Keragodu village here faced tense moments on Sunday after the authorities removed a ‘Hanuma dwaja’, a saffron flag bearing lord Hanuman’s portrait, from a 108-ft-tall flag post. The incident led to a political confrontation between the government and opposition in the state.
A large contingent of police personnel was deployed as a precautionary measure when people from the village and its surroundings, along with members of the BJP, JD(S), and Bajrang Dal, gathered to protest against the removal of the flag. In order to quell the unrest, police resorted to a mild lathi charge. Subsequently, the police and administration replaced the Hanuma dwaja with the national tricolour on the flagpole.
Official and police sources indicated that residents of Keragodu and 12 neighbouring villages, along with certain organisations, had funded the installation of the flag post near Rangamandira. Reportedly, BJP and JD(S) workers were actively involved in this initiative. They raised a saffron flag featuring Hanuman’s image, prompting opposition from some individuals who filed a complaint with the administration.
Acting on the complaint, the taluk panchayat executive officer directed the gram panchayat officials to remove the flag. Several villagers, including a significant number of women, vehemently protested against the removal. Some activists and villagers stayed vigilant even after midnight on Saturday fearing that the flagpole would be removed.
Tension persisted on Sunday morning, leading to a heated exchange between the police and protesting villagers and activists as the cops removed the saffron flag in the presence of senior district officials. Some protestors directed their anger towards the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government and Mandya Congress MLA Ganiga Ravikumar, chanting slogans against them. The protestors refused to relent and affixed a flex board featuring a portrait of Lord Ram along with a smaller saffron flag at the base of the flagpole.
Attempts to resist removal were made when the police intervened. Slogans of “Jai Sri Ram, Jai Hanuman” filled the air. By late afternoon, police forcibly removed the protestors, again resorting to a mild lathi charge to restore order. Following this, the police and administration officials finally raised the Tricolour on the flagpole from which the Hanuma dwaja had been removed.
In response to the developments, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, speaking to reporters in the district headquarters town of Chitradurga, stated that instead of hoisting the national flag, a ‘bhagwa dwaja’ (saffron flag) had been raised. “It is not right. I have asked (the authorities concerned) to hoist the national flag.” Mandya District in-charge Minister N Cheluvarayaswamy clarified that the flagpole’s location falls under the panchayat’s jurisdiction, and permission was obtained to hoist the national flag, which was done on Republic Day, “but it was replaced by another flag that evening”.
However, he expressed readiness to support the installation of the Hanuman flag at a private place or near a temple. “There may be politics behind it (the installation of the Hanuman flag replacing the National Flag). I don’t know who is behind it …This country works under democracy and the Constitution. “Tomorrow they may say they want to hoist the flag (saffron flag) in front of the DC’s office. Can it be allowed? If it is permitted at one place, it will extend to other places. This is the only reservation,” he said.
“We are not here to hurt our youth. I have spoken to officials, police and youths. We are ready to install the Hanuman flag at a private place or near a temple. We will support them. We too are Rama Bhaktas,” he added. Leader of Opposition and BJP leader R Ashoka in Bengaluru condemned the government’s “anti-Hindu stance” and police intervention, stating that the Hanuma dwaja was raised with the gram panchayat’s approval, but the Congress government “all of a sudden” removed it.
Labelling the government’s action an “anti-Rama stand” and an “insult to lord Hanuman”, he asked. “What was the need for police action? Why didn’t the administration speak to the villagers? There was a gram panchayat resolution to allow the flag.” Ashoka visited Keragodu village along with other BJP leaders. As they tried to march towards the flagpole, they too were detained and taken away by the police. State BJP President B Y Vijayendra accused the government of removing the flag using “police oppression” and creating a situation for law and order to deteriorate.
Reiterating that the flagpole was installed and the flag hoisted after the requisite approvals were obtained, he said the gram panchayat had earlier adopted a resolution to the effect. “If the state government has the audacity to remove the flag using police oppression and goondaism, it shows the height of Congress government’s arrogance of power,” he remarked. Meanwhile, the BJP state chief directed party leaders and workers to hold a protest at all the district headquarters of the state tomorrow (January 29), condemning the “anti-Hindu policy” of the state’s Congress government and for “insulting” the National Flag.
While criticising the act of lowering the Hanuman flag, he claimed that the authorities had disrespected the National Flag as well. “The national flag was disrespected, as authorities have violated the rule of hoisting it at 9 am and lowering it in the evening,” he explained.