GULBARGA, February 19, 2012
Buddhist monk, Dalit leaders get bail
T. V. Sivanandan
They were charged with removing idol found at ASI site
Fourth Additional District and Sessions judge Basavaraj Belawagi has
granted conditional bail to Buddhist monk Banteji Bhodidhamma and four
Dalit leaders who were charged with removing an idol of a Hindu
goddess from an excavation site in Chithapur taluk of Gulbarga
district under the control of the Archaeological Survey of India
Allowing the bail application of the monk and Dalit leaders Nagendra
Jawali, Santosh Melmani, Kishore Gaekwad and Hanumanth Itagi, the
judge ordered their release on a personal bond of Rs. 25,000 each.
The judge rejected the contention of the prosecution that the accused
would jump bail and influence witnesses in the case.
The monk, who was initially lodged in the high security Gulbarga
Central Prison, was later shifted to a private hospital by the jail
authorities after he complained of uneasiness. The four Dalit leaders
were lodged in the Gulbarga Central Prison.
The arrest of the monk on February 6 under non-bailable sections of
the IPC sparked off angry protests from fellow monks in different
parts of the country and various Dalit organisations in Gulbarga and
other districts in the State.
The claim of the monk and the Dalit leaders was that the idol had been
placed in a Buddhist site located at Sannati with the ulterior motive
of proving that the site also contained remnants of Hindu gods and
Incidentally, the ASI and independent historians identified the site,
which dates back to between the 1st and 3rd centuries A.D., as one of
the oldest Buddhist sites in Karnataka.
The Sannati site also has a special place due to the fact that four
major rock edicts of the Mauryan period are found there. It is said to
be similar to other known eminent Buddhist sites at Ter in Maharashtra
and Nagarjuna Konda in Andhra Pradesh. The stupas found in Sannati are
considered much larger and artistically richer than the famed Stupa at
Dalit organisations and the monk gave a representation to Regional
Commissioner K. Ratnaprabha to remove the idol and set up an enquiry
on how it was placed in an excavation site under the control of the
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