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New Delhi: A sea of people marched in protest in Bengaluru on Saturday, February 19, demanding action against a Karnataka district judge who allegedly ordered the removal of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s portrait placed beside Mahatma Gandhi’s before unfurling the national flag during a Republic Day function on January 26 in Raichur, reports have indicated.
According to the Samvidhana Surakshana Maha Okkuta, the Dalit organisation which called the rally, nearly 1.5 lakh people holding aloft placards with Ambedkar’s picture and blue flags marched through the arterial roads of Bengaluru, via Anand Rao Circle flyover, Maurya Circle flyover, to culminate the rally at Freedom Park. Chief minister Basavaraj Bommai met the protestors at Freedom Park and assured action against the erring judge.
The Saturday rally comes in response to the authorities’ decision to only ‘transfer’ the judge concerned rather than ‘suspending’ him and registering an FIR (first information report) against him, which Dalit and various civil society organisations across the state have been demanding.
Immediately after the incident came to light, several Dalit organisations in Raichur held protests against the judge concerned on January 27, pressing for criminal action. However, judge Mallikarjuna Gowda has only been transferred from the Principal District and Sessions Court of Raichur district to Karnataka State Transport Appellate Tribunal, Bengaluru, as the presiding officer.
Meeting the protestors at Bengaluru’s Freedom Park on Saturday, chief minister Bommai said, “Action will be initiated against this act. Leaders of the Dalit community have explained to me in detail about the incident of removal of the photograph of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. I will discuss this with the people concerned and write a letter soon.”
“The insult that is meted out to Dr. Ambedkar is condemnable. Under no circumstances any act that insults the creator of our constitution will be tolerated. We are at the forefront of upholding the prestige and honour of Dr. Ambedkar. We will provide justice as per the constitution,” he assured protestors.
Several Dalit leaders, in their memorandum, represented to the chief minister that “transfer is not punishment”, demanding criminal action. They alleged that the judge concerned with his “casteist mindset” got Ambedkar’s portrait removed even after the government had sent several circulars to make Ambedkar’s photograph part of official functions.
On January 26, during the Republic Day function, judge Gowda allegedly ordered his staff to remove Ambedkar’s portrait which was already placed by the side of Gandhi’s before the national flag was hoisted.
Calling it “false propaganda”, judge Gowda said he did not mean any disrespect to Ambedkar. “Some advocates approached me and demanded that Ambedkar’s portrait be placed next to that of Mahatma Gandhi as per government order. I told them that the High Court Registrar had informed us in our Leaders Group that the government order was before the full bench (of the High Court) and asked us to wait till the decision was made on the matter and requested them not to force me,” Gowda said in a press statement he issued after the controversy erupted.
Meanwhile, the Karnataka high court issued directions on February 4 to all courts at the state, district and taluk levels to place the portrait of Ambedkar at all official functions.