A group of Hindu supremacists vandalised stalls owned by Muslims near a temple in Karnataka’s Dharwad district on Saturday, the Deccan Herald reported.
The incident took place outside the Nuggikeri Anjaneya temple on the outskirts of Dharwad city. Ten of the people who engaged in the violence reportedly belong to Hindutva organisation Sri Ram Sene.
A video by News18 showed a group of people smashing watermelons from a stall on the ground, as people look on.
Police personnel were present nearby but did not act to stop the vandalisation, The Indian Express quoted a resident as saying.
The watermelon vendor, Nabisab, said that about eight to ten people came and vandalised the stall. “I had bought six quintals of watermelon and only one quintal was sold,” he said.
Nabisab said that he had been doing business in front of the temple for the past 15 years and had never faced problems before.
Krishnakanth, the Dharwad superintendent of police, said that officers have registered a first information report, but no arrests have been made yet. Police personnel have been deployed at the temple to prevent such incidents from recurring.
A member of the management body of the temple, Narasimha Swamy Desai, said that permission was granted to poor families to conduct business, according to the Deccan Herald. He added that about 99% of those who were allowed to set up stalls were Hindus.
Desai said that the temple management will hold discussions in order to arrive at a decision on the matter.
Janata Dal (Secular) leader HD Kumaraswamy said that those vandalised the stalls are “neither humans nor Hindus”, according to The Indian Express.
He added, “What is the difference between terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir who kill people and these people who are snatching away livelihood of the poor with vandalism?”
In the past few weeks, Hindutva organisations in Karnataka have objected to Muslims setting up stalls near temples. In the wake of the campaign, several temples in the state announced that they would not allow Muslims to open stalls at their annual fairs. Muslims have reportedly been running stalls at these fairs for many years.
On March 23, Karnataka Law Minister JC Madhuswamy had said in the state Assembly that according to the Hindu Religious Institutions And Charitable Endowments Act, there is a ban on leasing space near a Hindu religious institution to a non-Hindu.
Campaigns targeting Muslims in Karnataka
For months now, Hindutva groups in Karnataka have launched several campaigns targeting Muslims, and engaged in violence against them.
In January, Hindutva activists had objected to students wearing hijabs in schools and colleges. Some Hindu students had started a coordinated campaign to wear saffron scarves to class in order to force colleges to ban the hijab.
The Karnataka government had on February 5 banned clothes that “disturb equality, integrity and public order” in educational institutions. On March 15, the Karnataka High Court upheld the government order and ruled that wearing hijab was not essential to Islam.
Hindutva groups are also demanding a ban on the use of loudspeakers in mosques, saying they lead to noise pollution. The Sri Ram Sene had threatened to protest if the government fails to take action in the matter.