The Pakistani flag was raised in Sindgi by Hindu groups. The incident fueled communal tension.

Habib Beary | BBC

BANGALORE – Six members of a right-wing Hindu group have been arrested in India’s southern Karnataka state for raising Pakistan’s national flag on a government building.

Police say those arrested belong to the Sri Rama Sena group.

The flag was raised in Sindgi, near Bijapur, on 1 January, leading to angry protests by Hindu organisations and the stoning of a Muslim prayer hall.

Police say Sri Rama Sena was trying to create “communal disharmony” in an area with a sizeable Muslim presence.

Sri Rama Sena is a fringe group that claimed responsibility for attacking women outside a pub in the coastal district of Mangalore in 2009, saying that allowing females in pubs was against Indian culture.

‘Dividing society’

Inspector general of police Charan Reddy told the BBC the situation in Sindgi was “now peaceful”.

“It seems they were out to create communal disharmony,” he said.

Hindu organisations had called for strikes in a number of towns around Bijapur to protest against the flag-raising.

But Reddy said police investigations had led them to members of the Sri Rama Sena, a group founded by Pramod Muthalik after it broke away from the Bajrang Dal, an affiliate of the long-standing Hindu nationalist organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Muthalik is the leading suspect in the attack on the women in Mangalore.

Former chief minister and Janata Dal Secular party leader HD Kumaraswamy said of the flag-raising: “It is such a shame. I blame the RSS and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the incident. They want to divide society on religious lines.”

Bijapur is close to Hyderabad in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and is a historic town with a sizeable Muslim population.

Police arrested Sri Rama Sena members for the desecration of a mosque in Mysore a few years ago.

The carcass of a pig was thrown near the prayer hall, an act that triggered major riots between Hindus and Muslims.

Karnataka was also rocked by a series of attacks on churches by right-wing groups in 2008, immediately after the BJP came to power.

Source: BBC