Mangalore is fast emerging, if it has already not emerged, as the “Laboratory of Karnataka”. The epicentre of communally mobilised politics for long, the region has seen individual and institutional rights shrink rapidly under the BJP government of B.S. Yediyurappa as goons and goondas on all sides of the triangle run haywire.
In just the last year, a BJP MLA’s wife has disappeared and committed suicide under a hail of speculation. Churches, convents, and prayer halls have been attacked. Buses carrying students of a co-education college have been attacked because girls and boys of different religions were travelling together. Newspaper editors have been arrested, handcuffed and jailed; newspaper publishers and directors have been sued.
As if all that infamy under the cavernous nose of Karnataka’s home minister V.S. Acharya wasn’t enough, hoodlums of the Sri Ram Sena on Saturday barged into a pub at 4 pm claiming that “unethical activities” were taking place inside, and then slapped and kicked girls, and assaulted the men who were with them.
Prasad Attavar, state deputy convenor of the Sena, told The Hindu that it was a “spontaneous reaction against women who flouted traditional Indian norms of decency”. He said these women were Hindus who “dared to get close to Muslim men.” In a sign of competitive communalism, the Bajrang Dal has also claimed responsibility.
Questions: Who decides what is decent, what is ethical? Is women going to a lounge bar or pub against “traditional Indian norms of decency”? Does the dark presumption of “unethical activities” give vigilante groups the license to raid restaurants, and kick and beat up customers? Does such violence against women (captured by TV cameras) fall within the purview of “traditional Indian norms of decency”? Since when did it become illegal for Hindu girls to go out with Muslim boys, or vice-versa?
And, above all, is Karnataka slowing becoming the Gujarat of the South?
Also read: One question I’m dying to ask V.S. Acharya