‘The Bajrang Dal doesn’t belong in Mangalore’

The tourist guidebooks don’t quite put it that way, but Mangalore has always been a bit like the City’s trademark ice cream, the ‘gadbad‘.

A potpourri of religions and languages—Hinduism and Islam, Christianity and Jainism; Tulu and Konkani, Kannada and Malayalam—that’s one delicious whole. Canara Pinto buses dovetail Durgamba; Yenepoya College isn’t far from St Aloysius which isn’t too far from Kasturba.

But there is poison in the pot today.

VIVIAN FERNANDES, the economic policy editor of CNBC-TV18, born in Kankanadi, on his hometown that has become yet another laboratory of hate.  



For those of us from Mangalore, it is hard to accept that a Catholic monastery could have been attacked.

On Sunday (September 14) morning, I got an SMS from a friend there that St Clarie‘s monastery had been attacked by about 20-25 youth, presumably belonging to the Bajrang Dal.

The nuns there belong to a cloistered group.

The monastery is in the centre of the City and the hoodlums apparently pulled down the sacrament, broke a cross, tore hymn books, damaged a statue encased in glass and beat up the worshippers.

Around that time a Church of South India outfit a few kilometres away, in Lalbag, was attacked and so was a New Life Centre in the adjoining district of Udupi. As I write , my friends tell me that people have thronged Milagres Chuch (the parish where St Claire’s is located) in response to the emergency pealing of bells.

It was with a sense of disquiet that I returned from Mangalore a few days back.

The previous week, a statue of Mother Mary installed by Bondel Church on a hillock was vandalized, again by the Bajrang Dal. The statue was on public land that had been encroached by the church, apparently for the past 60 years.

That was wrong. But if the Bajrang Dal had an issue it should have filed a police complaint, not got into freelance action itself.

While Hindus are the majority in Mangalore, Christians and Muslims have a sizeable strength and peace had held all along, even though the Konkani-speaking Hindus (more than the Tulu-speaking ones) have a particular affinity to the RSS.

In fact, I have held the chicken, mutton, pork and beef stalls located next to each other as a symbol of communal living.

Yet ever since the days of the NDA government, and the BJP’s association with two state governments, the Sangh Parivar has sought to disturb social peace in Dakshina Kannada district.

For the first time in our history, in 2006, curfew was imposed following communal rioting between Hindus and Muslims. Rivalry between the Vishwa Hindu Parishat and its break away group, the Ram Sena, stoked the fires.

At the feast of our Lady’s Assumption on 8 September, which is like Onam for Mangalorean Catholics, I was appalled to see the Mass being conducted under police protection.

The priests respond to every attack on Catholics with a call for prayer and fasting. Some Catholic youth that I spoke to disdained this namby-pamby (though civilized) approach and said the community should take up arms. They admired the eye-for-an-eye response of the Muslim community. There was approval also of Muslim terror acts, which they felt, was the only check on extremist Hindu outfits like the VHP and the Bajrang Dal.

The mass conversion activities that are said to be responsible for tension in Orissa are missing in Mangalore. Hindu, Muslim and Catholics are settled communities. Of course, cults and sects like Jehovah’s Witnesses, New Life etc are aggressive, and they have been converting even the Catholics (causing strife within families).

The communal events leading up to today are a call for rethink and action.

So far Mangalorean society has been more of a salad tray than a soup bowl. While maintaining our identity, we need to engage with each other so that we get a better understanding or each other’s culture. In a casual chat with Karnataka home secretary Upendra Tripathi last week I had broached the idea of inter-community dialogue.

The BJP wants strong anti-terror laws. It should first address the lawlessness within its own affiliated groups. A forked approach will be self-destructive.

The vast majority of people in Mangalore are peace loving. We must all come forward and isolate the extremists. We are a very enterprising people. Many Mangaloreans are leaders in their respective fields. We have a stake in India’s rising prosperity. We cannot allow Mangalore to slide.

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Should VHP, Bajrang Dal be banned?