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'The Idgah land is for public use, not religious purposes'

By Vicky Nanjappa
January 14, 2010 15:50 IST
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One of the longest and most controversial legal battles in Karnataka -- the Hubli Idgah Maidan case which led to several communal clashes -- has come to an end . Not only did this battle for the land witness a lot of bloodshed, but it also claimed the head of Uma Bharti, the former firebrand leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party who was also the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh.

The Supreme Court, in a recent judgment, ruled that the Idgah Maidan in Hubli was the sole property of the Hubli-Dharward Muncipal Corporation and no other organisation had any right over this property. The entire battle for this land began in 1921 with the Hubli Muncipal Corporation signed an agreement with the Anjuman-e-Islam to use the 1.5-acre piece of land for prayers.

In 1990 the Anjuman-e-Islam constructed a commercial complex on the land following which a petition was filed opposing this. Two years later the demolition of the building was ordered. The Anjuman appealed to the Karnataka high court which in turn upheld the order of the lower court. This was followed by an appeal in the Supreme Court.

The real controversy began when a couple of other organisations sought to hoist the national flag on the disputed land claiming that everyone had a right over it. Some people forced their way through the ground which resulted in police firing in which six persons were killed. Uma Bharti too entered the scene and a non-bailable warrant was issued against her while she was the Madhya Pradesh CM. She came down to Hubli to appear before the court after resigning as CM and when she returned, she never became CM again.

The lawyer defending Uma Bharti and also opposing the Anjuman, Dore Raju speaks to's Vicky Nanjappa about the implications of the judgment.Raju says that it was after this issue that the problems in the BJP started and also adds that the national leadership of the party used this case as an opportunity to oust Bharti as they were unable to deal with her.

What are your reactions to the judgment of the Supreme Court?

It is a welcome judgment. Our stand has been vindicated.

Can you take us through the case?

It was not right on the part of the Anjuman to set up a complex on a public ground in the first place. Some citizens wanted to hoist the national flag but there was opposition. This had led to violence and several people lost their lives.The Anjuman had claimed a right over the land and had on various ocassions lost their battle in the courts. However today the Supreme Court has ruled against the Anjuman.

What are the immediate repercussions of the judgment?

The Hubli-Dharwad Muncipal Corporation will have to evict the Anjuman from the land.

How did Uma Bharti come into the picture?

She was one among the several people who were opposing the misuse of the land. She too was of the belief that a national flag ought to be hoisted on a public ground. She was stopped on several ocassions. However on one occasion, she had tonsured her head and come in disguise and hoisted the flag. Violence had broken out then and several people were killed in police firing. A committee headed by a retired high court judge was formed and a report submitted. Till date no government has even placed that report in the assembly.

What does the report state?

I would not like to go into its details and it is better you ask the judge, Rajashekara Murthy that. All I would like to say that there are indications that the police violated the norms.

Uma Bharti was chief minister of MP at the peak of this controversy. Why was she asked to step down?

The local court had issued a proclaimation against her. A non-bailable warrant too had been issued. Bharti felt that it would not be right for her to continue as a chief minister, with warrants outstanding against her. She decided that she would step down and return to the post of CM only after facing the court in Hubli. However the national leadership of the BJP used this as opportunity to shunt her out. There was conspiracy to remove her from the party as they felt that she was arrogant. They used these cases against her to permanently shunt her out of the post of CM. Party chief at that time, L K Advani had called me to New Delhi and told me that we needed to protect her. The party used this as a golden opportunity to very diplomatically remove her from the CM's post.

Do you think this judgment will create more controversy?

Why should it? No one wants to be hauled up for contempt of a SC judgment. The BJP government in Karnataka will take it to its logical end and it will be done legally.

Do you see this issue as a religious one?

It is not a religious issue at all. Although it is sensitive, I believe that no one can claim a right over public land. If someone wants to hoist a flag there should be no opposition to it. This land is located in the heart of Hubli. I don't think any community should be allowed to offer prayers on this land. It is for public use and not religious purpose. Rallies and protest meetings can be held with the permission of the corporation. Now with this judgment all constructions made by the Anjuman should be demolished.

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Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru