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Protests Erupt as K’taka Govt ‘Shies Away’ from Arresting RSS Leader for Anti-Muslim Women Remarks

The Karnataka government’s lawyer on Thursday informed the High Court that there is no intention to arrest Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, during the hearing of a petition seeking the quashing of the hate speech case against the RSS leader. 

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, was booked by  Srirangapatna town police station in Karnataka’s Mandya district over controversial remarks against Muslim women, saying they had one husband a day. Bhat claimed that Muslim women were granted “permanent husbands” by PM Narendra Modi through the legal intervention of criminalizing triple talaq. 

Citing the accused’s age and health condition, Bhat’s counsel requested the court to stay the FIR. S. Balan, the advocate for the complainant, objected to the stay, highlighting the impact of it on the state with the ongoing protests. Nonetheless, Bhat was granted interim bail on Thursday evening, as confirmed by a social media post of senior advocate and former AAG of Karnataka, Aruna Shyam.

A person present at the court had anonymously told The Observer Post, “Bhat does not have any problem in travelling 500 km all the way to give a derogatory speech, but when it comes to arresting him, he has ‘health issues’. Moreover, the health report presented to the court was that of 2022. This is Savarkar Parampara”.

Following a complaint filed by Najma Nazeer, a social worker and activist, for targeting Muslim women and promoting religious hatred in a gathering during Sankeertana Yatra, organized by Hindu Jagarana Vedike as part of Hanuman Jayanti celebrations in Mandya on December 24th, charges were filed against him under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). 

Protests were held in various parts of the state demanding strict action against Bhat.

“His statement has created outrage among people of all faiths. Yet, the government is paying no heed to people’s outcry,” a source said. 

Members of the Women India Movement (WIM) held a protest in Mangalore, stating that Bhat was attempting to disrupt peace and harmony in Mandya.

Speaking to The Observer Post, State President Fathima Naseema said, “First and foremost, we demand the arrest of Prabhakar Bhat. He is just one among the many who pass such derogatory comments regarding Muslim women, and therefore, this should be the end of it altogether.”

The protest came in only two days later since they were denied permission to protest earlier. The Police that did not grant permission have not only made them wait for hours, and threatened them but have registered a case under section 107 (which talks about the security for keeping the peace) against 3 district leaders of WIM who went to seek permission. The organization said that they will question this act of the officers through a legal fight, in a press conference held on Thursday.

“Protesting is a fundamental right that the civilians use to bring the matter to the attention of the authorities. But the authorities themselves are stopping us. WIM will take this matter to the court, because in a democratic state, this cannot continue,” Naseema added.  

WIM alone has filed cases in about 21 different parts of the state, according to their press release. But in most places, the police were not ready to file any case, they said.

“Government and the Police are responsible for maintaining law & order and preventing breach of security & peace. Why then did they not arrest Prabhakar Bhat? Their failure in detaining a person who incites communal divide gives a clear message to the public,” general secretary of WIM, Nasriya Bellare said.

They also accused the government of appeasement for vote banks, highlighting its failure in upholding minorities’ rights.

“The government must not be all words but should act on it. Ensuring protection of minorities rights is the least they could do,” Naseema said.

Nasriya told The Observer Post, “Priyank Kharge had given a statement saying, the previous government was operating on the principles of Hindutva, but the current government operates on constitutional values. But their response to this issue makes the claim questionable.”

During the hearing, the government’s attorney said, “We do not intend to apprehend Prabhakar Bhat in this matter,” and urged the court to set a date for the upcoming trial. 

The advocate stated that if Bhat was not arrested, it would create a stir across the state, citing the Supreme Court verdict on the arrest of those inciting communal tension. But to no avail.

In response to the government’s stance, the trial judge stated, “If the government has no plans to arrest Bhat, there is no need to discuss the stay on the case”. 

Bhat has been booked under Sections 354 (outraging modesty of a woman), 294 (uttering obscene words in public places), section 506 (criminal intimidation), section 509 (intruding into the privacy of women), section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, insulting its religion or religious beliefs), and 298 (deliberate hurting of religious sentiments) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Complainant Najma Nazeer, told The Observer Post, “I will carry on with the legal fight for the women until he is arrested. Until justice is served”. The hearing was adjourned to January 9, 2024.

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