Accuse official of ‘showing disrespect to Hindu religion’
Belgaum: In what could be termed as an “embarrassment” to the Bharatiya Janata Party Government in the State, the workers of the ruling party, Vishwa Hindu Parishat and other members of the Sangh Parivar, apparently led by BJP MLA Abhay Kumar Patil, beat up Chief Engineer of Irrigation, North Zone, Belgaum, S.S. Khanagavi in the presence of the police under the pretext of showing disrespect to “Hindu” religion.
Sporadic violence was reported on Thursday during the Bharat bandh” call given by the VHP over the land transfer issue to Amarnath shrine in Jammu and Kashmir, which evoked near-total response.
The attack on the senior State Government officer led to an instant protest with all the employees in the north zone coming out of their offices and raising slogans against Mr. Patil and demanding his unconditional apology for what they described as “most condemnable” and “uncivilised act.”
Karnataka Engineering Service Association president Shivanand Hugar announced that all the employees in the Irrigation in the north zone comprising the districts of Belgaum, Bijapur, Gadag and Bagalkot would stop office work from Thursday to protest against the incident. He hoped that engineers and other employees in other government departments would also protest against the attack on the senior official.
Mr. Khanagavi, who felt humiliated, refused to comment on the incident and returned home under police security after saying: “I have got the reward for my 35 years of service to the government and people of the State, that too from a Hindu organisation; its all God’s wish.” He denied of any personal differences with Mr. Patil, who the former said had come to his office for the first time.
But, sources in office told The Hindu that Mr.Patil had made phone call to Mr. Khanagavi during election campaign and just two days ago. Mr. Khanagavi, who refused to lodge a complaint, finally yielded to the pressure from his staff and lodged complaint with the APMC Police Station later in the evening.
The drama unfolded when a group of less than 100 left the main procession led jointly by BJP MP Suresh C. Angadi and Mr. Patil and marched to the Irrigation Office on Club Road. Four of them entered the chamber of Mr. Khanagavi and reportedly asked him to close the office in support of the bandh. When Mr. Khanagavi, who maintained that he cannot close the office and came out of his chamber to convey the same to other members of the group waiting outside, some of the group members allegedly pounced upon him and assaulted him. The police present at the spot managed to escort Mr. Khanagavi to his chamber. Then the group members shouted slogans and abused Mr. Khanagavi for allegedly abusing and hurting Hindu sentiments.
Mr. Patil made a dramatic appearance within moments after his supporters finished their job, took control over the group and staged a dharna demanding apology from Mr. Khanagavi.
After refusing to yield for half-an-hour and apparently persuaded by Superintendent of Police Hemant Nimbalkar, Mr. Khanagavi finally came out of his chamber and tendered his apology.
But, as Mr. Patil and his supporters dispersed, the irrigation department employees started expressing anger and started demanding apology from the MLA.