In defiance of prohibitory orders and amid heightened security arrangements, a large number of right-wing Hindu activists took out a motorcycle rally in Srirangapatna town in Karnataka's Mandya district and recited Hanuman Chalisa and Ram Bhajan at a temple near the town's Jamia Mosque.
The right-wing organisations have demanded that the mosque should be returned to Hindus, alleging it was a Hanuman temple razed by the 18th century ruler Tipu Sultan. The activists were responding to Vishva Hindu Parishad's (VHP) 'Srirangapatna Chalo' campaign.
The authorities had imposed Section 144 of the CrPC in the town to prevent any untoward incident and Hindu activists violated it. Wearing saffron scarves, turbans, and saffron flags, they raised 'Jai Sri Ram' slogans.
The Karnataka Police said activists were barred from marching towards the mosque and no untoward incidents were reported in the town.
Earlier on Saturday, Sriram Sena chief Pramod Muthalik condemned the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government for imposing the restrictions in the town.
A Bajrang Dal activist from Mandya, Manjunath, who was part of the agitation, told PTI that the mosque was a Hanuman temple with its gopuram (temple tower) razed by Tipu Sultan and it got converted into Jamia Masjid in Srirangapatna, which was the capital of the ruler of Mysore Kingdom.
He said, "The mosque is an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) protected monument where no one should stay as per rule. However, nearly 100 people including some Bangladeshis reside there and a Madrassa (Islamic seminary) also operates there, which is against the law.
"Tragically, the ASI and the district administration are silent on these blatant violations."
He further said the right-wing organisations will approach the Karnataka High Court seeking a direction to the authorities to hand over the mosque to the Hindus.
Officials reached the spot and assured the agitators that their grievances will be communicated to the ASI.
In order to avoid any untoward incident, the district police force and contingents of Karnataka State Reserved Police were deployed. The roads were barricaded and security pickets were erected in the town.
Fearing a backlash, many shopkeepers around the shrine downed shutters for the day.
The members of fringe Hindu outfits had called for a protest march to the mosque but the authorities denied them permission.
The Sriram Sena chief Pramod Muthalik condemned the restrictions saying they should be imposed on 'them'.
He said, "There is a Ganapati temple, a temple tank and a well inside the mosque. Despite all these, mosques running Madrassas and offering namaz there is wrong. It is 'they' who should be stopped. They should be thrown out. I condemn the BJP government which is trying to stop our protest."
The Hindu outfits have submitted a memorandum to the district authorities seeking a survey of the mosque and take steps to return the 'Anjaneya Temple' to Hindus if their claim was found to be true.
The development comes as a number of petitions are filed in courts regarding mosques in Varanasi and Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, claiming rights of worship and their restoration to Hindus.
(With PTI inputs)