A famous temple in Udupi in Karnataka created history of sorts by getting Muslims to participate in an iftar organised on its premises before Eid al-Fitr this year, in a commendable show of communal harmony.
However, the incident has since earned the ire of controversial right-wing politician and Sri Ram Sene chief Pramod Muthalik, who has called for a statewide protest on July 2 to express opposition of the move.
Pejawar Mutt pontiff Vishwesha Teertha Swami has since hit back at Muthalik and the protest, claiming that the institution has had a good relationship with Muslims for a long time, and that he has not hurt any sentiments.
Muslims on Saturday, June 24, broke their Ramadan fast by participating in the "Souharda Upahara Koota" [Translation: harmony breakfast meet] at the Annabrahma Dining Hall in the temple complex in Udupi.
As news of the iftar spread, the move was commended by many on social media for the manner in which it demonstrated communal and religious harmony in India. The move was especially poignant because a certain section of Muslims was observing Black Eid following the lynching of a youth over beef rumours.
Visheshwa Teertha Swami had said on the occasion: "Muslims have shown lot of affection for me in Mangaluru, Kasaragod and Bhatkal. They have given their offering during the Paryaya festival."
He had also said: "Karnataka, more specifically, the coastal region, should become a land of harmony. All are children of the same creator."
Muthalik takes exception
Vocal -- and sometimes physical -- right-wing leader and activist Pramod Muthalik has opposed the move. He was quoted by The Hindu as saying: "Lord Krishna is known as the protector of cows. Inviting those who kill cows and eat beef is incorrect."
He added: "The Pejawar seer guides the Hindu religion and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. We are fighting on the streets for protecting cows without bothering about our lives. But the seer's move of inviting Muslims to the Mutt premises cannot be accepted."
Besides calling for a Karnataka-wide protest on July 2 against the incident, Muthalik also said: "There is anger over the seer's move. In order to prevent any protests, I came here to hold talks with the seer on the issue. But the seer is sticking to his stand, which we cannot accept."
Seer hits back
Following Muthalik's statement, Vishwesha Teertha Swami has hit back at him, saying that he was quite aware of what was right.
He was quoted by a Deccan Chronicle report as saying: "The Mutt has always had a good relationship with Muslims since the time of Madhvacharya. I have been stressing on good relations between communities since 1955. I have not hurt Hindu Dharma."