“India will be the first country in the world to outlaw hijab and halal before France,” Yashpal Suvarna had said during the peak of the controversy last year. Survarna is popularly known as the face of the anti-hijab campaign and is one of the fresh faces from the BJP to contest in the upcoming Karnataka elections.
The poster boy of the hijab row said the controversy was created by “anti-national and antisocial” elements, who did not want Muslim girls or even poor Hindu students to be educated.
As BJP’s Udupi candidate, Survarna said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governance and development will be his campaign mantra.
In an exclusive interview to News18, Suvarna has blamed the banned Popular Front of India (PFI) for creating unrest in the Dakshin Kannada region over the hijab issue.
“Udupi is a peace-loving and happy place. PFI, KFD (Karnataka Forum for Dignity) and Campus Front of India (CFI) created the issue because they did not want girl child to be educated. These anti-national, antisocial elements did not want poor Hindu students to receive good education. They wanted to divert the attention of the economically poor students at government PU college, and kindled the hijab issue,” Suvarna said, adding that he will address the issue during his campaign.
Three-term MLA Raghupati Bhat, a popular leader from the Brahmin community, was asked to make way for Suvarna, who represents the OBC (other backward class) community called Mogaveeras (mostly part of the fishing community).
“People from across the world are looking to Narendra Modi as a leader and we are proud to have him as our leader. We will show people how we will deliver as Modi has,” Suvarna said.
‘Udupi a Laboratory for Development and Nationalism’
Survarna gained traction for his targeted campaign against wearing hijab at government colleges in the Udupi region and, as an active gaurakshak, his task has been cut out for him.
“I want to tell the people that our region is not just about being a Hindutva laboratory, but a laboratory of development and nationalism as well,” he said. Suvarna had called the six girls, who moved court over the hijab ban, “terrorists” and “anti-nationals”.
He is the vice-president of the development committee of the same Udupi Government PU Girls’ College, which was at the centre of hijab controversy.
“The six girls who call themselves victims are so young they do not know the law of the land. They do not have voting rights, yet they are going to the courts to file a petition. This shows there is a strong force instigating them, which I call the ‘anti-social activity associations,” he said, adding that despite the hijab ban, there had been a rise in the number of admissions of Muslim girls in the college for the new academic year.
“The issue was fake. There is a difference between issues created and issues started. The hijab issue was created,” the leader said. “If people were affected, why is it that even today Muslim families are sending their daughters to college? That means 90 percent of Muslim girls are against hijab, against their system and want to be free birds, lead a normal life and not be shackled by a hijab,” he told News18.
Family with deep roots in Jana Sangh, RSS
Suvarna credited his rise – from an ABVP leader to a Bajrang Dal activist to the general secretary of the BJP’s national OBC Morcha and now an aspiring MLA – to Modi, former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.
His family, which is from coastal Karnataka’s Mogaveera community, has deep roots in the Jana Sangh and RSS. His father quit his job as a banker to set up a fishing business. His uncle, Raghunath, was an RSS worker and had contested from the Surathkal assembly constituency as far back as the 1980s but lost the election.
“Since childhood, I have been an RSS swayamsevak and have grown up watching BJP leaders shape the youth. My inspiration has been Narendra Modi and, during my growing years, I was inspired by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Mohan Bhagwat. Their selfless work and dedication towards building a strong BJP and even stronger Karnataka has guided me to date,” he said.
Suvarna recalled a time when veteran BJP leader, the late VS Acharya, handpicked him from his hometown and gave him some political exposure.
“I was in the RSS. He brought me into mainstream politics and gave me a chance to contest in municipality elections. I have served in the municipality for three consecutive terms,” he said.
While pursuing his graduation, Suvarna was actively working with the ABVP and led several campaigns in the region against cow slaughter. In 2005, he was one of the prime accused in a case where a father and son were stripped in broad daylight and paraded in the city for allegedly transporting cows for slaughter. He was later acquitted.
Udupi’s famous Sri Krishna Matha, in an unprecedented move in 2007, held an iftar party under former Pejawara Matha head Vishwesha Tirtha inside its premises. Suvarna was among the strong voices against “entertaining Muslims” in a place of worship.
If elected, Suvarna said he wants to bring more medical facilities and educational institutions to Udupi. “I would like to create more jobs and also encourage temple tourism and IT parks. The schemes that Modi has provided, I would like to take them to every house in my constituency,” he added.
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