An electric pole near KMC Hospital in Mangaluru is one among the many spots of the city that bear witness to hatred. On Monday evening, a man was stripped, tied to the pole which was barely 10 minutes from the jurisdictional police station, and beaten by men with iron rods for almost an hour, for talking to a girl who belonged to a community not his own.
Men on motorcycles accosted Shahid* (name changed) when he walked back to the car in which he had come with his colleague. He and the woman, a Hindu, worked in the same supermarket. In his complaint to the Pandeshwar police, he said that the woman wanted to borrow Rs 2,000 from him and that the pair had come to the ATM to withdraw the money. However, she too, has filed a complaint with the police, alleging that Shahid was sexually harassing her. Police have arrested 12 people for attempt to murder, rioting, threatening and other cases.
Mangaluru city and the villages of the two districts of coastal Karnataka are living, thriving museums of hatred, of the de-humanization of people, of epitomizing women as property.
There are, literally, dozens of such spots, such landmarks, if one were to prepare a tourist map of communal violence. Some of the more famous ones include Amnesia pub attack case, the Mangalore homestay attack, the Adi Udupi case, SVS Bantwal case, the 2006 October violence, the Suratkal riots, Muthalikâ€™s arms display in Nehru Maidan for recruitment for a Hindu army, PFIâ€™s assault of a Hindu man and a Muslim friend, the boy in the photograph who was lying on the laps of his female classmates in imitation of a film poster, the Church attacks,
According to data compiled by Suresh Bhat Bakrabail of Peopleâ€™s Union for Civil Liberties there have been 139 incidents of a communal nature in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts this year â€“ there are four more months for the year to end. Perpetrators are both Hindutva groups, Muslims groups, people banding together to carry out violence. Instances reported by the media include vigilantism towards men and women of different communities associating with each other, targetting cattle transporters, assaults, instances of hate speech, minor skirmishes which turn communal, and other incidents of a communal nature.
Suresh Bhat Bakrabail says the reason for the spike in incidents could be that 2008 was an election year, when B S Yeddyurappa had been betrayed by his coalition partner H D Kumaraswamy. Eventually, he headed the BJPâ€™s first stand-alone government in the south.
â€śThese incidents spike just before the elections, and itâ€™s an all India trend. But even once the BJP is in power, the incidents will not go decrease, but the party has an agenda. But even when another party is in power, the violence will not decrease because they (the Sangh Parivar) want to project the government in a bad light. Sadananda Gowda and Nalin Kumar Kateel have been making statements about how the violence has increased,â€ť he told The News Minute.
State President of the Democratic Youth Federation of India Muneer Katipalla, says that the lasting achievement of the Sangh Parivar in coastal Karnataka was to make people conscious of their religion as an identity.
â€śMost Hindus here, are Hindus first. Their political affiliations come later,â€ť Katipalla says, adding that as Hindus began to consider themselves as Hindus, Muslims too have adopted the same pattern.
When asked about the numbers, he says that while the instances of violence and targeting were lower before 2008, they were not as low that the numbers show.
â€śIt was not reported by the media then. Even now, if you look at the police records, the number will be lesser. If an incident does not get media attention, then the police will try to work out a compromise between the two parties and call their parents, give them (couples) advice and send them on their way.â€ť
In his view, Congress claimed to be secular, but wasnâ€™t. â€śThey do not take action against goondas because they fear they will lose their Hindu vote. There is the attitude that things will happen, and that life will go on. This kind of a soft Hindutva that many Congress leaders espouse has contributed to the atmosphere today,â€ť Katipalla says.
According to Katipalla, there is little will to seriously try and reverse the situation. â€śThe secularism of the Congress is a negative kind of attitude. They do not have anything positive to offer (to people). They are neither dealing with this as a law and order problem, nor are doing anything culturally to counter this. The government must, first of all, have the will to counter it. Second, it should also have the political power to back it. The Congress doesnâ€™t have the cultural politics to counter Hindutva. Thatâ€™s why itâ€™s growing.â€ť
The vitiated atmosphere in coastal Karnataka, he says, is the result of a systematic campaign by the RSS. The violence started around 1998, when riots occurred in Suratkal, a town around 20 km away from Mangaluru. â€śSeven or eight people died. Things were quiet after that, until the Gujarat violence happened.â€ť
â€śThat was also the time that Bajrang Dal was formed here. Until then, there was the Hindu Yuva Sene, and Hindu Jagrana Vedike. Once Bajrang Dal was formed, its shakhas began to be opened everywhere and attacks became common place. First it was the Hindutvavadis who wanted to protect their women. Then it became a disease that spread to all communities.â€ť