Bengaluru: Marathi-speaking people and followers of Maratha ruler Shivaji spilled on to the streets of Peeranwadi, a village in Belagavi district bordering Maharashtra, Friday, objecting to the installation of a statue of 18th century warrior and freedom fighter Sangolli Rayanna at the same spot where there were plans to install a statue of Shivaji Maharaj.
While pro-Kannada activists celebrated the installation of the statue of Rayanna, several Marathi-speaking people staged protests at the statue site leading to tension.
Pro-Kannada activists installed the statue of Rayanna at a road junction in Peeranwadi in the cover of darkness Thursday and Marathi speaking people said the spot was meant for a statue of Shivaji Maharaj, after whom the circle is named.
Police used batons to disperse the restive crowd that was getting aggressive. Additional forces have been called in to avoid the situation spiralling out of control.
Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said he has spoken to Belagavi Deputy Commissioner and other officials and has given them necessary instructions.
“I have told officials that without differentiating between Kannadigas and Marathi people, the situation should be handled delicately and issues should be resolved… everything is peaceful now, everyone is cooperating. I thank the people for this.. everything will be resolved,” he told reporters.
Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai said police have taken stringent measures to control the situation and that he has spoken to Belagavi Police Commissioner and IG, also ADGP Law and Order is visiting the area.
Later in a tweet, Bommai said, “the state government is in favour of Kannadigas and was committed to protect their interest. I have asked ADGP (L&O) to look into the FIR lodged by the police at Peeranwadi. He is already at the spot and I have instructed him to hold a peace meet and resolve the issue in a cordial manner.”
On August 15, police thwarted attempts to install Rayanna’s statue there, citing absence of permission from the authorities for the same, and also Supreme Court directions against such moves near highways.
JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy hit out at a section of Marathi people for protesting against the statue of Rayanna and said there is no need for anyone else’s approval for installing the statue of a great freedom fighter.
In a series of tweets, he said whether it is Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti or Shiv Sena or someone else, if anyone insults Rayanna, the brave son of this land, it is like testing the patience of Kannadigas, and warned that they don’t tolerate such things. “There can be no compromise on the issue of the state’s land, water, language and border..,” he added.
Meanwhile, the state BJP unit condemned the act of violence by the workers of Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) and Shiv Sena at Peeranwadi.
Sangolli Rayanna (1798-1831) was the army chief of the erstwhile Kittur Kingdom ruled by Rani Chennamma and fought against the British who hanged him to death from a Banyan tree near Nandagad in Belagavi district in 1831.