Karnataka High Court directs the police to maintain strict vigil at Begur lake to prevent unveiling of Shiva statue by Hindutva groups

Published : August 12, 2021 14:32 IST

A photo of the Shiva statue on the artificial island at Begur lake. Photo: By Special Arrangement

The Karnataka High Court yesterday called the unveiling of a statue of Shiva on an artificial island on Begur lake in Bengaluru as “shocking” and directed “the State government to ensure that the police keep a constant vigil near the island created in Begur lake”.

The installation of the statue and the construction of the artificial island in Begur lake were both done by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) a few years ago in an effort to lure more visitors to the lake. The Environmental Support Group (ESG), a non-governmental organisation, took the issue to court, opposing the construction as it violated laws such as the Karnataka Tank Development and Conservation Authority Act. In its judgments in 2019 as well as 2021, the High Court directed the BBMP “not to carry on any work of building islands within the lake area”, adding that the “object of making an island cannot be to install an idol therein.”

Following this, the statue was kept covered, but a group of men claiming allegiance to Hindutva groups forcefully unveiled the statue last week and made communal statements against Leo Saldanha of the ESG in social media posts. Saffron flags were also hoisted on the island in violation of the High Court order. Vinay Sreenivasa, a lawyer associated with the Alternative Law Forum, said: “All this happened under the watch of the BBMP and the local police and we need to hold them accountable”.

It was in response to these developments that the court directed that “status quo ante” be restored at the artificial island and the statue be covered. In its observations, the High Court Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice M. Nagaprasanna also stated that the “practice of defying the order of the court in this fashion has to be deprecated”. “The issue involves the creation of artificial islands and installing statues by the BBMP. There is no religious issue involved in this group of petitions,” the court observed.