The BJP is bent on conducting Ganesh Puja rituals at an Idgah in Hubli that has been a subject of multiple court cases, protests and violence.
Arvind Bellad, Hubli-Dharwad West MLA from the BJP, has issued an ultimatum to the state’s Congress government to facilitate Ganesh Puja at the Idgah Maidan, an open ground where Muslims hold mass prayers on Id-ul-Fitr and Id-ul-Zuha, on September 18.
Bellad has cited a precedent from last year, when Karnataka High Court had in a late night order allowed the festival to be held at the Idgah.
“We will install a Ganesh idol at the maidan even if the government denies permission,” Bellad, one of the younger lawmakers in the BJP, told reporters in Hubli on Wednesday.
He said that although the BJP-led city council had already decided to allow Ganesh Puja at the maidan, the municipal commissioner had sought the opinion of the state's new government before issuing the official order.
“The government is silent although the commissioner has sought instructions. Since the Ganesh Puja is a major religious event for Hindus, it is the demand of devotees that the idol be installed at the maidan,” Bellad said.
A Muslim cleric’s body — the Anjuman-e-Islam — had taken the 1.5-acre maidan on a 999-year lease from the municipality in 1921 and has been using it solely for Id prayers. On all other days, the maidan is used as a playground.
Last year, the civic body renamed the maidan as Kittur Rani Chennamma Maidan, and the then municipal commissioner issued permission for Ganesh Puja to be held at the site.
The Anjuman-e-Islam challenged the order in the high court but without success. Ganesh Puja was held on the maidan amid tight security and without incident.
The commissioner’s decision last year was based on a 2012 Supreme Court order that had upheld the civic council’s ownership claim to the land. The apex court had allowed Muslims to use the ground for prayers during Id-ul-Fitr and Id-ul-Zuha every year.
Mohammed Yusuf Savunur of the Anjuman-e-Islam told The Telegraph on Thursday that the organisation had again petitioned the high court against the city council’s decision to allow the ground to be used for Ganesh Puja.
The ground has been a source of communal tension since 1992, when the BJP and allied outfits demanded the right to hoist the national flag there on Republic Day. The agitation coincided with the Kanyakumari-to-Kashmir Ekta Yatra led by then BJP president Murali Manohar Joshi — and managed by a young Narendra Modi — whose objective was to hoist the national flag at Lal Chowk in Srinagar.
The issue simmered until 1994. That year, violence broke out on Independence Day when BJP and Sangh Parivar workers thronged the spot to hoist the Tricolour, with five people killed in police firing.
BJP leaders Uma Bharti and B.S. Yediyurappa were among 21 politicians to be booked.