[Mr. Modi’s critics have blamed rising intolerance for several recent acts of violence around the country. In August, M.M. Kalburgi, a rationalist scholar who enraged far-right Hindu nationalists with his criticism of idol worship, was gunned down in his home. In the months since, the police say, four Muslims have been killed by Hindu mobs because they were suspected of slaughtering, stealing or smuggling cows.]
The celebration, in the town of
honored the birth of Tipu Sultan, who was killed on Madikeri May 4, 1799, while leading a battle against British troops who had
come to crush his rule over a wide section of southern India.
The death of the protester comes amid rising sectarian violence, most of it directed at Muslims by Hindus. For weeks, right-wing Hindus in Karnataka have been pressuring the government to cancel the event, arguing that Tipu Sultan was a Muslim tyrant who slaughtered Hindus or forcibly converted them to Islam. But the government refused, prompting Hindu nationalist groups to protest on Tuesday.
Suresh Bopanna, a police official in Madikeri, said the presence of Hindu protesters alarmed local Muslim leaders, and soon after truckloads of Muslims began to arrive in force. The two groups clashed, stones flew and the police charged in to break up the melee.
One Hindu activist, a farmer named Kuttappa, ran from the scene and sought safety atop a wall, police said, only to be struck by a stone, which sent him crashing to the pavement 20 feet below. Doctors said Mr. Kuttappa suffered a skull fracture and was dead on arrival at a hospital.
At least 20 others, including six police officers, suffered minor injuries, officials said, and police officers rushed in reinforcements to restore order. “At present, the situation is under control and peaceful,” Vartika Katiyar, a police superintendent, said in a telephone interview early Tuesday afternoon.
Qamar Ul Islam, minister of minority affairs in Karnataka, defended the decision to proceed with Tuesday’s celebration, the first time Karnataka has so honored the birth of Tipu Sultan. It was only right, he said, to celebrate a “visionary” like Tipu Sultan, given similar celebrations for heroes like Gandhi and Nehru. “Why not celebrate the birth anniversary of Tipu Sultan, the first freedom fighter of
Karnataka’s chief minister, S. Siddaramaiah, also defended the celebration, telling reporters on Tuesday that the violence was provoked by hard-line Hindu nationalist activists associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“What else do you expect from the B.J.P.?” Mr. Siddaramaiah said, insisting that most people in Karnataka, Hindu and Muslim alike, supported the celebration.
Mr. Siddaramaiah, a member of the Congress party, depicted Tuesday’s violence as an outgrowth of what his party views as an intensifying campaign by the Bharatiya Janata Party and other Hindu nationalist groups to impose their religious, cultural and political values on all Indians. That campaign — which includes recent efforts to ban beef consumption — has touched off a bitter debate over whether Mr. Modi’s
is becoming increasingly intolerant of Muslims and other
minority groups. India
Mr. Modi’s critics have blamed rising intolerance for several recent acts of violence around the country. In August, M.M. Kalburgi, a rationalist scholar who enraged far-right Hindu nationalists with his criticism of idol worship, was gunned down in his home. In the months since, the police say, four Muslims have been killed by Hindu mobs because they were suspected of slaughtering, stealing or smuggling cows.
But on Tuesday, it was Bharatiya Janata Party officials who said they were the true victims of intolerance in Karnataka. One of them, Prathap Simha, a member of Parliament from Karnataka, accused Mr. Siddaramaiah of sponsoring the celebration to appease Muslim constituents, who make up about 12 percent of Karnataka’s population and tend to support the Congress party.
“There are so many other Muslim icons,” Mr. Simha said. “You can celebrate them, but how can you celebrate a Muslim tyrant?”
And Surendra Kumar Jain, a senior leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Hindu nationalist group to which Mr. Kuttappa belonged, said the group planned to expand protests throughout Karnataka. He accused the Karnataka government of encouraging Muslim aggression against Hindus by celebrating a Muslim leader who committed “lots of atrocities on Hindus.”
“And see the result,” he said, referring to Mr. Kuttappa’s death.