Muslim Traders Ban: Mazumdar-Shaw Asks Bommai to Resolve 'Growing Religious Divide'

Responding to the pharma entrepreneur's request, the Karnataka chief minister called upon "all sections of society to observe restraint before going public on social issues, as they can be resolved through discussions".

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New Delhi: Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw on Thursday asked Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai to resolve the “growing religious divide” in the state, referring to the exclusion of Muslim traders from fares near temples.

Responding to the pharma entrepreneur’s request, Bommai called upon “all sections of society to observe restraint before going public on social issues, as they can be resolved through discussions”.

Mazumdar-Shaw, quoting an article about the ban on Muslim traders, said “Karnataka has always forged inclusive economic development and we must not allow such communal exclusion- If ITBT [information technology and biotechnology] became communal it would destroy our global leadership. @BSBommai please resolve this growing religious divide.”

Her tweet was in response to incidents of denial of permission to non-Hindu traders and vendors to conduct business around temples during annual fairs and religious events in some parts of the state.

The article that she quoted said that temple committees organising the festivals as well as traders were “dismayed” at pressure from right-wing groups to exclude Muslim traders.

Notably, two BJP legislators had also opposed the ban, with one of them calling it “madness” and “undemocratic”.

Responding to a question on the tweet, Bommai said, “Several issues have come up for discussion in the State, the issue on uniform for students has been decided by the High Court. On other issues my appeal to those concerned is that we have been leading our lives all these years, based on our beliefs. Everyone should cooperate in maintaining peace and order.”

“Karnataka is known for peace and progress, and everyone should observe restraint and see to it that it is not affected. When social issues arise, there is a possibility for us to discuss and resolve it.

So before going public, everyone should observe restraint,” he added.

In tweets criticising her, BJP’s IT department in-charge Amit Malviya said, “It is unfortunate to see people like Kiran Shaw impose their personal, politically coloured opinion, and conflate it with India’s leadership in the ITBT sector. Rahul Bajaj once said something similar for Gujarat, it is today a leading automobile manufacturing hub. Go figure…”

As the BJP struck back against her, Mazumdar-Shaw posted another tweet, saying “vested interests” had “hijacked” the issue. She expressed confidence that Bommai will “resolve the matter peacefully”.

Initially, banners were placed during the annual Kaup Marigudi festival in Udupi district, which said non-Hindu vendors and traders should not be allowed entry, and the temple management paid heed to the request of certain pro-Hindu organisations.

Later, similar banners were displayed at the Padubidri temple festival also, and at a couple of temples in the Dakshina Kannada district as well.

Some Hindu activists have submitted memoranda to officials in different parts of the State citing the Karnataka Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1997.

When the matter came up in the legislative assembly recently, the BJP government sought to distance itself from it by citing a rule which states that no property, including land, building near the place of worship shall be leased to non-Hindus. The government also said these rules were framed by a Congress government.

However, calls to further exclude the Muslim community have been made by top BJP leaders. Many communities in Karnataka have a non-vegetarian feast on the day after Ugadi. Some right-wing groups have called for a boycott of halal meat during this feast. BJP national general secretary C.T. Ravi signalled his support for this call by describing halal food as “economic jihad”.