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Srikanth Poojari Gets Bail in 1992 Riot Case Amid BJP-Cong Row: What's the Case?

Srikanth Poojari was arrested last week for his alleged involvement in violence post-Babri Masjid demolition.

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Hindutva activist Srikanth Poojari, whose arrest has triggered a political storm in Karnataka, was granted bail by a Hubballi court on Friday, 5 January.

Poojari was arrested last week for his alleged involvement in the Hubballi violence of 1992, which broke out in the state after the Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya.

His arrest had triggered sharp reactions from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which accused Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of doing "vendetta politics" ahead of the inauguration of the newly constructed Ram Mandir in Ayodhya on 22 January.

Siddaramaiah, however, justified the arrest, saying, "The arrest of Srikanth Poojari during the inauguration of the Ram Mandir is merely a coincidence."

Here's a look at the controversy.

Srikanth Poojari Gets Bail in 1992 Riot Case Amid BJP-Cong Row: What's the Case?

  1. 1. Who Is Srikanth Poojari?

    Poojari, a 51-year-old Hindu activist, hails from Karnataka's Channapet in Hubballi district, reported Hindustan Times. Some local media reports claim that he has been working as an autorickshaw driver for the past few years.

    Poojari is accused of allegedly setting fire to some shops in Hubballi after the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992. As per the Hubballi Police, he was booked in 16 cases in the last 31 years, including three for rioting, reported Hindustan Times.

    He is also accused of illegal liquor sales and gambling. The police said that Poojari has never appeared before the court, the report added.

    Expand
  2. 2. What Did the Ruling Congress Say?

    On the BJP's allegations of "vendetta politics," CM Siddaramaiah said on 2 January:

    "What should be done to offenders? Can they be allowed to go scot-free? We have asked the police to dispose of old cases. We don't resort to hate politics. The police have acted upon the directions of the court. We never do anything that would lead to the arrest of innocents."

    On 3 January, he posted on X: "Srikanth Poojari, who flaunts himself as a devotee of Rama and a kar sevak in front of the public, is in fact a social miscreant in the eyes of the law. He is someone who uses religion as a shield to protect his criminal activities. If such individuals are not arrested and are allowed to roam freely, even Lord Rama cannot forgive this."

    Siddaramaiah further stated that Poojari is facing allegations of 16 anti-social activities, including "illegal liquor sales, gambling, and Matka."

    He also said, "Within the jurisdiction of the Hubballi-Dharwad Commissionerate, 36 people were arrested in connection with crimes including marijuana sales, theft, extortion, fraud, and gambling. Srikanth Poojari is the 32nd person on this list."

    "If those involved in criminal activities claim to be protectors of religion and indulge in murder and extortion, will BJP leaders support them too?" he added.

    Meanwhile, Hubballi–Dharwad Police Commissioner Renuka Sukumar said that Poojari's arrest in connection with the 1992 violence case is part of a routine process to trace accused persons in long-pending cases, reported The Hindu.

    Adding to that, Karnataka Home Minister G Parameshwara said, "If only one person is arrested in an old case, we accept the allegations. But I ordered to dispose of all pending cases in the state by investigating them. Srikanth was arrested in that process along with many people with a criminal history. The law will take its own course and has nothing to do with a particular religion," as quoted by Hindustan Times.

    Expand
  3. 3. What Did the BJP Say?

    Reacting to Poojari's arrest, Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Coal and Mines Pralhad Joshi said on 2 January, "If you observe the timing of the arrest, Congress decided to do it right before the grand Ayodhya temple opening. The Congress party could not digest that the BJP is creating history by opening the temple of lord Ram at Ayodhya and trying to create tensions in the country," as quoted by Hindustan Times.

    Moreover, on action against Hindutva activists, he slammed Karnataka CM, saying: "Is he running a Mughal government in the state?"

    "Is Siddaramaiah in the process of making an IS government here? Or is he running a Mughal, Islamic government in the state?" Joshi said, as per IANS.

    Karnataka BJP also organised a statewide protest against the arrest of Poojari.

    During the protest in Hubballi, the Leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka Assembly R Ashoka condemned the police's action, saying that "people can be jailed in Karnataka for chanting Jai Shri Ram." 

    "If you chant 'Jai Sri Ram' in Karnataka, you will be sent to jail. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is at the Centre, so we are not afraid of all these," he said.

    • 01/03

      BJP workers during a protest condemning the arrest of Hindu activist Srikanth Poojari in connection with a 1992 rioting case post-Babri mosque demolition, in Hubballi, on Wednesday, 3 January.

      (Photo: PTI)

    • 02/03

      Karnataka BJP president BY Vijayendra, MP PC Mohan, and party leaders during a protest condemning the arrest of Hindutva activist Srikanth Poojari in connection with a 1992 rioting case post-Babri mosque demolition, in Bengaluru.

