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Communal Twist Given After Man Places Mosque-Imprinted Cloth in 'Safe Custody' of Hindu Saint Shankaracharya

The mosque-imprinted flag atop statue of Shankaracharya

The mosque-imprinted flag atop statue of Shankaracharya

On Thursday, a piece of green-and-blue-cloth with an imprint of a mosque was found atop the statue of Shankaracharya in the town. Soon, local activists led by former BJP MLA of the area, DN Jeevaraj, held a protest over how an 'SDPI flag' was hoisted atop a small mantap housing the Hindu saint's statue.

A ‘secular’ thief's misplaced sense of propriety has got him booked for a crime in the communally-sensitive Chikmaglur district in central Karnataka.

The incident took place in the temple town of Sringeri, considered sacred by Hindus across the south and devotees of revered 8th-century philosopher Adi Sankaracharya.

On Thursday, a piece of green-and-blue-cloth with an imprint of a mosque was found atop the statue of Shankaracharya in the town. Soon, local activists led by former BJP MLA of the area, DN Jeevaraj, held a protest over how an 'SDPI flag' was hoisted atop a small mantap housing the Hindu saint's statue.

In the backdrop of the riots that had just struck in capital Bengaluru just the day before, police quickly came together to diffuse the situation. They also assured the protestors that there were definite leads on who the culprits were, and that they would be brought to book.

Then began the probe. CCTV images led the police to the 28-year-old culprit named Milind, son of Manohar.

Chikmaglur SP Hakay Akshay Machhindra says the accused is a habitual drunkard, and he is not affiliated to any organisation or any party. In this case, he did not have any motive as well.

'It was not an SDPI flag, nor of any other political party. It was a banner printed for the Eid-Milad festival. It was very cold and raining that day. He was initially looking around for something to cover himself. So he used the cloth. Then he realised it was a banner that belongs to a God. So he kept it in the safe custody of another God," said Chikmaglur SP Hakay Akshay Machchindra.

It is a crazy quirk of circumstances, police said, shying away from calling him either a miscreant or the act a mischief. However, a case has been taken up under offences related to hurting religious sentiments.

But the incident was enough to fuel aggressive responses from BJP leaders. Chikmaglur MP Shobha Karandlaje tweeted before the arrest was made public: "Planting SDPI flag on Sri Shankaracharya's statue in Sringeri and inciting violence. It is high time that government led by Sri BSY recommends central government to ban this terror outfit. Organisations like SDPI and PFI are a threat to mankind, national security and for a harmonious society."

The accused, Milind, has a criminal past. He had theft cases registered against him in 2012 and 2017, and had spent some time in jail earlier as well. Police say he was stuck in the heavy rains and this is common in this town in the Weestern Ghats. He was only trying to find a piece of cloth to cover himself around 12.30 and go back home.

first published:August 14, 2020, 14:14 IST