D.P. SATISH writes from New Delhi: What is now happening in Karnataka is quite disturbing; almost unthinkable. People like me who went to school and college in the 1980s and ’90s never imagined that one day our peaceful and harmonious State would be sliced and scythed so systematically on communal lines.
The seeds of communal politics sowed on our salubrious soil during L.K. Advani‘s rath yatra is now bearing fruit. Or is being genetically modified to bear fruit.
As the renowned writer and thinker Prof. U R Anantha Murthy writes:
“The Christians in the past had made contribution to the development of modern Kannada. Rev Kittel who composed the first Kannada dictionary was one of our revered ancestors. The Christians continue to run hospital and schools. Most of the gentle and caring nurses in hospitals are Christians.”
Not just that.
Many people from my father’s and grandfather’s generation always practised communal harmony and held Catholic missionaries in high esteem.
Thyanandur Puttannaiah, a religious Hindu and a remarkable man from my home district Shimoga, had dedicated his book “Naa kanda Malenaadu” (a definitive account on the hilly region of Malnad) to Christian missionaries!
It was not a surprising gesture during those days. He had great respect for them because of their social service. He truly believed that caring and loving Catholic nuns and priests had introduced modern civilisation to remote, inaccessible Malnad, which was known as a den of cholera and malaria during the British raj.
My grandfather believed that the entire generation of Kannadigas in the Malnad and Coastal Karnataka survived the dreaded diseases of cholera and malaria only because of the selfless service of Catholics in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The first Kannada newspaper Mangalooru Samachara was started by a missionary from Germany, Father Herman Mogling, in 1843. The Basel Mission Church published first books in Kannada.
The reverend Uttangi Channappa was a renowned Kannada folklorist, historian and reseracher of the 20th century.
The great English teachers like J.C. Roelho and Armando Menezes shaped Mysore and Karnatak Universities during their formative years. A Hindu majority coast wholeheartedly sent Joaquim and Margaret Alva, and the Lobo Prabhu, to Parliament; Oscar Fernandes five consecutive terms.
And let us not forget that George Fernandes is a Mangalorean and still a Mangalorean at heart. Roger Michael Humphrey Binny proudly wore the Karnataka cap as its captain in dozens of Ranji Trophy matches and made us happy.
These are just a few examples of thousands of other good and great Christians, who have immensely contributed to the Kannada culture and public life, in ways big and small.
The Bajrang Dal and other radical Hindu organisations either don’t know anything about our history or they don’t want the majority of Hindus to acknowledge the importance of Christianity in Karnataka.
The sangh parivar feels empowered after the BJP captured power in Karnataka in the elections last May. With or without the knowledge or consent of the government, radical organisations like the Bajrang Dal and Sri Rama Sena have unleashed a reign of terror in some parts of the State.
There are enough reasons to believe that a section in the ruling BJP is stoking the fires of inter-religious animosity in Karnataka for political reasons. Anti-Christian sentiment is travelling from the coast to the capital under a benign and benevolent government which seems to think it was sworn into office to protect and promote only one community.
It is difficult to belive that Oscar Fernandes represented the present epicentre of saffron politics Udupi in the Lok Sabha for five consecutive terms between 1980-1998.
It is a fact, of course, that the neo-radical protestant evangelists like ‘New Life Church’ are coercing innocent, poor Hindus from the lower strata of the society and converting them in some parts of the State. There are serious allegations of money and other blandishments playing a big role in the conversions.
But Roman Catholics?
The single largest and oldest Christian community in the State is being attacked by right wing zealots. Perhaps, the semi-literate zealots do not know the difference between Catholics and other neo-radical evangelists.
Catholics are the most visible Christians because of their magnificent Churches, convents, colleges, seminaries, Cathedrals, Basilicas and hospitals. They are being made to pay the price for the alleged anti-Hindu activities of other Christian sects.
Even if the new sects are involved in large-scale conversion activities, Bajrang Dal or any other radical organisation has no right to take law unto its own hands and punish the guilty.
B.S. Yediyurappa should realise that he is chief minister of Karnataka and it is his Constitutional obligation to protect all religions and castes irrespective of the their political affiliations and leanings.
Another sad development is the complete politicisation of the entire issue.
When Karnataka is looking for a statesman to douse the raging communal flames, the Congress-led central government, the BJP government, and the idle and frustrated, JDS are all busy making political calculations. The selective invoking of the Article 355 by the UPA only against NDA-ruled Karnataka and Orissa has not gone down well even with non-BJP people from the State.
They feel that the Centre has no moral right to warn Karnataka and turn a blind eye to States like West Bengal or Tamil Nadu or even Maharashtra. The BJP is cleverly using it to consolidate votes and communalise the entire State. The wily old fox H.D. Deve Gowda also shouldn’t forget that nearly a dozen people were killed in communal clashes when his son H.D. Kumaraswamy was the chief minister.
“Secularists “, Congress, JDS etc can easily fool the benevolent media, but not the people.
Actually, they are aiding the BJP and other communal forces in their eagerness to prove their ‘secular’ credentials. Falling over each other for votes and 15 minutes of fame will finally end in their fall and the raise of communal elements. Gujarat is a shining example of that.
What the media thinks is negative publicity is actually positive news for communal elements. It helps them grow stronger.
Let’s also admit that Karnataka has not always been a tolerant state. But the core philosophy of Kannada and Karnataka have always been to live and let live. It was never divided on communal lines and the animosity was not everywhere.
Let us admit, as a distinguished Kannada author, Prof V. Sitaramiah, has pointed out:
“…that we have had our pettiness and feuds; our limitations of outlook and failures in achievement; our bloodbaths given and taken. Our chieftains have carried off brides from marriage pavilions; our warriors have destroyed men and lands when fiendish fits were on. In their turn, they have been invaded and their capital cities have been razed or burnt.”
“The history of all peoples has been much the same and littered with episodes good and not so good. But the long range value preference, the pride and grateful memory of Kannada poets has been, by and large, for tolerance and the arts of peace; for conservation.
“This is true not of poets alone but the Kannada people as a whole….
“Allied with this distrust of fanaticism and flamboyance is a certain unsparing insistence of self-discipline and style. It is expressed in the numerous stories about Visvesvaraya, in the fastidiousness of Generals Cariappa and Thimaya, in the philosophical volumes of Professor Hiriyanna and in the dance of Shanta Rao. In its gentler form it can be detected in the lines and brush strokes of K.K. Hebbar, in the glances and drives of G.R. Vishwanath, in the meditative aalaap of Mallikarjun Mansoor and in the prose of R.K. Narayan.”
As an obsessed Kannadiga, I feel hurt and sad.
Because, the carefully built image of my State has severely been dented.
As one journalist wrote, “Oh God forgive them for they know what they are doing.”