      (Photo: Shailendra Bhojak/PTI)

    • 03/03

      BJP's protest in Bengaluru.

      Shailendra Bhojak

    Amid the row, BJP leader CT Ravi shared a purported clip of Siddaramaiah alleging that he refused to enter a temple.

    "Karnataka chief minister refuses to enter a temple despite his minister and priest requesting to come inside and seek the darshan of the deity," he said on X.

    The Quint has not been able to independently check the veracity of the said clip.

    (With inputs from Hindustan Times, The Hindu, and IANS.)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Who Is Srikanth Poojari?

Poojari, a 51-year-old Hindu activist, hails from Karnataka's Channapet in Hubballi district, reported Hindustan Times. Some local media reports claim that he has been working as an autorickshaw driver for the past few years.

Poojari is accused of allegedly setting fire to some shops in Hubballi after the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992. As per the Hubballi Police, he was booked in 16 cases in the last 31 years, including three for rioting, reported Hindustan Times.

He is also accused of illegal liquor sales and gambling. The police said that Poojari has never appeared before the court, the report added.

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What Did the Ruling Congress Say?

On the BJP's allegations of "vendetta politics," CM Siddaramaiah said on 2 January:

"What should be done to offenders? Can they be allowed to go scot-free? We have asked the police to dispose of old cases. We don't resort to hate politics. The police have acted upon the directions of the court. We never do anything that would lead to the arrest of innocents."

On 3 January, he posted on X: "Srikanth Poojari, who flaunts himself as a devotee of Rama and a kar sevak in front of the public, is in fact a social miscreant in the eyes of the law. He is someone who uses religion as a shield to protect his criminal activities. If such individuals are not arrested and are allowed to roam freely, even Lord Rama cannot forgive this."

Siddaramaiah further stated that Poojari is facing allegations of 16 anti-social activities, including "illegal liquor sales, gambling, and Matka."

He also said, "Within the jurisdiction of the Hubballi-Dharwad Commissionerate, 36 people were arrested in connection with crimes including marijuana sales, theft, extortion, fraud, and gambling. Srikanth Poojari is the 32nd person on this list."

"If those involved in criminal activities claim to be protectors of religion and indulge in murder and extortion, will BJP leaders support them too?" he added.

Meanwhile, Hubballi–Dharwad Police Commissioner Renuka Sukumar said that Poojari's arrest in connection with the 1992 violence case is part of a routine process to trace accused persons in long-pending cases, reported The Hindu.

Adding to that, Karnataka Home Minister G Parameshwara said, "If only one person is arrested in an old case, we accept the allegations. But I ordered to dispose of all pending cases in the state by investigating them. Srikanth was arrested in that process along with many people with a criminal history. The law will take its own course and has nothing to do with a particular religion," as quoted by Hindustan Times.

0

What Did the BJP Say?

Reacting to Poojari's arrest, Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Coal and Mines Pralhad Joshi said on 2 January, "If you observe the timing of the arrest, Congress decided to do it right before the grand Ayodhya temple opening. The Congress party could not digest that the BJP is creating history by opening the temple of lord Ram at Ayodhya and trying to create tensions in the country," as quoted by Hindustan Times.

Moreover, on action against Hindutva activists, he slammed Karnataka CM, saying: "Is he running a Mughal government in the state?"

"Is Siddaramaiah in the process of making an IS government here? Or is he running a Mughal, Islamic government in the state?" Joshi said, as per IANS.

Karnataka BJP also organised a statewide protest against the arrest of Poojari.

During the protest in Hubballi, the Leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka Assembly R Ashoka condemned the police's action, saying that "people can be jailed in Karnataka for chanting Jai Shri Ram." 

"If you chant 'Jai Sri Ram' in Karnataka, you will be sent to jail. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is at the Centre, so we are not afraid of all these," he said.

  • 01/03

    BJP workers during a protest condemning the arrest of Hindu activist Srikanth Poojari in connection with a 1992 rioting case post-Babri mosque demolition, in Hubballi, on Wednesday, 3 January.

    (Photo: PTI)

  • 02/03

    Karnataka BJP president BY Vijayendra, MP PC Mohan, and party leaders during a protest condemning the arrest of Hindutva activist Srikanth Poojari in connection with a 1992 rioting case post-Babri mosque demolition, in Bengaluru.

    (Photo: Shailendra Bhojak/PTI)

  • 03/03

    BJP's protest in Bengaluru.

    Shailendra Bhojak

Amid the row, BJP leader CT Ravi shared a purported clip of Siddaramaiah alleging that he refused to enter a temple.

"Karnataka chief minister refuses to enter a temple despite his minister and priest requesting to come inside and seek the darshan of the deity," he said on X.

The Quint has not been able to independently check the veracity of the said clip.

(With inputs from Hindustan Times, The Hindu, and IANS.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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