By Priyanka Rudrappa / News Nine

Amid Mahashivaratri celebrations across the country, a tense atmosphere prevailed in Karnataka’s Kalaburagi district on Tuesday, March 1. Hundreds of Muslims protested against those offering prayers to a Shivalinga inside a Dargah in Kalaburagi’s Aland city. The protesters, wielding swords, gathered around the dargah, in a bid to stop the Hindu devotees from offering prayers to the Raghava Chaitanya Shivalinga in the Ladle Mashak Dargah premises. Meanwhile, the Hindu leaders slammed the district administration for barring them and at the BJP government for “snatching their religious rights.”

Honorary president of Sri Ram Sene Siddalinga Swami called IPS officer Alok Kumar “disgraceful” and hit out at the police for failing to take action when the Shivalinga was desecrated a few months back. “Disgraceful, Alok Kumar IPS…Haraamkhor! He came to our Mutt and insulted us…We should be ashamed of your governance…Why are you there home minister? Is your job only to write letters of appointment to officers?…Police couldn’t stop when Shivalinga was dirtied. When we wanted to cleanse it, Isha Pant, who is a Congress-minded SP, banned us today,” he said amid loud cheers.

“We are taking this as a challenge…Isha Pant, Yeshwanth Gurukar DC, you have taken away our religious rights. We are not scared of police’s bullets and lathis…All MLAs in our district have said they are with us. This is our biggest victory,” he added Several Hindu leaders had called for ‘Aland Chalo’ programme for the purification of the Linga which was desecrated a few months back. The police had clamped prohibitory orders from February 27 to March 3, and barred the entry of Sri Ram Sene chief Pramod Muthalik, Hindutva activist Chaitra Kundapura and Sene Siddalinga Swami.

However, the district administration had given permission to ten Hindu devotees to offer prayers to the Shivalinga in the Dargah, owing to Shivaratri. “Accordingly, ten of us, along with the MP, reached the bus stand. But people were wielding swords and protesting. They weren’t letting us inside the Dargah.” MLA Rajkumar Patil Telkur said. The Hindu groups sat by the roadside and vowed not to leave without offering prayers on Tuesday. “If they don’t let us pray, we’ll stay here. It’s an auspicious day for us,” Telkur said.

The Hindu leaders, finally managed to offer prayers to the Shivalinga even as protesters pelted stones.

‘BJP in power because of Hindus’

While the order said the move to bar Muthalik, Chaitra Kundapura and Siddalinga Swami from entering the district was in the interest of maintaining peace and harmony, the district administration’s decision was condemned by Hindu GROUPS. “The DC’s decision is not just an insult to the three of us, but to the entire Hindu religion. We were headed to Aland to offer prayers, not to cause any communal disturbance,” Muthalik earlier told reporters.

Muthalik also slammed the state government over the issue, saying the BJP was elected to power with the help of Hindus. “Lord Eshwara’s curse will be upon the government.”

Meanwhile, Hindutva activist Chaitra Kundapura on Tuesday, hit out at the District Commissioner and said restricting them from offering prayers was a “violation of religious freedom.” “Mahashivaratri is celebrated in all Shivalayas…Hindus do not cause any trouble to Muslims. However, Muslims are troubling Hindus…How is it to allow Muslims to offer prayers while Hindus are barred?” Chaitra said.

Karnataka has been on edge for several weeks after Muslim students were barred from wearing hijab in classrooms, triggering protests and counter-protests across the state. Violence and several instances of arson was also reported in Shivamogga after a Bajrang Dal member was stabbed to death recently, as angry mobs pelted stones at business places owned by Muslims and torched vehicles. Several Hindu groups and religious leaders have condemned the killing and called for genocide against Muslims.

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