Karnataka sees four communal clashes and one riot in just a week

On Sunday night, a Ganesh idol procession turned violent in Kadolkar Galli in North Karnataka's Belagavi district, injuring two police officers

Bengaluru: A fresh wave of communal violence has hit Karnataka. At least five cases of communal clashes, including a riot, erupted in the state’s northern districts in the last one week.

On Sunday night, a Ganesh idol procession turned violent in Kadolkar Galli in North Karnataka’s Belagavi district, 500 km away from Bengaluru, injuring two police officers. No arrests have been made so far, said Belagavi city police commissioner S. Ravi.

The incident came days after a similar immersion procession turned violent in Mudhol in Bagalkot district, resulting in a full-fledged riot on Wednesday.

Rioters torched 21 vehicles, destroyed 40 shops and two houses, apart from injuring 10 police officers, Deccan Herald reported on Thursday.

As tin-shed houses to four-storeyed buildings turned into heaps of ashes in the area, Bakrid celebrations on the following days were a low-key affair, The Hindu reported.

Police has arrested 69 people and invoked Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), prohibiting assembly of more than five persons, in Mudhol, said the report.

Communal violence also erupted in two other parts of north Karnataka—Chikkodi in Belagavi district and Surpur in Yadgir district—on Thursday night and Friday, respectively. Attempts of cow slaughter allegedly sparked the clashes, said a report in The Hindu.

Malapur in Dharwad district also reported cases of communal clashes on Friday and Saturday, state police officials confirmed. About 20 persons are undergoing interrogation in this connection.

“Pockets in north and coastal Karnataka have always been sensitive to communal issues. There has always been little tension during festival times and you just had back to back Ganesha festival and Bakrid," said Sandeep Shasthri, political analyst and pro-vice chancellor of Jain University.

“I think this is a reflection of the increasing level of intolerance towards the other and the polarisation on religious lines on the ground. Political leaders across parties and fringe groups of the Hindu right and Muslim fundamentalists have been stoking fire by making reckless statements here. And the establishment is not seen very effective in countering them," he said.

The polarising events come soon after the state’s rising intolerance levels caught national attention with the murder of progressive Kannada scholar and researcher M.M. Kalburgi, whose remarks on idol worship drew the ire of right-wing Hindu outfits like Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal. He was shot dead by two unknown assailants at his home in Dharwad on 30 August.

Karnataka has a history of Hindu-Muslim face-offs. The state saw 73 riots last year, killing six and injuring 177 people, as per data from the Union home ministry. Around 36 incidents of communal violence, killing two people and injuring 123 others, were reported in the first half of this year, according to the ministry data.

But the actual number could be much more. Mangalore district alone has seen 139 incidents of communal violence so far in this year, noted a report by People’s Union for Civil Liberty (PUCL), a human rights organisation, in August.

Incidentally, curbing communal clashes was one of the main promises of the Congress government when it came to power in Karnataka in 2013.

“The police department has been directed to take suitable measures to prevent anti-democratic activities such as attacks on churches, communal clashes, moral policing and attempts to weaken secular fabric in school textbooks," chief minister Siddaramaiah had said in his first Independence Day address after winning the assembly elections.

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