Govt calls off Constitution seminar amid protests

Last Updated 22 January 2019, 19:49 IST

The state government was forced to abruptly cancel a star-studded two-day seminar on the Constitution on Tuesday following protests that it was being held during the official mourning period to mark the demise of Siddaganga Mutt seer Shivakumara Swami.

Besides the uproar on the timing of the event, the BJP kicked up a storm against the ruling Congress-JD(S) coalition for inviting student activist Kanhaiya Kumar, who has been booked for sedition, and firebrand AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi as panelists.

The national seminar titled ‘Conversations of the Constitution’ organised by the Social Welfare Department at The Lalit Ashok was flagged off by former vice-president Mohammad Hamid Ansari who delivered the keynote address. This was followed by a panel discussion after which the event was called off.

RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Jayant Chaudhary, actor Prakash Raj, AAP national spokesperson Raghav Chadha, Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, author Vikram Sampath, activist Gurmehar Kaur among others were scheduled to speak in the sessions that were lined up at the seminar. Also, BJP leaders Rakesh Sinha, Shaina NC, Vaman Acharya and Vivek Reddy were listed as panelists.

The event started off by paying respects to Shivakumara Swami. Even as Ansari addressed the audience, pro-Kannada groups demanded cancellation of the event. Social Welfare Minister Priyank Kharge rushed outside and tried to reason with them.

The discussions were based on topics that have become a hot potato in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls — threat to judiciary, freedom of expression, federalism, tribal rights and so on. BJP spokesperson Go Madhusudan staged a walkout. “It is being held during state mourning. Kanhaiya Kumar, Jignesh Mevani and Asaduddin Owaisi, who don’t believe in the Constitution and integrity of the country, have been invited,” he said.

During mourning, no official entertainment programmes are conducted by the government. “The chief minister gave us the go-ahead because it wasn’t an entertainment programme,” Kharge told reporters. “The event was finalised three-four months ago. We dedicated the event to Shivakumara Swami. Also, since national and global delegates were coming, we couldn’t cancel it.”

BJP’s Rakesh Sinha, who took part in a panel discussion before the event was cancelled, later tweeted: “I withdrew from the event, didn’t join opening session, just part of one panel discussion. I openly insisted the programme should be cancelled as a mark of respect to Swamiji.”

(Published 22 January 2019, 08:55 IST)

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