Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations at Idgah Maidan in Karnataka's Hubballi can proceed as planned. Turning down the petition filed by Anjuman-e-Islam, the Karnataka High Court in an order passed late night on Tuesday, 30 August, said, "This (Idgah Maidan) belongs to the corporation and it can do what it considers appropriate."
Noting that the Muslims hold their prayers twice a year on these grounds, the court also said that prayers during Ramzan and Bakri Eid cannot be interfered with.
The high court's observations came on the day the Supreme Court ordered a status quo in case of proposed celebrations on another ground with a similar name, Idgah Maidan in Bengaluru.
It was first the Hubballi-Dharwad Municipal Corporation (HDMC) that decided to allow Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations at the Idgah Maidan in Hubballi.
The decision was taken after right-wing Hindutva groups approached the city corporation seeking permission to celebrate the festival at the once disputed grounds.
However, the link between Idgah Maidan and the BJP has been disquieting one.
BJP and Sangh Parivar's Controversial Past with Idgah Maidan in Hubballi
The Idgah Maidan (also referred to as Rani Chennamma Maidan) was first obtained for mortgage by Anjuman-e-Islam for 999 years in 1921 and the trust was given permission to hold religious prayers. In 1961, the trust was also given a thumbs up for constructing shops on the ground.
However, after a brief civil dispute, it twas decided that the shops be demolished based on orders given by a civil court in 1973, which was again upheld by the Karnataka High Court in 1992. Meanwhile, the trust moved the apex court demanding that they be given the right to maintain the ground and also obtained a stay order on the demolition.
The case would go on to be one of the longest legal battles in the country.
The controversy surrounding the Idgah Maidan peaked in 1992, when the BJP and newly formed organisation called the 'Rashtradhwaja Gourava Samrakshana Samiti' decided to hoist the national flag at the Idgah Maidan on 15 August.
Never before was the national flag hoisted inside the Idgah Maidan.
The plan to hoist the national flag was thwarted by the state government and by the police who feared communal violence.
Two years later, the situation worsened again when the then BJP leader Uma Bharati, along with some volunteers, entered the city to hoist the flag. The matter turned grave when the police open fired at civilians, killing five people at the spot.
However in 1995, after the Supreme Court gave an interim order saying six structures on the Maidan should not be demolished and no one should be allowed to enter the Maidan till the final verdict.
On its part, the Anjuman-e-Islam trust went ahead and hoisted the national flag at the Idgah Maidan on the Republic Day, 26 January 1995. The tradition that has been followed with the understanding of the state government till 2010 Supreme Court verdict.
The flag hoisting in 1995 was met with minor clashes and stone pelting as the crowd was unable to participate in the event, there was nothing major that occurred during the Republic Day.
The maidan was at the centre of controversy again in 2001, when the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) held birthday celebrations for Ashok Singhal on Idgah grounds. As a result of the dispute, violence erupted and one person was killed in police firing.
In 2010, a the Supreme Court bench comprising of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice A K Patnaik ruled that the Idgah Maidan was exclusive property of HDMC, upholding an order passed by the high court.
However, no Hindu festivals have been celebrated in Idgah Maidan till today and Ganesh Chaturthi will be the first of its kinds to be celebrated inside the controversial ground.
'BJP Diverting Issues by Celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi in Idgah Maidan'
The Hubballi-Dharward Municipal Corporation decided to permit Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrations after holding detailed discussions following a report submitted by the house panel.
Of the 39 representatives, 28 voted in favour of the celebrations, while 11 others belonging to the opposition Congress and AIMIM opposed the proposal to install Ganesh idol on the controversial Idgah ground.
"The BJP has been in power for a total of 13 years at the Centre and for about 8 years in the state. Never before was Ganesh Chaturthi celebrated with such enthusiasm. Why is that they now want to rake up sensitive issues? The BJP are engaging in unnecessary controversies and trying to divert the attention from real issues."VS Ugrappa, Congress Leader
The BJP-led HDMC Corporation's decision to hold Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations was hailed by Hindutva organisations. Srirama Sene chief Pramod Muthalik distributed sweets calling it a "victory for Hindus."
Meanwhile, Anjuman-e-Islam, the Islamic trust that approached the Karnataka High Court opposing the celebrations, met with disappointment. The high court dismissed the petition that had challenged the municipal corporation's decision giving a nod to continue the festivities for the next two-three days.
BBMP Imposes Meat Ban in Bengaluru on Ganesh Chaturthi
Meanwhile, in the state's capital in Bengaluru, the city corporation – Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) – imposed a ban on meat and slaughter in the wake of the festival.
A circular passed by the civic body says that on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi, which falls on 31 August 2022, slaughtering of animals and sale of meat is prohibited within the Bengaluru corporation limits.
Speaking to The Quint, a BJP leader who wished to remain anonymous said, "There has always been an understanding that meat is not sold or consumed during big Hindu festivals. However, an order such as this, is something entirely new. I hope people from other communities respect the rule and abide by it."
A similar order had been issued on Krishna Janmashtami and Martyrs' Day in the state.
The move has received widespread criticism from the opposition parties.
Speaking to reporters in Bengaluru, Congress president DK Shivakumar remarked that the BJP was courting controversy and trying to stoke unnecessary conflict in the society.
Claiming that the BJP's agenda was to divert the attention from failures of the Bommai government, he added, "We wish to know what rules have been applied in bringing in this new circular. They are engaging in controversies as they do not have anything to show when it comes to governance."