February 04, 2024

Karnataka: Souharda Karnataka Holds Human Chains to Safeguard Social Harmony

Vasanth NK

ON January 30, observing the Martyrs' Day, ‘Souharda Karnataka’ (Harmonious Karnataka) human chains were formed across the state, with over one lakh people gathering at more than 100 locations. In Bangalore alone, human chains were formed at over 20 locations, overcoming police restrictions, while 10 locations in coastal Udupi witnessed the same display of unity. The central human chain extended from the Kuvempu Statue to the Gandhi Statue at Freedom Park in Bangalore. Human chains were formed at several places in Mysore, Kalburgi, Chikkaballapura, Dharwad, Ballari, Koppal, Tumkur, Kolar, Hassan, and in various districts and taluka towns. Participants, including workers, peasants, students, intellectuals, and representatives from all religious communities, enthusiastically participated in the human chains. Notably, religious leaders from diverse faiths actively participated in most of the places.

The call for harmony human chains was given by Souharda Karnataka, a platform comprising secular progressive individuals, trade unions, and various social organisations representing farmers, students, youth, women, dalits, and others, to safeguard and uphold the heritage of social harmony in Karnataka, which is under threat from communal forces. A pledge was taken to defend the rich heritage of social harmony in Karnataka. Public meetings were held after the formation of the chains. Speakers addressing the meetings underscored the sacrifices of Mahatma Gandhi and numerous freedom fighters who dedicated their lives to the ideals of a democratic, secular, and egalitarian India. They highlighted how the communal forces, despite their defeat  in the state assembly elections, are trying to raise non-issues and propagate fake controversies. One such instance highlighted was the recent controversy surrounding the raising of Hanuma Dhwaja at Keregodu in Mandya district.

In the central human chain at Bangalore's Freedom Park, U Basavaraj, CPI(M) state secretary, participated and addressed the gathering. CPI(M) state secretariat members, S Varalaxmi, G C Bayyareddy, and Meenakshi Sundaram participated in the central human chain. Prominent intellectuals like Dr K Marulasiddappa, Dr G Ramakrishna, Vijaya, Justice V Gopalagowda, Justice Nagmohandas, Dr Mudnakudu Chinnaswamy, Dr K Sharifa, and Saleem Ahmad (chief whip of the Congress party in the legislative council) along with dalit Leader Dr Mohanraj formed the initial links of the chain. Numerous leaders from CPI(M) also actively participated in various other locations, contributing to the widespread success of the harmony human chains across Karnataka.

The Souharda Karnataka platform was formed during a convention held in Bangalore on September 5, 2017, a date that coincided with the ghastly murder of prominent journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh. It was formed in the wake of series of murders targeting secular and rational intellectuals, including Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Comrade Govind Pansare, and Dr M M Kalburgi. The inaugural state-wide 'Harmony Human Chain' by Souharda Karnataka took place on January 30, 2018. While the platform remained actively engaged in various mass activities aimed at safeguarding the heritage of social harmony in Karnataka and countering the malicious communal campaign on the ground, the subsequent years saw a hiatus in organising the 'Harmony Human Chain' due to the challenges posed by the Corona pandemic. However, it has been successfully revived this year.

The human chain programme was a crucial component of an ongoing and continuous campaign aimed at fostering awareness regarding the rich heritage of social harmony in Karnataka. This heritage encompasses the poetic and musical contributions of social reformers and saints like Basavanna, Purandara Dasa, Kanaka Dasa, Shishunala Sharif, and numerous Sufi saints, who vehemently opposed all forms of discrimination based on caste, religion, gender, and class, as well as religious orthodoxy. The rich heritage also includes the existence of syncretic shrines where temples and dargahs coexist in the same locations, where people of all faiths visit them, particularly during annual events such as the Baba Budangiri Darga in Chikkamagalur and the Bande Nawaz Darga in Kalburgi. These locations have now become focal points for controversy and unrest incited by Sangh gangsters.

Messages promoting social harmony, secularism, and the rejection of casteism and untouchability are integral to mainstream Kannada poetry and literature, spanning from Adi Kavi Pampa, one of the first poets, to modern literary figures like Kuvempu and GS Shivarudrappa. Indigenous secularism is deeply ingrained in the ethos of social life in Karnataka.

A series of programmes is being organised to raise awareness about this heritage and reinvigorate its essence. Souharda Karnataka is organising a range of activities, including readings and renderings (singing competitions with a focus on these works) of poems and songs by poets and social reformer saints. Additionally, visits to syncretic shrines are being arranged to emphasize their secular traditions, along with lectures covering various facets of this rich heritage. To spread the message of harmony and counter communal propaganda, Souharda Karnataka is actively engaging in social media campaigns.