New Delhi: On the second day of the Dharwad Sahitya Sammelan in Karnataka, BJP Yuva Morcha activists stormed into the venue, shouting slogans, breaking tables and chairs on the podium.
The ruckus, as can be seen in the video below, took place after scholar Shiv Visvanathan’s speech that some members of the audience took affront to.
In his lecture on ‘Nationalism: Altercations in Contemporary Situation’, Visvanathan mentioned the atrocities committed by the army in Assam and Kashmir.
According to reports, he began his address by saying that he would call himself an “anti-nationalist” as presenting himself that way would make him “Indian”.
“There is need for developing the practice of asking questions in a democratic manner. More interactions, debates will throw light on new angles of history and also help in understanding plurality and diversity of the country,” he said.
Among those who objected to Visvanathan’s speech was ex-serviceman and Additional Commissioner of Public Instruction Major Siddalingayya Hiremath (Retd), who said Visvanathan should not generalise his allegations against the army. While coordinator K.V. Akshar intervened to allow Visvanathan to continue, several members of the audience raised questions at the end of his speech.
Hiremath then insisted on an apology from the scholar and the organisers for the remarks.
The session came to an abrupt end despite the efforts of playwright K.V. Akshara and linguist Ganesh Devy to bring the situation under control. According to the Hindu, Devy concluded the session by saying that it had “provided opportunity for expression of both pro and against views”.
According to accounts in the Kannada press, several members of the BJP Yuva Morcha barged on to the stage when noted writer Krishnamurthy Hanoor was summing up the three-day event and vandalised the stage. They demanded that Visvanathan take back his words and tender an apology. The police then came to break up the fracas and steered the right wing activists away, but not before they had tossed several chairs and tables, torn up posters and broken the microphone.
Counter slogans were also raised in support of Visvanathan and freedom of speech in the hall.
According another source, a group of media students also put pressure on the organisers to apologise for inviting Visvanathan. At the end of the event, the organisers tendered an apology.
B.L. Santhosh, RSS leader from Karnataka and BJP MP Prahalad Joshi from Dharwad also condemned the speech and said that legal action would be initiated.