How Mangaluru’s ‘religious war’ destroyed my friend Mohammed Kamal's life

He came home for the holidays, but has ended up being jailed
How Mangaluru’s ‘religious war’ destroyed my friend Mohammed Kamal's life
How Mangaluru’s ‘religious war’ destroyed my friend Mohammed Kamal's life
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By Muneer Katipalla

Mohammed Kamal is an old friend. As a teenager, when I was a clothes-seller in Sakleshpura around 22 years ago he and I became acquainted. Hailing from a poor family from Nelliady village, Kamal had come to Sakleshpura just like me in search of three square meals, and was a supervisor for a timber merchant. Full of life and filled with colourful dreams for the future, Kamal quickly became a close friend. After spending 10 years like this, he got a good job in Dubai while I was occupied with the movement.

Slowly, just as he was finding his feet and freeing himself from the clutches of difficulties, he has suddenly been jailed. That too, for participating in a communal riot and attempting to kill someone.

Communal tensions are an everyday affair in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts. If it is one town or village today, it is another tomorrow. Something or the other has to happen in some remote corner. Otherwise, the “dharma-rakshakas” (protectors of religion) will not be able to digest their food. This is how something happened in Nelliady the other day.

In this small village off the state highway on the foothills of the Western Ghats, the “dharma-rakshakas” mutually engaged each other in a religious war over whether a “hair-cutting saloon” must be kept open on Tuesdays or not. For their penchant for religious war, shops have been destroyed, tyres burnt to ash, the whole village filled with police and the town shut down for two days…

As always, the police have jailed people from both sides; Muslims have been sent to Hassan jail and the Hindus to Madikeri. Expecting arrest, the hardcore “dharma-rakshakas” have gone underground.

My friend Kamal came home for the holidays a month ago from Dubai. A friendly man, Kamal had never bothered about “dharma-yuddha” (religious war) or the “dharma-rakshakas”. Having had nothing to do with the riot either, he was at home and only came to town when things had calmed down. With the rioters underground, the police picked up Kamal on suspicion. Kamal, who had never been involved with the police or the courts and had never known riots and arson and who had just come home to spend time with his wife and children, is now in jail, bearing the allegation of a rioter. Since the case has serious allegations, Kamal’s return to Dubai is now a dream. In short, my friend Kamal's life has been destroyed for this so-called religious war.

Today (Friday), when he was being taken back to jail from court, I was able to talk to him through his wife’s phone. According to his lawyers, he will be in jail for a month. Kamal’s voice broke. Even as his own tragedy played out, Kamal said that a Hindu youth named Prahlad Shetty who was picked up yesterday was innocent like him.

How many more innocent people must be victims of this religious war, how many more families be turned out on the streets? When do the youth of Karavali escape this chakravyuha, this politics of deception that goes by the name of dharma-rakshane (protection of religion).

Reported to be an upright, honest and humane officer, the SP of Dakshina Kannada must take notice of this case, conduct an investigation to discover the truth and provide justice to the families of Kamal and Prahlad Shetty. This is our expectation from a rare officer.

(Muneer Katipalla is Karnataka president of the Democratic Youth Federation of India and a resident of Suratkal, near Mangaluru in Dakshina Kannada district. This was originally published by Katipalla on his Facebook page on October 30. It has been translated from the Kannada with permission and reproduced here.)

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