In a highly volatile situation, with passions running high, a large number of Marathi-speaking people re-installed a newly-constructed signboard at the entrance of Yellur village. It indicates that the village is in Maharashtra and has been erected at the same spot where it was removed by the district administration only on Friday afternoon.
Police personnel, including those of the Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP), who were on vigil after the demolition of the signboard, were chased away. Even mediapersons retreated on seeing a huge mob — comprising the aged, the young and women who formed a protective cover — allegedly carrying chilli powder. Trees were cut and laid across the road to prevent police vehicles entering the village.
After installing the signboard and hoisting a saffron flag, the mob burnt the effigy of Bhimappa Gundappa Gadag, the RTI activist who questioned the existence of the “illegal” signboard in a public interest litigation petition, on which the High Court is expected to issue orders on Monday.
Later in the evening, Deputy Commissioner N. Jayaram said the signboard was re-installed by some miscreants, and the Yellur village residents were not involved. He said the signboard was removed with the consent of the residents and in the presence of MLA Sambhaji Patil, a senior leader of the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samithi (MES), adhering to the direction of the Karnataka High Court.
Mr. Jayaram said the signboard was illegal and would be removed soon. He appealed to both Marathi and Kannada-linguistic communities and their leaders not to issue provocative statements and harm the harmony and peace of the region. Appropriate action would be taken against all the miscreants who indulged in unlawful activities and even those who were provoking people and creating a law and order problem. Superintendent of Police Chandragupta said the police exercised restraint due to the presence of women, the aged and children. He said the police would ensure that the decision taken by the deputy commissioner to remove the illegal signboard would be implemented very soon. A large posse of police was stationed outside the village.
On the possibility of Marathi workers repeating their action, and reports that there are other such signboards installed in Belgaum taluk, he said suitable action would be taken to avoid the recurrence of such incidents.