Cops Watched Crowd Vandalize My Cart: Muslim Vendor Targeted in Karnataka

The visuals of crushed watermelons next to a temple were widely publicized and prompted several people, including prominent politicians, to set up fundraising campaigns to provide financial assistance to Nabisaab.

Nabisaab Killedar has been selling fruit outside the Hanumantha Temple in the village of Nuggikeri near Dharwad for over twenty years now. Until April 9, when 10 members of Sri Rama Sene went on a rampage and vandalized Nabisaab’s handcart and the watermelons he was selling. Days later, a still pissed off Nabisaab who says he has never been discriminated against at the temple before, is dismayed as the police watched silently as Sene members destroyed fruit, his cart at arm and his livelihood. The visuals of dozens of watermelons squashed on the ground were widely publicized and prompted several people, including prominent politicians, to set up fundraising campaigns to provide financial assistance to Nabisaab. “I don’t know who sent me money, I got a few messages about money deposited in my account. I’m grateful for everyone’s blessings,” he says. But even though the attack on Nabisaab’s cart was used to further polarize the state, Nabisaab wants to return to the same place and continue to sell fruit to devotees who visit Hanumantha’s temple, if he is allowed to do so.” For almost a hundred years we have lived together. The Hindus and Muslims here have been eating and working together for at least four to five generations. The vandals come from outside the village, not from our Hindu friends,” he said. told TNM.

Nabisaab is a practicing Muslim and claims to be religious by nature. But that did not deter him from either learning the Hanuman Chalisa or eloquently quoting the poet and saint Basavanna. Growing up in Dharwad, how can anyone be oblivious to the wise words of Basavanna, he asks, even as he quotes his vachanas (philosophical poems related to the Shaiva movement of the 11 and 12 centuries AD).

Starting from the Maari Gudi fair in Udupi, Hindutva organizations have been engaged in a malicious campaign across Karnataka for over a month now, targeting small-scale Muslim traders who sell either near temples or during temple fairs. The ruling BJP, misapplying the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Foundations Act 2002, has also backed this campaign. In this case, the Sri Rama Sene justified their actions by saying they had issued a “warning” to Muslim vendors a month ago not to sell near Hindu temples. The act of destruction was due to Muslim vendors not moving, they claimed.

Nabisaab denies this. “Suddenly, without any warning, they started destroying my cart. If Sri Rama Sene or anyone had warned us before, we would have informed the committee. If they had said not to sell here, we would have left. They were at least ten and I was alone. So when they started vandalizing, I walked away. I just wanted to save my life. If I lose my cart, maybe I can buy another one someday,” he recalls.

The goons allegedly abused Nabisaab with the best swear words even as they smashed the watermelons, he adds. Highlighting the impunity with which Sri Rama Sene’s henchmen went on a rampage, Nabisaab says the two policemen standing there watched the entire episode and did nothing. “I went to them (police) and asked them why they don’t arrest those who vandalize. Only after that did the local police send in reinforcements,” he said.

Praveen Sood, the DG & IGP of Karnataka denies this allegation. Speaking to TNM, he said, “On the contrary, an FIR has been booked under a few non-releasable sections and four very important leaders who were behind this have been arrested and taken into custody,” he said. .

“We will not tolerate any such incident in the state and I have had a video conference call with superintendents of police from all districts and told them that perfect law and order must be maintained,” he said. he adds.

The Nuggikeri village temple where the incident took place, like most other temples in the state, has a committee that oversees administration, including deciding who can set up stalls outside the temple . Nabisaab says they had no objection to him or the other three Muslim vendors selling flowers, fruits and other pooja items for many decades. “The temple committee didn’t have a problem with us Muslims either. After this incident, we delivered a memorandum to the committee and community leaders asking whether we should continue to sell fruit outside the temple or not. There is another place belonging to our community, the Anjuman complex, where at least 12 shops have been rented out to people from the Lingayat caste. The secretary of this company called me and asked me to open a shop in this complex now. So we had a peace meeting and decided that we would continue as we are and live together,” he said.