Religious leaders who gathered before the Suvarna Soudha here on Tuesday to protest against the alleged injustice to North Karnataka clarified that they were not demanding a separate State.

Instead, they sought effective decentralisation by shifting important offices to Suvarna Soudha, appointment of key officials and filling up of vacancies in government departments, strengthening of powers of Regional Commissioners to ensure public grievances were settled at revenue divisional headquarters, time-bound completion of irrigation projects, and focussed programmes and funds for the development of Bombay Karnataka and Hyderabad Karnataka.

Siddharama Swami of Nagnur Rudrakshi Mutt said panchayats and municipal bodies should be given more funds and responsibilities. The government should trust local bodies and give them powers. It should see that people are not forced to travel to Bengaluru for official work, he said.

He, however, reiterated his warning that continued injustice to the region would strengthen the demands for separate State.

Chandrashekar Swami of Hukkeri Mutt urged protesters to drop the idea of the bandh on August 2. “We should wait patiently for some time and allow the Chief Minister and others to take steps towards development, before planning the next stage of protest,” he said.

The seers did not allow North Karnataka Horata Samiti activists to hoist the purported flag of North Karnataka at the protest venue. Samiti president Bheemappa Gadad announced on Monday that he would unfurl the flag only if the seers permitted.

However, samiti leader Adivesh Itagi caused a commotion when he tried to show the flag to one of the seers. The seers opened it on his lap, only to attract the attention of TV channels. Mr. Itagi then took it back. Police personnel rushed to snatch the flag from Mr. Itagi and took him away.

Later, samiti secretary Nagesh Golshetty interrupted the speech of Siddharama Swami. He began complaining that the seers who had gathered now had stayed back during the Kalasa-Banduri agitation.

He asked the seers to support their demand for a separate State.

Nagnur Swami and Pancham Shivalingeshwar Swami of Nidasosi Mutt interrupted and said: “Please give the government some time. Don’t press for a separate State.” When he did not budge, the police took him away.

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