'Are They Not Kannadigas?': BJP MLC, MLA Slam Exclusion of K'taka Muslim Traders

"I don't know why the government is mum over this issue. Are they (Muslim traders) not Kannadigas?" he said.

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Nearly a week after Muslim traders were refused stalls at Shivamogga's Kote Marikamba Jatra fair, Karnataka BJP MLC Adaguru Huchegowda Vishwanath has condemned the ban, and has urged the state government to take up this issue.

Questioning what would happen if Indian citizens working abroad in Muslim-majority nations were subjected to a similar boycott, he said:

"No religion has said such things –to not include this or that person. The government must intervene. I don't know why the government is mum over this issue. Are they (Muslim traders) not Kannadigas? The Muslims of this country, when Pakistan and India were divided, they stayed back here. They didn't go away. We must think about it. The ones who stayed back in India are Indians."

"Muslims can't do business here, remove this and that hotel – what is this? Tch, tch. This is a sorry state of affairs. The government must take up this issue. Throw away your religion and your caste, if there is nothing to fill your stomach, what will you look for?" the senior BJP leader added, saying he has raised concerns over the matter with Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai.

BJP MLA Anil Benake also echoed Vishwanath's condemnation, saying, "There is no question of imposing restrictions during temple festivals. If people impose restrictions, there is nothing that we can do. We will, however, not allow these things to happen. It is wrong to say that people should purchase only in some stores and not in other stores. Under the Constitution, everybody has equal rights," The Indian Express quoted.

The remarks come after right-wing Hindu groups demanded that Muslim vendors be barred from trade around temple premises.

No Stalls for Muslims at Shivamogga Festival After Hindutva Groups' Campaign

The organising committee of the Kote Marikamba Jatra, which was held in Karnataka's Shivamogga from 22 March, had refused to allot shops to Muslim traders in the festival.

This had come after leaders of the BJP, and right-wing groups Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, demanded that only Hindu shopkeepers be allowed to do business in the festival. Surrendering to the pressure, the committee had given the tender for the allotment of shops to Hindutva groups.

Committee President SK Mariyappa told The Hindu that the festival's organisation panel has never been coloured by communal biases in the past.

"But, some people launched a campaign on social media platforms against allowing Muslim shopkeepers. Only three days are left for the festival to start. We agreed to their demand in the interest of smooth conduct of the festival," he had stated.

The communal dissensions come after the district witnessed protracted tensions between Hindu and Muslim communities in February, when Bajrang Dal activist Harsha was murdered.

Meanwhile, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti has asked for a boycott of halal meat products (which are permissible as per Islamic law) during Ugadi celebrations in the state.

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