No Communal Motive Behind Placing Flag On Shankaracharya Statue: K'Taka Police

Speaking to BOOM, NS Shruthi, additional superintendent of police, Chikkamagaluru, denied that those detained were named Rafiq and Sahil.

The incident of a flag placed on a statue of Adi Shankaracharya has been given a false communal spin on social media. Viral tweets claimed two Muslim youths named Rafiq and Sahil were arrested for placing an Islamic flag with many also claiming the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) flag had a role to play in the incident.

Speaking to BOOM, NS Shruthi, additional superintendent of police, Chikkamagaluru, denied that those detained were named Rafiq and Sahil. She further clarified that the banner found atop the statute of Shree Shankaracharya, is from a mosque located nearby.

The police said that one of the identified accused is a Milind Manohar, who has since been taken into custody.

News outlets including Oneindia Kannada, wrongly identified the accused, as Rafiq. Right leaning website OpIndia cited the Oneindia Kannada news report and claimed that two Muslim youths had been arrested following the incident. An excerpt from the report reads, "Meanwhile, the police had reportedly registered a case against in the issue. Two youth Rafiq and Sahil were detained on a complaint lodged by locals. Reportedly, Rafiq is also a town panchayat member."

Click here to view the archive of the article.

The same narrative was peddled by Postcard News editor Mahesh Vikram Hegde. Click here for an archive of the tweet. BOOM has earlier fact-checked Hegde for sharing communally driven misinformation. Read here, here and here.

Sringeri, the temple town of Chikkamagaluru district, is a place of pilgrimage where Adi Shankaracharya is said to have instituted the first mutt along the banks of Tunga river.

Further, images of the Islamic banner atop the statue of Shree Shankaracharya were doing the rounds with claims that it is an SDPI flag. According to reports SDPI, a political arm of Popular Front of India (PFI), was accused of engineering the riots in Bengaluru earlier this week.

Read BOOM's ground report on the Bengaluru clashes here.

Several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders in their tweets claimed that the 'flag' seen in the photograph belonged to the SDPI party and it was an attempt to 'incite people'. A local MLA from the area also registered case against SDPI at Sringeri Police Station after the incident.

BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje in a tweet said, "I condemn the incident of planting SDPI flags on Sri Shankaracharya's statue at Sringeri, serious action will be taken against those who are behind this incident."

Click here for the archive of the tweet.

Karnataka Culture and Tourism Minister CT Ravi, also an MLA from Chikkamagaluru, sought a thorough investigation.

Fact-Check

In a tweet the Chikkamagaluru district police clarified that a Milind Manohar (28) had draped the flag on the statue when he was in an inebriated state.

The police calling the flag a "banner" said that investigation revealed that it was taken from the Jamiya Mosque by the accused to protect himself from the cold. The mosque had earlier used the flag for the Eid-e-Milad festival. We also reached out to NS Shruthi, additional SP, who stated that no one by the name Rafiq and Sahil were taken into custody after the incident.

The press statement issued by the Karnataka police reads, reads, "During interrogation, the person admitted that under the influence of alcohol, he had placed a cloth belonging to one God over another God. He also revealed that as it was raining heavily, he took that banner to cover himself. After knowing that the banner relates to a God, he thought of giving it to another God and place the banner over a pavilion on the statue of Shree Shankaracharya.... The person was completely under the influence of alcohol and was not aware of what he had done or the further consequences."

Later in a press briefing Hakay Akshay Machindra, SP Chikkamagaluru identified the accused as Milind Manohar. The Chikkamagaluru's district police handle also tweeted the CCTV footage of the accused covering himself with the banner.

Additionally BOOM was able to ascertain that the flag photographed in the viral images does not match the SDPI flag. The Print quoted SDPI's Karnataka state president Elyas Muhammed Thumbe that the flag did not resemble their party's flag. "It is not our flag. Go to our website and compare it. All this is being done by the Sangh Parivar to frame us," he said.

Updated On: 2020-08-16T18:38:10+05:30
Claim :   Rafiq and Sahil involved in putting SDPI flag atop Shree Shankaracharya statue in Sringeri, Karnataka
Claimed By :  Twitter Users
Fact Check :  False
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