Ambedkar photo row: Dalit groups protest in Karnataka

RAICHUR: Dalit organisations and advocates' associations staged protests in Karnataka on Thursday over the alleged removal of a portrait of Dr BR Ambedkar from the dais during the Republic Day celebrations at the district court premises in Raichur, 400km from Bengaluru. Judge Mallikarjuna Gowda said he did not cause disrespect to such a great personality.

Forums seek action against judge The protests followed reports that Raichur principal district and sessions judge Mallikarjuna Gowda reportedly told his subordinates to remove the Ambedkar portrait placed next to that of Mahatma Gandhi a few minutes before the celebrations began on Wednesday.

"I don't know why this misinformation about me is being spread. The propaganda is false. I request people to not believe it," he added. In a note released on Thursday, district judge Gowda gave an account of the incident. Some advocates approached him and demanded that Ambedkar's portrait be placed next to that of Mahatma Gandhi as per a government order. "I told them that the high court registrar general had informed us in our Leaders Group that the said government order was before the full bench (of the high court) and he asked us to wait till a decision was made on the matter. I requested them not to force me (on placing Ambedkar's statue)," he said. "We later hoisted the national flag. I have not seen anybody placing or removing an Ambedkar portrait from the dais. Hiding this fact, some people propagated that I had made the removal of the portrait a precondition to hoisting the flag," the district judge said, adding he has a lot of respect for Ambedkar. Dalit organisations and Mysore Bar Association staged protests in Belagavi, Kalaburagi, Bidar, Mysuru and other districts. Advocates in Mysuru boycotted the court heeding a call from the bar. In Raichur, protesters blocked the car of Raichur additional deputy commissioner Duragesh KR, asking him to direct police to book a case against the judge. They blocked arterial roads in the city and burnt tyres at Ambedkar Circle. BJP MLA and former minister Shivanagouda Naik called the incident "painful" and sought action from the high court. SFI state vice-president and advocate Shivakumar Megalamani alleged district judge Gowda refused to unfurl the flag, saying the protocol does not allow him to do so if Ambedkar's photo is kept on the dais.