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Shiva statue installed at Begur Lake gets a warning from the Karnataka High Court

Bengaluru: The Karnataka High Court ordered the Bengaluru Police Commissioner to personally investigate the unveiling of a Shiva Statue on an artificial island inside Begur Lake allegedly by right-wing groups on Wednesday. Construction has been halted by the court. The High Court concluded that ‘openly in daylight the court’s orders are flouted, this is clearly criminal, the State government cannot participate in this and must take action immediately’.

In its opinion, the bench said, ‘Organized by date, the orders passed by this court over a period of time will demonstrate that all orders are directed at protecting existing lakes and restoring and revitalizing those that have disappeared over time. In this case, the issue involves BBMP creating artificial islands for statue installations in Begur Lake. It is a legal issue, whether an island can be constructed in the middle of a lake. There is no religious issue here’.

The Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) had stalled the construction of the statue in the lake island by order dated August 30, 2019. According to an affidavit filed by Leo Saldanha, Coordinator of the Environment Support Group, the Karnataka HC issued the stay order. Originally, he had been allowed to intervene in public interest litigation filed by Citizens Action Group (CAG) about the plight of the city’s lakes and stormwater drains. The HC had stated that ‘BBMP has the authority to reduce the area of the lake and make islands in it. However, in view of the doctrine of Public Trust, the BBMP cannot reduce the area of the lake’.

BBMP was further ordered not to carry out any work of building islands within the lake area of 137.24 acres until it responds to the affidavit and to ensure that no work is carried out so as to reduce the existing lake area without the permission of the Court. On the 5th March 2021, the court ordered: ‘The learned senior counsel appearing for BBMP, Shri DN Nanjunda Reddy requests time to prepare a clear stand on the erection of an idol/statue on the island in the lake. We grant two weeks as an indulgence. The purpose of making an island cannot be to install an idol on it. BBMP shall take a decision in this regard’.

In the last two weeks, Hindutva organizations have circulated posters and videos questioning the statue’s stay. In addition, they propagated a claim that it was due to objections raised by the Christian community. A public statement demanding strict action against communal elements was written by Civic Bangalore, Citizens for Bengaluru, Campaign against Hate Speech and signed by 45 social, environmental, and civic activists. Those working to protect Begur Lake are threatened with dire consequences.

As reported in Vijay Karnataka on 17th and 18th June, local MLA Mr. M Krishnappa visited the site and ordered BBMP officials to resume work on the lake despite the Court’s clear directives. On 31st July 2021, Puneeth Kerehalli posted a video on Facebook in which he called on the public to violate the Hon’ble Court’s directions and consecrate the statue.

Read more: Hindutva organization launches protest against Muslim henna artists

It has also been claimed that Hindu organizations have come together to unveil the statue after it was blocked by ‘Christian missionaries who claim that the water levels in the lake will decrease’.The posters were printed by Postcard News, whose founder was arrested in 2018 for spreading confusion about a Jain monk killed by Muslim youth.


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