On Tuesday, three teenage friends, including a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl, visited an amusement park near Mangaluru for a fun day out. They had informed their parents and planned to spend a few hours at the park and return. What they had not planned for was being physically attacked and verbally abused by goons claiming to be protectors of Hindu culture and raising the spectre of ‘Love Jihad’. The mother of the Hindu girl has now spoken out, admonishing the Hindutva groups, stating that they have no right to interfere in their lives.
Remaining steadfast against the attack on her minor daughter by the religious vigilante group, the mother of the victim says that she will stand by the police complaint she had filed.
Speaking to The News Minute, Rekha* said that her daughter had taken prior consent from her before going to the picnic along with her classmates to Manasa Water Park. "She had informed us that she was going for a picnic with her friends. She was not alone with the boy, there was another girl in the group. In any case, it is immaterial for others to interfere in our personal lives," she said.
Recounting their ordeal, the girl told her mother that as they were preparing to leave the water park when a park security officer informed them that about 30-odd members of the Hindu Jagran Vedike (HJV) had assembled outside to confront them. The security guard advised them to stay within the park premise, even as he promptly called the jurisdictional police and sought assistance.
The 17-year old girl said that the Kavoor police reached the spot and coaxed the group of friends to accompany them to their parked vehicle. However, as they stepped outside the amusement parks gate, the vigilante groups started hurling abuses and calling them names. "We hurried our way out, but they started shouting and scaring us. They questioned us for roaming with the boys from other religion," the girl said, according to her mother.
According to the girl, despite the overwhelming presence of the vigilante activists, very few police personnel were present to handle the mob.
A mobile video of the incident, shot by one of the perpetrators, shows a man in red and black striped t-shirt closely tracking the two girls to the police vehicle.
Suddenly, that member of the vigilante group breached the police official cordon and struck the girl on her head with his bare hands as she was nearing the car, the mobile video shows. "I didn’t know what struck me. It was only later that I turned around and saw that this person in the red and black stripe t-shirt standing behind me and uttering foul language," the girl reportedly said.
Ironically, the entire incident took place at the 450-acre tourism project run by Dakshina Kannada district administration. "It’s a family hangout spot, where everyone ventures. It’s sad that after attacking pubs, theatres, religious places, these vigilantes are even targeting family recreational places. If such is the case, then the entire city may soon come under their chokehold," an uncle of the victim said.
Meanwhile, a complaint has been lodged against unknown persons at Kavoor police station under IPC 341 (Wrongful Restraint), 324 (Causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 506 (Criminal Intimidation), 509 (insulting modesty of a woman), 355 (Assault or criminal force with intent to dishonour person), 153(a) (Promoting enmity among different groups). Earlier, the police also told the media that they have arrested Sampath Shetty (25), a resident of Moodushedde, as one of the suspects.
In the coastal district, under the pretence of tackling ‘Love Jihad’ – the vigilante groups have been, for a long time, assaulting youngsters for hanging out with members of other communities. Their prime target has been the college going crowd, as both the victim and family refrain from lodging any complaint owing to their own future.
On lines with HJV, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal and Durgavahini on Wednesday, flagged off a so-called ‘15- day awareness programme’ against Love Jihad in Mangalore city.
Muslim groups are also known to indulge in vigilantism. In another incident on December 25, Muslim youths harassed a group of teenagers, including two girls from different communities, for interacting in public.
However, city-based advocate and Child Rights activist, Dinesh Ulepady say the sudden eruption of communal activism of the vigilante groups falls in sync with the 2018 state polls. "Although the incident looks isolated, all these elements are part of strategy of the political parties who are trying to polarise and divide voters. So, it won’t be wrong to book such criminally motivated organised crime under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,” he says.
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