Bababudangiri has hotted up again when there are only a few months to go for the Karnataka assembly elections. It was not an accident that there was trouble recently at the site, which is holy for both Hindus and Muslims. There was a plan and design to foment trouble and this was done by the BJP and other Hindutva organisations, including the VHP. On Datta Jayanti day recently, a procession was held there by the Hindutva organisations which was led by a BJP MLA and a VHP leader. Provocative slogans were raised and speeches were made. Some processionists broke the barricades and entered the restricted area, hoisted saffron flags and damaged some plaques. All these were part of a deliberate attempt to create a situation that would keep the issue "active" until the elections. It did not go out of hand because there was heavy police security in the area.
Both Hindus and Muslims have worshipped at the shrine in Chikkamagaluru district for decades. It has a syncretic tradition and has been a centre of pilgrimage for members of both religions. It is associated with the Hindu deity Dattatreya and a Muslim saint who lived there for a long time. Both communities have respected each other's faith and there was no tension and conflict. Until the BJP and the Hindutva organisations stepped in. They demand that the shrine be declared a Hindu temple and its administration handed over. Protests, agitations and campaigns have been held for this regularly and these have peaked on Datta Jayanti every year. Untoward incidents have taken place. This is because the Hindutva groups not only want to appropriate the shrine but also to deny the Muslims any rights there. A place which was once a symbol of religious harmony has been turned into an arena of contention and controversy to serve a political purpose.
The Bababudangiri campaign is part of the BJP's political plan to divide society on communal lines and to take advantage of such polarisation. The party has tried to do in Karnataka what it has been doing with the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi issue at the national level. It has gained by the divisive and polarising tactics it has adopted in the past and is not defensive about them. The campaigns centring on Bababudangiri and other communal hotspots and issues are likely to continue and might be stepped up in the coming days as the elections draw near. This is despicable and reprehensible. Political parties should have no role in matters relating to religion and should not be allowed to exploit them for their narrow ends. Their gain can only result in loss for society and the nation.