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Savarkar triggers flyover fight

Karnataka govt faces protest over name plan
The Bajrang Dal banner strung on the flyover in Mangalore named after VD Savarkar.

K.M. Rakesh   |   Bangalore   |   Published 03.06.20, 09:36 PM

The Hindu Right wing and pro-Kannada organisations are engaged in a battle over naming flyovers in BJP-ruled Karnataka.

While the Hindutva brigade wanted two flyovers, one each in Bangalore and Mangalore, named after their ideologue V.D. Savarkar, the pro-Kannada organisations and the Opposition parties have questioned the logic to ignore so many freedom fighters, social reformers and others from within the state.

Activists of the Bajrang Dal strung a flex banner printed with “Veera Savarkar Melsethuve (flyover) Pumpwell” in Kannada on the flyover in Mangalore’s Pumpwell on Tuesday night.

They also wrote “Bajrang Dal” in saffron paint on the divider of the flyover.

Police defused a tense situation by quickly removing the banner.

Around the same time, activists of the Kannada Rakshana Vedike Yuva Sene (Kannada protection forum, youth army) — a pro-Kannada youth organisation — protested at the Yelahanka flyover in Bangalore against the government’s decision to name it after Savarkar.

It all started with the state government’s decision to name the Yelahanka flyover after Savarkar, who had written abject mercy petitions to the British from jail and who had been linked to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi before being acquitted.

Chief minister and BJP veteran B.S. Yediyurappa was scheduled to inaugurate the flyover last week but abruptly cancelled the event following widespread opposition.

After the cancellation of the official opening, some miscreants had painted “Veera Savarkar Melsethuve” on the tarmac. The government didn’t do anything to erase the unofficial name.

A source in the chief minister’s office said the inauguration had only been postponed, not cancelled.

“It will be carried out at a later date as the chief minister was busy with other engagements on that day,” said the official, who declined to be named.

However, many believe that the government has stepped back so as not to precipitate tensions at a time the state has been struggling to contain the rising number of coronavirus infections.

The Kannada Rakshana Vedike Yuva Sene, which demanded that the flyovers be named after a Kannadiga, protested at the Yelahanka flyover on Tuesday night and hoisted the yellow and red Kannada flag.

The police detained the protesters and later let them off with a warning.

R. Harish, the chief of the Sene, said they only wanted to send a message to the state government that Savarkar’s name was not an option.

“Why do they insist on naming it after Savarkar when there are so many Kannadigas? Right now we don’t want to fan any protest since we understand that the government has a tough task handling the coronavirus cases,” he said, warning the government of a mass movement if it went ahead with the decision to name the flyover after Savarkar.

“We had requested the chief minister to name the flyover after someone from our own state,” said Harish.

He had the same opinion about the Mangalore flyover. “The government should ideally name that flyover after some great person from coastal Karnataka,” he said. 

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