Entrepreneur Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw has cautioned the Karnataka government that the state would lose its “global leadership” in information technology if “communal exclusion” is allowed to carry on, marking the first protest from the corporate world against the recent campaigns aimed at marginalising minorities.
Mazumdar-Shaw’s warning comes at a time temple festivals have debarred Muslim shopkeepers and Sangh parivar outfits are campaigning for Hindus to shun halal food — watched silently by the state government which has itself banned the hijab at its educational institutions.
“Karnataka has always forged inclusive economic development and we must not allow such communal exclusion — If ITBT (information technology and bio-technology) became communal it would destroy our global leadership. @BSBommai please resolve this growing religious divide,” the executive chairperson of Bangalore-based pharma giant Biocon Limited tweeted, tagging BJP chief minister Basavaraj Bommai.
Many tweeters lauded her. “Thank you for saying it. It is indeed helpful for the community to have a voice of reason to stand for justice,” Aaqib Raza Khan wrote.
When a tweeter tagged her and commented, “He (Bommai) will increase this communal divide and Karnataka will fall in front of our eyes”, Mazumdar-Shaw responded late on Wednesday: “Our CM is a very progressive leader. I am sure he will resolve this issue soon.”
Another Twitter user asked her whether Hindu shopkeepers would be allowed to do business outside mosques.
She shot back: “I have seen many Hindu shop owners near mosques across Bengaluru. Since when did we start identifying shop owners based on religion?”
On Thursday afternoon, Mazumdar-Shaw tweeted about vested interests hijacking the issue.
“Unfortunately, vested interests are hijacking the issue to political parties. I am confident our CM @BSBommai will resolve the matter peacefully. I am a proud Kannadiga n don’t want to see these incidents detract from economic progress. All parties need to work towards this,” she wrote.
Some social media users appeared to question her consistency, digging out an old tweet in which Mazumdar-Shaw had lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi for retaining power in 2019. She had described his win as a “god sent opportunity to lead into a Golden Era of the kind of socio-economic progress n social harmony never before seen in our country”.
“What you vote is what you get,” tweeted Sapna Hariharan, tagging Mazumdar-Shaw and Bommai.
Bommai dodged reporters’ queries on Mazumdar-Shaw’s tweets.
“Peace and law and order should not be disrupted. Everyone should cooperate. Karnataka is known for peace and progress and that shouldn’t be affected,” Bommai said.
Some apparently Right-wing tweeters castigated Mazumdar-Shaw. “Please go visit Kashmir once, visit the empty, desolate ruins of the houses once inhabited by Hindus, visit the standing Hindu temples where the last pooja was performed more than 30 years ago, perhaps then you’ll understand,” tweeted FullMetalMahadev.
But another Twitter user, Saurabh, commented: “Thank you for speaking up. High time business leaders and other influential people speak up against this religious divide being practiced by the ruling party — our only hope.”
Former IT minister and Congress MLA Priyank Kharge tagged Mazumdar-Shaw’s tweet and urged the chief minister to act.
“@CMofKarnataka hear to (sic) the sane voices of the state. They are ones who have been instrumental in creating jobs & putting the state on the world map. Act before it is too late,” Kharge tweeted.
Last December, state Congress president D.K. Shivakumar had warned the BJP government that the anti-conversion law it had pushed through in the Assembly would hurt the state’s image and investment climate.
“Let them be warned that such a law will affect the image of Karnataka and its investment climate,” Shivakumar had said.
What followed was Hindutva outfits raiding Christian prayer halls and churches, and campaigning against the hijab on campuses, Muslim vendors at temple fairs and halal food on Hindus’ plates.
Former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has criticised Bommai and his government’s silence on the persistent attacks on minorities and urged the Sangh parivar to confine its hate campaigns to Uttar Pradesh.
“Why are you coming here to set fire? You keep all this in Uttar Pradesh, don’t bring it here,” the Janata Dal Secular leader said.
“I cannot keep quiet when you people clad in saffron clothes go around destroying the lives of people by sowing the seeds of poison.”
While hate campaigns have always marked BJP rule in Karnataka, they have accelerated since Bommai became chief minister last July.