PUCL Karnataka Towards civil liberties and human rights for all in Karnataka

PUCL-K’s open letter to CM & Governor of Karnataka regarding economic boycott of Muslim businesses in temple fairs in Karnataka

03.28.2022 · Posted in Human Rights, Minorities, Press Releases


  1. Shri Thawar Chand Gehlot,
    Governor of Karnataka,
    Raj Bhavan Road,
    Karnataka state – 560001
  2. Shri. Basavaraj Bommai,
    Hon’ble Chief Minister of Karnataka,
    Vidhana Soudha,
    Bengaluru, Karnataka – 560001

Dear Sir,

Sub: Regarding the dangerous unconstitutional economic boycott of Muslim
businesses in temples fairs in Karnataka.

The PUCL-K is deeply disturbed by the range of media reports for the barring of Muslims
from participating in auctions for the annual festival in Mahanlingeshwara Temple in Puttur
district. The media has reported that this prohibition has been followed by the Hosa Marigud
Temple in Udupi District refusing to allot stalls to Muslims. There are also statements by
Bajrang Dal and Shri Rama Sena leaders calling for the economic boycott of the Muslim

The boycott calls are sought to be given a fig leaf of legitimacy by referring to Rule 31(12) of
the 2002 Rules of the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments
Act, 1997, which state that no property, including land, building or sites situated near the
institution shall be leased out to non-Hindus. However as Senior advocate Chander Uday
Singh pointed out this is a deliberate misinterpretation of the provision as Rule 31 only deals
with long-term leases of immoveable property owned by a temple (up to 30 years for land,
and five years for shops and buildings). It does not deal with the short-term licences which
would be used to allot stalls or spaces to vendors during a festival.

Both economic boycott and calling for economic boycott is violative of the constitutional
promise of non-discrimination enacted in Article 15. Article 15, explicitly prohibits
discrimination on grounds of religion, besides race, caste, sex or place of birth. Article 15(2)
further proclaims that no citizen be subject to any ‘restriction’ with regard to ‘access to
shops’, ‘maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general

It bears noting that for Babasaheb Ambedkar, ‘shops’ was to be interpreted broadly to
prohibit people from excluding others from economic life through boycotts based on religion,
caste etc. We should also remember that Babasaheb Ambedkar was a vociferous opponent of
social and economic boycotts noting that it was a form of ‘tyranny of the majority’. In his
words, ‘the method of open violence pales before it, for it has the most far reaching and
deadening effect. It is more dangerous because it passes as a lawful method consistent with
the theory of freedom of contract’.

The call for social and economic boycott should deeply worry all Indians is because of the
tragic history of the aftermath of such boycott calls in world history. In Nazi Germany hate
speech dehumanizing the Jewish community was followed by calls for social and economic
boycott which was followed by the enactment of laws depriving Jews of citizenship and
finally the genocide against the Jews. Rwanda and Myanmar followed a similar path in their
path to committing the ‘crime of crimes’, genocide. We should take seriously these warnings
from history and silence is not an option for any constitutional authority. All constitutional
authorities must step in to ensure that governance in Karnataka is in accordance with the
Constitution and we do not go down a path taken by other countries such as Nazi Germany
and Hutu power Rwanda.

Hence, we call upon the following actions to be taken immediately:

  1. Immediately withdraw the decisions, and ensure that Muslims and persons of all
    religious communities are provided an equal space and opportunity to carry out their
    businesses during all days of the festivals;
  2. Immediately initiate criminal action against the organizations pressurizing and
    attempting to cause an economic boycott of Muslim businesses;
  3. Ensure that immediate measures are taken to restore and maintain communal harmony
    across Karnataka as required by the Communal Harmony Guidelines, 2008 issued by
    the Ministry of Home Affairs, including keeping organizations that undermine
    communal harmony under scrutiny and taking appropriate action against them;
  4. Clarify the statements made by elected representatives erroneously interpreting the
    Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1997 to
    legitimize the unconstitutional act of discrimination on grounds of religion.
    We hope, given the urgency of the situation, that immediate action will be taken.

Adv. Arvind Narrain,
PUCL – Karnataka

Adv. Robin Christopher,
General Secretary
PUCL – Karnataka

Mr. Shujayathulla,
PUCL – Bangalore

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