Bharatiya Janata Party MP Pratap Simha was on Monday prevented by villagers from participating in a ceremony in Mysuru district to mark the Ram Temple consecration in Ayodhya.
The incident happened ahead of a foundation-laying ceremony for a temple in Gujjegowdanapura village in Harohalli panchayat of Mysuru.
The village gained prominence when a Dalit farmer, Ramdas M, provided a stone block for sculpting the idol of Ram Lalla, which was crafted by Mysuru sculptor Arun Yogiraj. Ramdas had also donated land for a Ram temple in the village, and its foundation-laying ceremony was held on Monday coinciding with the pran pratishtha event in Ayodhya.
When Simha arrived in the village located on the outskirts of Mysuru to partake in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ram temple construction, villagers obstructed his entry and asked him to leave, accusing him of being anti-Dalit and inciting discord among various groups.
Residents were also unhappy with Simha’s infrequent visits to the village over the past decade. Simha won Lok Sabha elections from Mysuru-Kodagu seat in 2014 and 2019.
Mobile phone footage captured the BJP leader, donning a saffron scarf, engaged in a confrontation with an agitated crowd conversing in Kannada. Simha’s police escort had to restrain furious villagers, with local MLA GT Devegowda of the Janata Dal (Secular) also present.
One villager physically restrained the MP, leading to a two-minute altercation. About 150 seconds into the video, Simha withdrew from the confrontation, only for the lead protester to follow, resuming the argument. Attempting to pacify the protester, Simha raised his hand before a policewoman intervened, escorting him into his vehicle.
Simha was asked by villagers to leave the event, where elected representatives, including former minister S R Mahesh and local MLA GT Devegowda, were participating.
Suresh, a former taluk panchayat member, pointed out Simha’s alleged anti-Dalit statements on public platforms and during Mahisha Dasara. “You have never visited the village in 10 years, and now, for political reasons, you are here. Other elected representatives, including BJP MLAs, have come here and were involved. You never bothered to listen to us, and we do not want you to come here,” Suresh said.
Another person said, “You are anti-Dalit. You issue statements against Dalits on public platforms and during Mahisha Dasara. Hence, you should not attend puja offered at the land belonging to a Dalit. The people in Harohalli are living in harmony. Do not disturb it.”
Mahisha Dasara is deemed to be a counter to Mysuru Dasara, where the members of Mahisha Dasara Aacharana Samiti celebrate a demon Mahishasura. The celebration is considered an assertion by the Dalit community. Simha has been a vocal opponent of the celebration.
Simha, after leaving the venue, informed reporters that he was denied entry into the village by a former taluk panchayat member of the Congress party and a group of Mahisha followers. “Since the stone had gone there, we all wanted a Ram temple there. Today, along with others I went there, they stopped me. This is a political ploy by the Congress leaders and nothing else,” he said.