Tension prevailed at a village in Belagavi district bordering Maharashtra on Friday, with a section of people objecting to installation of a statue of 18th century warrior and freedom fighter Sangolli Rayanna. Police resorted to lathi charge to bring the situation under control.
According to official sources, some admirers of Rayanna installed his statue at a road junction in Peeranwadi during the intervening night of Thursday and Friday.
A section of others raised objections as the news spread, leading to tension in the area. Those objecting, largely Marathi speaking, are opposed to the location where they want to install a statue of Maratha ruler Shivaji, after whom the circle is named.
They also have apprehensions that its name too may be changed in future. Realising that the situation was turning tense with some skirmish breaking out, police used batons to disperse the gathered crowd.
According to officials, they also tried to calm the protesters stating that the statue has been installed without requisite permission, the issue can be dealt with legally. An FIR has been booked in this regard and action will be taken, they said.
Additional forces have been called in to avoid the situation spiral out of control. Reacting to the incident, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said in Bengaluru that he will speak to the Belagavi Deputy Commissioner to resolve the issue amicably.
Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai said police have taken stringent measures to control the situation, and that he has spoken to Belagavi Police Commissioner and IG, also ADGP Law and Order is visiting the area.
"All necessary police bandobast is being made....." he said, adding that the administration was making all efforts to resolve things peacefully by taking everyone into confidence.
"The state government is committed to protecting the interests of the Kannadigas. I have advised the ADGP (L&O) to inquire about the FIR registered by the police at Peeranavadi in Belgaum. They are already at the scene," he said.
On August 15, police thwarted attempts to install Rayanna's statue there, citing absence of permission from the authorities for the same, and also Supreme Court directions against such moves near highways.
This had led to protests in different parts of Karnataka by pro-Kannada organisations, especially in Belagavi, which has a sizable Marathi-speaking population.
District in-charge Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi had said on Thursday a decision to install the statue will be taken on August 29 within legal parameters and as per the guidelines of Apex Court.
Sangolli Rayanna (1798-1831) was the army chief of the erstwhile Kittur Kingdom ruled by Rani Chennamma and fought against the British who hanged him to death from a Banyan tree near Nandagad in Belagavi district in 1831.