A religious fair at a Mangalore temple sparked controversy after Muslim vendors were allegedly denied permission to set up stalls on the premises.
The fair, known as Shahsthi Mahotsava, is scheduled to take place between December 14 and 19 at the Kudupu Sri Anantha Padmanabha temple, which falls under the Muzrai department of the Karnataka government.
According to the Karnataka Street Vendors Association, the temple management has asked Muslim traders to obtain stalls in the name of Hindus if they want to conduct their business during the fair.
“The Muslim traders have not been permitted to do business during the fair,” the association said in a statement. “They are unjustly being denied permission.”
The association also argued that such fairs are a means for poor Muslim traders to earn their livelihood. “They have been selling their goods on the public road in front of the temple for years. But since last year, there has been discrimination,” the association said.
Muslim vendors are calling for the resignation of Minister for Health and District in-charge, Dinesh Gundu Rao, alleging his biases against the community. Muslim vendors also threatened to stage a protest if their demands were not met.
In response to the allegations, temple authorities, however, defended their decision, saying they followed due procedure and adhered to the government guidelines while awarding the contract for stall allotment, without any discrimination or bias.
“We have not violated any rules or norms. We have given the contract to the person who quoted the lowest price. We have not asked anyone to change their names or religion,” said temple executive officer Jagadeesh.
Reacting to the development, he also said that the temple has been undergoing renovation since 2016 and that the Brahmakalashotsava, a festival that marks the completion of the renovation, was last held at the temple in February 2018.
The temple, which is dedicated to Lord Anantha Padmanabha, is one of the prominent naga-kshetras (serpent temples) in the region. It attracts thousands of devotees every year, especially during the Shahsthi Mahotsava, which is celebrated on the sixth day of the lunar month of Margashira.