Keshav Hegde is the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s organising secretary in Karnataka . He is also the joint convener of the Dharma Raksha Manch in the state and plays an important part in translating plans made at the national level into local action. Sanjana Chappalli caught up with him just after the Manch meeting in Madikeri.
You’ve held a meeting in Mangalore, and one here in Madikeri. What is next on your agenda?
There will be no other public meetings for now, since elections have been announced. We are not getting permission to tie banners, build stages, etc. So we will shift our venue to the temples. Next month, we have about a hundred yagnas (rituals) planned at temples across the state — 25 in Bengaluru itself.
You spoke at today’s meeting of the need for a government that will hang Afzal Guru and re-enact tough laws like POTA. How will you incorporate the political messages we saw there into yagnas held at temples?
The swamis conducting the rituals will carry forward the messages you heard in the speeches. We have been careful in selecting the venues. Only those temples which will work with us to uphold Hindu interests are going to organise the yagnas. As part of the ritual, all those gathered will be administered oaths to fight for the Hindu religion.
You don’t anticipate any problem from the Election Commission in holding these programmes?
Well, we are not supposed to condemn other religions, but who can stop us talking about problems afflicting our religion? Cows are worshipped in our temples; when the same cows are killed outside, it is a problem. Our temples are being attacked, idols are destroyed.
WHO CAN STOP US FROM TALKING ABOUT PROBLEMS AFFLICTING OUR RELIGION?
When temple processions are held, slippers are thrown at us. There are restrictions placed on us taking out a procession if there is a mosque on the way. Who gave them permission to build that mosque in the first place? We did! And then they turn around and say we can never hold our functions in that area. These are problems that the temples are facing today. We will talk about these problems after the yagnas and ask Hindus to be vigilant about all this.
This doesn’t sound like a religious programme at all.
(Raises voice) It is. And we don’t need any permission for these programmes. It is something that we are doing on our land, inside our temples, about our religion! What is the problem with that? The state government in Karnataka today is on our side and supports us fully. It is the Election Commission which is imposing restrictions on us.
This article was originally published in Tehelka, a leading independent news magazine in India, known for its investigative journalism.