Explained: Why is the BJP government in Karnataka facing a political storm over an SC order on illegal religious structures?

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The implementation of a 2009 Supreme Court order on illegal religious structures in Karnataka has started a political storm in the state run by the BJP. The problem snowballed after a temple was demolished in Mysuru district, after which a Hindu group took up arms and threatened BJP leaders, claiming that even “Mahatma Gandhi was not spared in the purpose of protecting the Hindus “.

A red-faced Basavaraj Bommai government is also facing a backlash from other leaders of the BJP as well as the opposition Congress.

So what is the 2009 SC Ordinance and why is it being implemented now?

On September 29, 2009, in a Union of India v State of Gujarat case, the Supreme Court ordered that “no unauthorized construction shall be carried out or authorized in the name of a temple, church, mosque or of a gurudwara, etc. on public roads, public parks or other public places, etc.

The SC order was hardly executed by the authorities until the High Court of Karnataka intervened.

After noting that only a few unauthorized religious structures built in public places had so far been removed, the High Court filed a suo motu request on June 27, 2019 to enforce the 2009 Supreme Court order. She recalled on February 16, 2010 that “all illegal religious structures built after September 29, 2009 will not be tolerated.”

Over the past six months, the Karnataka High Court has also overthrown the Karnataka government on several occasions for late progress in implementing the SC ordinance.

Pressure from the high court forced the state government to instruct officials in all districts to suppress or relocate them in accordance with guidelines issued by the government.

Why is the Bommai government now in a catch-22 situation?

While the process of removing and relocating illegal structures was underway with little noise, it took a political turn when a temple in the Nanjangud area of ​​Mysuru district was demolished September 10 in accordance with the SC order.

What followed was subsequent politicization by Congress, the BJP as well as social media which resulted in political fury. Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai immediately called for halting the implementation of previous state guidelines until the BJP government reviews the situation and issues new guidelines for the implementation. implementation of the SC ordinance.

Video of the demolition went viral on social media, and political leaders transcending parties began to exploit the issue for political ends. Former Chief Minister of Karnataka Siddaramaaiah questioned the “pro-Hindu accreditations” of the BJP while BJP MP in Mysuru, Prathap Simha, claimed that only temples were targeted in the campaign to remove illegal structures.

How many illegal religious structures have been identified in Karnataka?

In 2010-11, when all states submitted details of illegal religious structures in their territory to the Supreme Court, the government of Karnataka stated in an affidavit of May 5, 2011 that 1,505 of the 4,722 unauthorized religious structures had been deleted in the state. and that 154 had been regularized while there were disputes in 12 cases.

According to a letter dated July 1, 2021 sent by Chief Secretary of State P Ravi Kumar to deputy state commissioners, there are approximately 6,395 unauthorized religious structures in public places. Dakshina Kannada district has 1,579, followed by Shivamogga with 740 and Belagavi with 612. While the majority are temples, there are also mosques and churches. Many cases are also the subject of litigation, thus preventing the action of the executive. Some districts like Hassan have claimed an efficiency rate of over 80%, having removed 92 of the 112 illegal religious structures in the district.

Even though the SC order was being implemented in many districts, progress was slow in Bengaluru where only five of the 277 illegal religious structures built after September 29, 2009 and identified for demolition, had been removed while 105 structures were chosen. for resettlement had not been acted upon.

On August 12 of this year, the High Court dismissed the commissioner of the Bengaluru Civic Agency for slow progress and also requested a report from the state government.

How did the ruling BJP in Karnataka, its affiliates react to the demolition of the Nanjangud temple?

Pro-Hindu groups have staged several protests across the state to demand the “rescue” of the temples. Former Karnataka chief minister BS Yedyiurappa and BJP union minister Shobha Karandlaje called the demolition campaign a “mistake” on the part of district officials. After the issue drew criticism from members of his own party, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai ordered the Chief Secretary to order a temporary halt to the demolition campaign across Karnataka. Bommai said the government would like to review court orders and come up with a new set of guidelines for illegal religious structures. At a BJP state executive meeting on Sunday, Bommai accused officials of being the source of the controversy. The BJP is likely to propose a policy of relocating or regularizing religious places identified as illegal rather than carrying out demolitions which tend to elicit an emotional reaction.

A representative of the Hindu Mahasabha right wing on Saturday issued a death threat against CM Bommai, former CM Yediyurappa and muzrai minister Shashikala Jolle over Saturday’s demolitions. Hindu Mahasabha representative Dharmendra Surathkal, who said “Mahatma Gandhi has not been spared in efforts to protect Hindus” was arrested on Sunday by Mangaluru police.

After that ?

CM Bommai tabled a bill in the Legislative Assembly on Monday for the protection of religious structures targeted by the removal. The bill is expected to be considered in the coming days and is expected to find support from all parties.

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