Twelve people were detained in Kothapet area of Guntur city in Andhra Pradesh for trying to hoist the national flag at a tower named after Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in violation of prohibitory orders on Republic Day. Tension prevailed in the area on Wednesday, 26 January, as some individuals who said they were from the Hindu Vahini outfit tried to march to the Jinnah Tower Centre in the city and hoist the tricolour, even as a large posse of police personnel were posted there to prevent such an act.
In visuals of the incident that have surfaced, policemen were seen detaining the activists and shifting them to police vehicles. Raising slogans of Bharat Mata ki Jai, the protesters tried to advance towards the Jinnah Tower on Wednesday, but were stopped by the police.
B Prabhakar, the circle inspector of Lalapet said that the incident occurred around 11:30 am. “Twelve members have been detained and they belong to the Hindu Vahini group. As per Section 151 of the CrPC, they have been taken into preventive custody,” he stated. A police official told PTI that a case will be registered against the youth for trying to disturb peace.
In response, BJP National Secretary and Andhra co-incharge Sunil Deodhar termed it as an “unfortunate incident” and that a Hindu Vahini activist informed the local SP that he would hoist the flag. However, Lalapet Circle Inspector Prabhakar mentioned they had not approached the police for any permission as claimed. Deodhar also questioned the relevance of the name 'Jinnah Tower', and said they will agitate until the name of the tower is changed.
For some time now, the BJP and other Hindu organisations have been demanding that the Jinnah Tower, a pre-Independence era monument in Guntur, be renamed. They threatened to demolish the structure if the Jagan Mohan Reddy government did not pay heed to their demands.
BJP's Andhra Pradesh chief Somu Veerraju had last month demanded a change in the name. Stating that Jinnah was the cause of India's division, he demanded that the state government change the name of the tower. In view of the demands, authorities erected a metal fence around the structure. Guntur Mayor Kavati Manohar Naidu on Monday, 24 January, inspected the fence, and police were posted to prevent any untoward incidents that could potentially flare up communal tension.
"Jinnah Tower is an enduring symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity and no force can disrupt the secular traditions of Guntur town."Guntur's mayor, Kavati Manohar Naidu
The Hindu Vahini then gave a call for hoisting the tricolour at Jinnah Tower on Republic Day and press for its renaming.
When the demand was made, the mayor ruled out renaming the tower and recalled that Guntur Municipal Corporation had rejected a resolution back in 1966 that the tower be renamed as 'Hamid Minar'.
Guntur West MLA M Giridhar Rao also slammed BJP for raking up the issue to create communal disharmony. He pointed out that Guntur is the only place in the country that has a tower built in the memory of Muhammad Ali Jinnah on a road named after Mahatma Gandhi.
Jinnah Tower in Guntur is a key landmark on a busy road of the city. According to historians, the tower was built by a local Muslim leader Lal Jan Basha after the visit of Jinnah's representative Judaliyaquat Ali Khan to Guntur.
(Published in an arrangement with The News Minute.)