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HomePoliticsWho is Satish Jarkiholi, Karnataka Congress leader under fire for saying 'Hindu'...

Who is Satish Jarkiholi, Karnataka Congress leader under fire for saying ‘Hindu’ has ‘dirty’ meaning

60-year-old Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee working president has stirred up a storm with his remarks about the origin of the word Hindu, drawing criticism from both his own party & BJP.

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Bengaluru: In 2018, Congress leader Satish Jarkiholi said that he would continue his practice of filing his nomination papers for the assembly elections during Rahu Kalam — a period considered inauspicious according to the Indian Vedic calendar. By filing his nominations at this so-called inauspicious hour, Jarkiholi said, he will try to dispel superstitions that continue to plague the society.

“On 6 December every year which is the death anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (Mahaparinirvan Diwas), Satish spends an entire day with several other progressive thinkers and seers in a graveyard in the Sadashivanagar locality (in Belagavi, Karnataka). They even spend the night there to dispel superstition,” said an associate who has known the leader for at least two decades now, requesting anonymity.

However, the 60-year-old from Karnataka’s Belagavi district has stirred up a storm with his remarks about the origin of the word Hindu, going so far as to claim that the meaning of the word was quite “dirty”.

“Hindu religion and other religions… where did the word Hindu come from? Is this ours? This is Persian? Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan… what connection does it have to Bharat? So, how come it becomes yours (to the audience)?” Jarkiholi said at an event Sunday.

He added: “There should be a discussion on this. Lookup WhatsApp and Wikipedia. Persian… from where did this word come? (claiming the word was of Persian origin) This is not yours. Then why are you flaunting it? This word is not yours. If you understand the meaning of it, you will be ashamed. The meaning of Hindu is really dirty.”

Since then, the former All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary and incumbent Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) working president, has refused to back down from his comments, despite his own party leaders rebuking him for it.

In a tweet Monday, All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary, in charge of Karnataka, Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “Hinduism is a way of life & a civilisational reality. Congress built our Nation to respect every religion, belief & faith. This is the essence of India. The statement attributed to Satish Jarkiholi is deeply unfortunate & deserves to be rejected. We condemn it unequivocally.”

Jarkiholi has, however, remained unmoved by the criticism coming his way.

“None of this (criticism) makes any difference to me. I am not for or against anyone. I am only for humanity. We don’t work based on caste or religion. I have only pointed out some nuances in it,” Jarkiholi said at a press conference Tuesday.

He claimed that similar statements on Hinduism being a way of life and not a religion have been made by several other leaders, including former Prime Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

However, Jarkiholi’s statements Sunday drew criticism from all quarters, especially the ruling BJP in Karnataka, with Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai accusing the Congress member of legislative assembly (MLA) of trying to vitiate the atmosphere in society with such statements.

“Satish’s statement has hurt the sentiments of people of this country. The Congress party is doing appeasement policy just for the sake of votes and making such half-baked statements without any in-depth study. They are under the wrong impression of getting the minority votes through such statements. By doing this, the Congress leaders are trying to disturb the very foundation of belief of every Indian,” said Bommai.

He added: “Creating problems within any country amounts to the act of ‘anti-nationalism’. Everyone must condemn such acts.”

ThePrint looks at the history of the Congress leader.

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Pushing Siddaramaiah to victory in 2018

Jarkiholi is one of five brothers, four of whom are currently in active politics.

Ramesh and Balachandra Jarkiholi are BJP members, while a third brother, Lakhan, is an independent member of the Karnataka legislative council. He won the seat in December last year after some of his family members openly supported his elections that also led to the defeat of the BJP candidate.

His father, R. Laxmanrao Jarkiholi,  was a local liquor contractor and who went on to own several petrol pumps in the Belagavi district. The family now owns sugar industries, run schools and other establishments.

The Jarkiholis belong to the influential Nayaka/Valmiki community of Karnataka and  members of the family are often referred to as ‘sahukars’  in Belagavi district.

Earlier with the JD(S), Satish Jarkiholi joined the Congress in 2008, and has since risen through the ranks within the party, serving as minister at least thrice.

He has represented the Yamakanmardi constituency as an MLA since 2008.

Satish is widely regarded as the reason behind former CM Siddaramaiah defeating the BJP’s B. Sriramulu in Badami in the 2018 assembly elections, albeit by a narrow margin. He worked extensively in Badami, mobilising support for Siddaramaiah.

Yet, Jarkiholi is rarely seen on the big stage and often carries out election campaigns with small groups of people.

A dispute between the Jarkiholis and then minister (and now KPCC president) D.K. Shivakumar is believed to have started troubles faced by the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led coalition government in Karnataka, eventually leading to its collapse.

In September 2018, Shivakumar was accused of interfering in the Belagavi Primary Land Development Bank elections and backing Congress legislator Laxmi Hebbalkar’s supporters. Hebbalkar was a former associate of Ramesh Jarkiholi and had a bitter fallout with the family.

Shivakumar, who wields significant influence in Kanakpura and Ramnagara districts, tried to expand his reach with Hebbalkar, but was met with stiff resistance from the Jarkiholis.

In the 2021 Lok Sabha by-polls for Belagavi, Jarkiholi lost to the BJP’s Mangala Angadi by a narrow margin of just over 5,000 votes. The BJP has won Lok Sabha elections from the constituency for three successive terms.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

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