500 defy ban on harmony meet, court arrest

CHIKMAGALUR DEC. 7. About 500 persons courted arrest here today for defying the district magistrate's order banning the communal harmony meet organised here by the Bababudangiri Souhardha Vedike and the All-India Youth Federation.

They included Gowri Lankesh, Editor of Lankesh Patrike, Anantha Subba Rao, Secretary of the State unit of the AITUC, Siddana Gowda Patil, Secretary of the State unit of the CPI, A.K. Subbaiah, former MLC, "Agni" Sridhar, and Lohitashwa, professor, Bangalore University.

Despite security arrangements, people from various parts of the State started congregating near Basavanahalli tank in the morning in response to the call to oppose the Sangh Parivar's plan to organise a "Shoba Yatra" and Datta Jayanti celebrations.

Speakers criticised the State Government for "allowing" communal forces to organise Datta Jayanti celebrations. They expressed apprehension that members of the Sangh Parivar would destroy the harmony prevailing in the pilgrimage centre.

Police arrived at the venue a short while after the meeting was convened. Their efforts to engage the organisers in a discussion were not successful. K.R. Srinivas, Deputy Commissioner of Chikmagalur district, asked them to respect the decision of the district magistrate.

When the organisers refused to cooperate, Mr. Srinivas ordered their arrest for defying the ban orders. There was confusion for some time when some leaders directed the protestors to sit and others asking them to form a line to board the waiting buses. They were rounded up and taken to the new jail being constructed on the outskirts of the town.

In addition, more than 200 persons were taken into custody while attempting to reach Chikmagalur to take part in the communal harmony meet.

`Shobha Yatra'

A "Shobha Yatra" was taken out here today amidst tight security in connection with the Datta Jayanti celebrations. Thousands of persons participated in the procession organised by the Viswa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal.

D.C. Srikantappa, MP, D.K. Tara Devi, former MP, Pramod Muthalik, South India Convenor of Bajrang Dal, Keshava Hegde, Organising Secretary of the State unit of the VHP, and C.T. Ravi, General Secretary of the State unit of the BJP Yuva Morcha, took part in the procession.

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