Women slapped, pulled by the hair, chased out onto the road, pushed, slammed on the ground… All in broad daylight. These disturbing visuals shocked the country in January 2009, when the violent vigilante group decided to attack women who were at a pub in Mangaluru. Hours later, Sri Rama Sene led by Pramod Muthalik had taken responsibility for the brazen attack.
However, despite the entire incident being filmed, no one has been held responsible. On Monday, a Mangaluru court acquitted politician and chief of Sri Rama Sene, Pramod Muthalik, along with 30 others accused in the pub attack case.
Judge Manjunath delivered the judgment at the third JMFC Court in Mangaluru. Nearly 30 suspects who stood trial for their alleged role in the assault of the customers (mostly women) on January 24, 2009 at Amnesia – The Lounge, are now acquitted due to lack of evidence.
“All the 31 accused have been acquitted. Law has taken its own course, we have nothing much to say about it. People made a lot of hue and cry then, but they should have done their duty by coming ahead as the witnesses too. They have failed to do. If people do not complain or participate in the due process of law, this will be the end result. It is a simple as that. You can neither blame the judiciary nor blame the accused for that,” Asha Nayak the lawyer who represented the accused told TNM.
Asha added, “None of the alleged victims complained nor did they come forward as witnesses. Camera and video evidence are secondary witnesses; they may or may not be considered by the court of law.”
An elated Pramod Muthalik claimed that it was a victory for them, “We welcome the judgment. The court has delivered justice - Satyameva Jayathe. Our intention is not to assault women. Pub culture, club culture, bar culture, our voice was against it - that has been made aware of. We have received a good response. When the alleged pub attack took place the English media equated us with 'Taliban' and called us Goonda. The judgement is an answer to those people”.
Social activists are unhappy with the verdict. “The message is loud and clear, that the consequences of their actions will not catch up with them. And that's why they are so bold to carry out such attacks. Even in a rare case like this, where a case actually gets filed because there is damning video evidence that was broadcasted, the way the investigation happens is not usually victim friendly,” says activist Vidya Dinker.
On January 24, 2009, a 40-member team allegedly belonging to Sri Rama Sene launched an attack on customers – mostly women – at the pub in broad daylight, injuring at least two women.
Members of the group dragged women out of the pub and beat them up even as they screamed for help, TV reports of the incident showed. The harrowing nature of the attack made state and national headlines and invited sharp criticism at the time.
The group organised the attack to achieve moral policing ends – they claimed that the women 'violated traditional Indian norms’ by visiting a pub. A video clip of the attack had gone viral on YouTube.
Several attacks have been reported in the city since then, especially around Valentine's Day.
“Our activists will go around with a priest, a turmeric stub and a ‘mangalsutra’ on February 14. If we come across couples being together in public and expressing their love, we will take them to the nearest temple and conduct their marriage,” said Pramod Muthalik around the time of the incident.