly constituencies in Karnataka. The government announced a scheme which will not benefit people much and will give the community a bad name and charges of appeasement. If you have a scheme, it should be targeted at poor families of all minority communities, not just Muslims,’’ says journalist Husen Pasha.

 

The government is on the back foot on another score: it is facing the wrath for trying to push through the Anti-Superstition Bill which bans traditional state rituals like bhoomi pooja or pada pooja.

 

The bill wants a state ban on practices that hurt human dignity and consciousness like madae snana (rolling on the food leftovers of upper castes), pankti bheda (separate seating for lower castes), banamathi (black magic), sidi aadodu (piercing the back with iron spikes and spinning it) and gaavu jigiyodu (kill a lamb by biting its neck).

 

The chief minister’s hasty announcement to introduce the bill in the next session of legislature has not gone too well with traditional society, non-political elements, political opponents and even Congressmen.

 

Under fire, Siddaramaiah announced he was not keen to introduce the bill in the next session and blamed the media for jumping to conclusions even before the issue was discussed within the government.

 

But clearly the chief minister’s U-turn came when former Karnataka Pradesh Congress Samiti(KPCC) president and senior Congress leader Janardhana Poojary and current KPCC president G Parameshwar gave vent to the feelings of many leaders within the Congress camp. Poojary opposed the bill publicly while Parameshwar said the bill was not discussed within the party and was not there in the Congress manifesto so there was no need to introduce it and open up a pandor'a box.

 

So before the BJP and others could make capital, Siddaramaiah seems to have realised the odds and backed out - albeit angrily. ‘‘We have not even discussed the issue. So where is the question of tabling the bill in a hurry? The fact is that a committee of intellectuals and writers has submitted a draft to fight superstitious practices. It does not mean that we are going to implement it right away,’’ he asserted, going back on what some said was a progressive piece of legislation. Naturally religions figures too are involved in the public spat. Speaking to the media Vishveshatheertha, the Pejawar mutt pontiff, also known as the man who gave sanyas deekshe (initiation) to former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharti, said “My only concern is it shouldn't turn out to be a law that bans all poojas and temples. On other things, let us see what the law actually says because the chief minister himself has pointed out that the bill has not been properly formulated as yet. Let them table the law, we will react then.’’

 

But opinion here appeared divided. Veerabhadra Channamalla, the Nedumamidi mutt pontiff who is often regarded as ‘‘too much of a rationalist’’, welcomed the bill. ‘‘I appreciate the Karnataka government for it. This law is the result of the agitation of progressive groups and thinkers over several years. It is not being imposed by the government. It is not right to interpret it in those terms.’’

 

To be sure, Karanataka has long been home to rationalists. Laws to eradicate rituals like bettale seve (nude worship) and the devadasi paddathi are not new. Former CM S Bangarappa banned bettale seve while his predecessor Devaraj Urs stopped lower castes from carrying night soil (human excreta) on their heads.

 

Nedumamidi went a step further when he suggested that other popular forms also needed control ‘‘I feel strongly when astrology, vaastu and homas are turned into business propositions on TV channels. They should be stopped, though at an individual level they are alright,’’ he said. One thing is clear though: If the new bill is implemented across religions and applicable to practices such as faith-healing among Christians or whipping among Muslims, the Karnataka government can get rid of its anti-Hindu tag which it has earned recently.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017