Bengaluru: A Karnataka Congress MLA defied Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a ‘janata curfew’ Sunday to organise her son’s engagement at their residence in Belagavi.
The gathering also defies a Karnataka government order, issued 14 March, that advises people against holding weddings, religious ceremonies, and mass gatherings in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The order specified that, if the events were absolutely unavoidable, the guest list should be restricted to 100 people.
Approached for comment, Laxmi Hebbalkar, the MLA for Belagavi Rural, told ThePrint that her son Mrunal’s engagement was an “unavoidable circumstance” as the family had fixed the auspicious date months ago. She also denied allegations that the function was attended by over 300 people.
“We had a very few family members attending the function. Not more than 35 people were present at the function,” Hebbalkar told ThePrint.
“I have a social responsibility, too, towards my people. He is my only son. Typically I should have been inviting thousands of guests — including people from my constituency who are like my family,” she said. “But as part of my social responsibility, we conducted it with just our family members.”
Two journalists from local newspapers who visited the venue to cover the event were allegedly forced to leave the premises. One of the journalists, Ravi Gosai, said they were threatened with dire consequences and their mobile phones taken away by Hebbalkar’s brother Channaraj Hattiholi.
“They deleted several pictures and videos of the event that we had on our phones. He (Hattiholi) also said if the article was published, he would not spare us,” Gosai said.
Asked about this incident, Hebbalkar said her brother had not met any journalist and there was no such altercation at the venue.
Two weddings during janata curfew
Meanwhile, two weddings were held in district Tumakuru, each attended by hundreds of guests in defiance of advisories urging social distancing to check the spread of COVID-19.
“The wedding and reception of… a staffer at the local taluka office and the wedding of a local social activist… shows how people are yet to understand the gravity of the COVID-19 situation,” said a senior Congress leader.
Meanwhile, Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa also attended a wedding with around 3,000 guests on 15 March, a day after his government issued its social-distancing advisory.
At the wedding of the BJP’s Karnataka Legislative Council chief whip Mahantesh Kavatagimath’s daughter in Belagavi, Yediyurappa was accompanied by Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai. The wedding, local police officers said, was attended by nearly 3,000 people.
Sources in the Chief Minister’s Office said Yediyurappa was initially reluctant to attend the wedding, but Kavatagimath “made an emotional appeal… as it was also a “prestige issue for him and the BJP”.