Karnataka schools allow Puja and air rifles

After the hijab (headscarf), halal meat, economic boycott of Muslim traders and Azaan controversies, the training camp shocked people

Karnataka schools allow Puja and air rifles

Naheed Ataulla

Air Rifles cost between Rs 5000 and Rs 30,000 and came under the prohibited category of the Arms Act in 2016 when a sleeper cell of allegedly Islamic terrorists was found to be using them for target practice in Hyderabad.

Ironically, Bajrang Dal has now been ‘caught’ imparting target practice at a school in Kodagu district of Karnataka. Virajpet Dy SP Niranjan Raj Urs claims that air rifles “having a muzzle energy exceeding 20 joules (unit of energy, when it leaves the barrel of the gun) and bores above 0.177 or 4.5 mm are subject to licensing requirements and permission is required for using them.

In a classic case of locking the stable after horses have bolted, an explanation has been sought on the make of the air rifles used. The school too has been asked to explain after local police was forced to act on May 16 following formal complaints and outrage in the state.

After the hijab (headscarf), halal meat, economic boycott of Muslim traders and Azaan controversies, the training camp shocked people. The camp, held between May 5 and 11, culminated in a Hindu Samajotsava, a public meeting, on May 19.

Unfazed, BJP Karnataka President Nalin Kumar Kateel and the Bajrang Dal defended the ‘training’ camp. Authorities of Sai Shankar Educational Institute claimed it was a cultural event. Kateel described the distribution of tridents to the trainees as a ‘ritual’. Police said the tridents were just souvenirs. VHP district president P Krishnamurthy described it as a personality development camp, which he claimed has been an annual event since 1984 when Bajrang Dal was allegedly formed (registered or not is not known).

The Popular front of India, which filed a police complaint, and the Students Democratic Party of India wondered if they would be allowed to hold such camps without permission. While police remained tight lipped on whether permission was sought by Bajrang Dal or if it was granted. But since police did provide security to the procession and public function on the last day of the camp, they can hardly profess to have been ignorant.

A mountain is being made of a molehill, claim the Sangh Parivar. And true enough, it has been holding arms training camps in various states, especially BJP ruled states, for several years. Uttarakhand for example is going to hold one such camp later this month. The coastal districts of Karnataka have been a BJP stronghold for a decade and a half. Observers believe the Parivar is mobilising its cadre for the impending state election. In the last election BJP had swept and bagged most of the seats here and the party would like to repeat the performance.

“Are they converting young students into terrorists. Why is the government silent?’’ questioned B K Hariprasad, a member of the Legislative Council, while former chief minister Siddarmaiah wondered, “Has the BJP granted any special concession to Bajrang Dal and Sri Rama Sene to disturb peace in the state?’’

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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Published: 20 May 2022, 2:30 PM