Five Bajrang Dal workers were arrested in Bhadravathi in Karnataka’s Shivamogga district on Thursday in connection with two incidents of assault over the sale of halal meat, the police said on Friday.
Shivamogga Superintendent of Police B M Laxmi Prasad said a group of 10-15 men, including the accused, went to a butcher’s shop around 12.30 pm on Wednesday and asked for non-halal meat. When owner Syed Ansar’s relative Tousif asked them to go away, the accused allegedly assaulted the two.
About an hour later, the accused went to a nearby hotel in the Old Bhadravathi area and confronted hotelier Osama Hunain over the sale of halal meat, said the police. The accused allegedly attacked both Hunain and his friend Aditya, who had tried to intervene.
The police identified the accused as Vadivelu, Shrikantha, Savayi Singh, Krishna, and Ramu alias Gunda. Sources in the police said all five had been released on station bail.
On the same day as the Shivamogga arrests, two right-wing workers visited a market in Bengaluru’s Chamarajpet area to urge people not to buy halal meat. As they were distributing pamphlets, local people confronted the two and sent them back.
This latest Hindu right-wing campaign comes in the wake of the hijab controversy and a growing ban on Muslim traders from setting up stalls on temple premises or at temple fairs. Like in Shivamogga and Bengaluru, there have been reports of right-wing groups going door to door in other parts of the state such as Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Chikkamagaluru, and Mysuru, distributing leaflets and urging people to purchase groceries and meat only from “Hindu shops”.
The campaign, which started online about a week ago, gained momentum earlier this week after organisations such as the Hindu Janajagruthi Samiti, Sri Rama Sene, and Bajrang Dal issued calls for the removal of halal certification from the signboards of meat shops.
Sri Rama Sene founder Pramod Muthalik has been alleging that the money earned from selling halal products was being used to fund bail for jailed terrorists. On March 29, BJP national secretary and Chikmagalur MLA C T Ravi claimed that the sale of halal meat amounts to “economic jihad”.
The halal boycott calls come ahead of the Kannada New Year festival of Ugadi on April 2. Meat traders say that the day after, on ‘Varshadodaku’, when many Hindus eat meat, their sales go up and their turnover is usually around Rs 2 lakh.
A representative of an organisation representing the state’s butchers said he was not worried about the campaign. “We are not bothered about this fake propaganda run by a few individuals. Any person at the end of the day wants to eat good and healthy meat. If someone provides them with this, then the customers will go to them,” said All India Jamaithul Qureshi of Karnataka president Khasim Shoaibur Rahaman Qureshi.
The BJP-led state government has taken note of the calls to boycott halal meat but has said that it cannot do much unless the law-and-order situation is affected. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Wednesday said he would look into “serious objections” against halal meat.
“It (halal issue) has just now started,” Bommai told the media. “We have to study it in its entirety because it has nothing to do with any rules. It is a practice that has been going on. Now, serious objections have been raised about it. After all these incidents, the law-and-order situation in the state has remained intact. Various organisations will be doing their campaigns, we know what to respond to do and what not to. Where it is required, we will respond. We don’t (respond) when it is not required.”