//Saffron moves South, new Ayodhya at Chikamagalur

Saffron moves South, new Ayodhya at Chikamagalur

Priyanjana Dutta, CNN-IBN
December 03, 2006

Chikamagalur (Karnataka): The serene hill-town of Chikamagalur is becoming the base for Hindutva politics in Karnataka, with the BJP making renewed attempts to make the Datta Peeta the Ayodhya of the south.

The Sangh Parivar has not backed out from its plans to organise a puja at Datta Peeta on Monday. This is being organised as part of the Datta Jayanti celebrations.

However, there is a hitch. Datta Peeta is also home to a dargah (Muslim shrine) of a Sufi saint named Bababudan Saheb. Ever since communal problems arose in the area in 1975, the district administration has checked the BJP's attempts to hold Shobha Yatras.

But this year will be different, because this time the BJP is in power.

Karnataka BJP president, D V Sadananda Gowda, says, "At this juncture, if we go away from our own ideologies which we have been fighting for, for years now, people will not believe us and for hat reason, we ask our coalition partner to permit us to have the Datta Mala and the Shobha Yatra."

The issue has divided the coalition government.

There have been several attempts to saffronise the Bababudan Saheb's shrine in the past, but with the BJP in power for the first time in Karnataka, it is being made sure that this time around, the Datta Jayanti celebrations drive home their point.

At the same time, another body, the Karnataka Forum for Dignity and Communal Harmony, has been protesting the BJP's plans.

On Saturday, they staged a demonstration at Bangalore's town hall, protesting the arrest of 300 NGO activists in Chikamagalur.

Vice-President, Karnataka Forum for Dignity, Syed Khalimulla, says, "In the name of Datta Jayanti celebrations, the Sangh Parivar is spreading communal tension not just in Chikamagalur, but all across Karantaka and it's becoming worse everyday."

The BJP held its processions under tight security on Saturday and it will hold a puja at the cave temple on Monday, even as tension simmers in Chikamagalur.

(With inputs from Deepa Balakrishnan in Bangalore)