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Karnataka Village Tense After Protest By BJP, Bajrang Dal Over Removal Of Hanuman Flag; Security Upped

Keragodu village in Mandya has been under tight security amid tense situation over the protests against the removal of the flag, for which members of the BJP, JD(S), and Bajrang Dal along with people from the village and its adjoining areas, had gathered for an agitation on Sunday

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The incident took place in Karnataka's Keragodu village Photo: Screen grab from video posted on X/ANI
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Tensions have gripped a village in Karnataka's Mandya district after authorities removed a 'Hanuma dwaja', a saffron flag bearing lord Hanuman's portrait, from a 108-ft-tall flag post on Sunday, leading to protests by locals, government vs opposition political confrontation in the state and imposition of Section 144 in the affected area.

Keragodu village in Mandya has been under tight security amid tense situation over the protests against the removal of the flag, for which members of the BJP, JD(S), and Bajrang Dal along with people from the village and its adjoining areas, had gathered for an agitation on Sunday. A large contingent of police personnel was deployed as a precautionary measure.

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Official and police sources indicated that residents of Keragodu and 12 neighbouring villages, along with certain organisations, had funded the installation of the flag post near Rangamandira. BJP and JD(S) workers were actively involved in this initiative, a news agency PTI report mentioned.

They raised a saffron flag featuring Hanuman's image, prompting opposition from some individuals who filed a complaint with the administration. Acting on the complaint, the taluk panchayat executive officer directed the gram panchayat officials to remove the flag.

The village panchayat had granted permission for the installation of the flagpole, but complaints were filed against it, an NDTV report said, adding that it prompted officials to request the removal of the Hanuman flag. Villagers, however, stood firm in their decision and accused a few individuals of attempting to politicise the matter, the report further mentioned.  

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Villagers Protest Over Removal Of Flag

A large number of villagers stayed vigilant even after midnight on Saturday, January 27, fearing that the flagpole would be removed. Tension persisted on Sunday morning, leading to a heated exchange between the police and protesting villagers and activists as the cops removed the saffron flag in the presence of senior district officials.

Some protestors directed their anger towards the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government and Mandya Congress MLA Ganiga Ravikumar, chanting slogans against them. The protestors refused to relent and affixed a flex board featuring a portrait of Lord Ram along with a smaller saffron flag at the base of the flagpole. Attempts to resist removal were made when the police intervened. Slogans of "Jai Sri Ram, Jai Hanuman" filled the air.

Congress Vs BJP

In response to the developments, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said that instead of hoisting the national flag, a 'bhagwa dwaja' (saffron flag) had been raised. "It is not right. I have asked (the authorities concerned) to hoist the national flag."

Mandya District in-charge Minister N Cheluvarayaswamy clarified that the flagpole's location falls under the panchayat's jurisdiction, and permission was obtained to hoist the national flag, which was done on Republic Day, "but it was replaced by another flag that evening". However, he expressed readiness to support the installation of the Hanuman flag at a private place or near a temple.

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Leader of Opposition and BJP leader R Ashoka in Bengaluru condemned the government's "anti-Hindu stance" and police intervention, stating that the Hanuma dwaja was raised with the gram panchayat's approval, but the Congress government "all of a sudden" removed it.

Labelling the government's action an "anti-Rama stand" and an "insult to lord Hanuman", he asked. "What was the need for police action? Why didn't the administration speak to the villagers? There was a gram panchayat resolution to allow the flag."

Ashoka visited Keragodu village along with other BJP leaders. As they tried to march towards the flagpole, they too were detained and taken away by the police.

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State BJP President BY Vijayendra accused the government of removing the flag using "police oppression" and creating a situation for law and order to deteriorate. Reiterating that the flagpole was installed and the flag hoisted after the requisite approvals were obtained, Vijayendra said the gram panchayat had earlier adopted a resolution to the effect. 

"If the state government has the audacity to remove the flag using police oppression and goondaism [hooliganism], it shows the height of Congress government's arrogance of power," he remarked.

Mandya District in-charge Minister N Cheluvarayaswamy, meanwhile, said, "There may be politics behind it [the installation of the Hanuman flag replacing the National Flag]. I don't know who is behind it ...This country works under democracy and the Constitution.

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