‘You have closed your school for one day, wait ??I will close down all Institutions for a week’ saying these few words Mahendra Kumar, Sanchalak Bajrang Dal walked away in a huff on the 30th of August from St. Josephs School Koppa.
The voluntary shutting down of all Educational institutions by the Christian fraternity seemed to have angered this man; who came barging into the school. Along with a faceless mob of around eight persons he tried to lock the school gates when it opened the next day. The nuns of the Ursuline order who run the school, came out to the gates for a real time showdown, however with the timely intervention of the locals, mostly Hindus, local Christian leaders Godfrey Lobo, Francis Cardoza, Antony, Richard Monteiro,Vincent Kumar and the taluk administration, it acted as a further dampener to Mahendra Kumar’s already sagging image in the local community.
Now who is Mahendra Kumar? Born into an agricultural family and living on a meagre income, it is said he last saw the school gate while in the Primary (Pattane Panchayathi Shaale). A rough period in life followed which took him to Mumbai, Hotels, Dance Bars, etc and the circle was completed back to his home village, where he came under the influence of fringe militant groups and then under Mr. Sunil Kumar ex MLA of Karkala under whose patronage he slowly continued building on his image and learning from his mentor the art of paranoid ranting and prejudiced hatred for anything that was against the so called vision of Hindutva. Delivering instant justice seemed to be his forte and well that’s what all militant groups honestly say they do.
Things were going well for this gentleman until that fateful day in April 2003 when he took on the Catholic Church in Koppa. Accusing the Parish Priest of the rape of a 70 year old Hindu woman he threatened Rev. Fr. Elias Sequeira with dire consequences and ordered that he shouldn’t visit the sick in Hospitals. It was then that the minorities got together for a massive rally in Koppa to protest against the goondaism, sorry instant justice of Mahendra Kumar and a memorandum was submitted to the Tehsildar to be submitted to the Chief Minister.
For a Taluk headquartered town with a labour category base, the very fact that saw the whole of Koppa, including some apparent supports his cause, come out in support of the priest, and the subsequent ostracization that followed came as a huge letdown to his once carefully massaged ego. Subsequently alienated by the political party that is known to be the political masters of these elements he seemed to be looking for a cause for long. Of course Datta Peeta comes just once a year and so Mr. Kumar was back to what he knows to do best ??.. Kori Rotti.
To those who saw him during the local assembly elections he seemed to have a low profile and was rumoured to have shifted his allegiance to a party which professes impeccable secular credentials. However the loss at the ballot booth by his new found Godfather forced him into a corner, which he realised could be the end of the road for him. Desperately seeking an identity and relevance and faced with marginalisation within the Sangh Parivar and coupled by a total ostracization by a society and a neighbourhood that surrounded him, what best way to resurrect your flagging career other than picking a soft target? This action he believed at least would give him a sense of ‘belonging’ and also an identity which he believed would go down well with the more militant elements of the Parivar and also give some excitement to a life spent in drudgery and making Kori Rotti’s.
The targets were the Ursuline Nuns of St. Joseph Convent Koppa. A sudden display of camaraderie by the local community which included Hindu leaders and to be fair, a local BJP leader seemed to have rattled him. The Police, the local administration, the five Christian gentlemen, the nuns who he thought vulnerable and who stood up to him on that day, upset his game plan.
The morning of 14th September was not just another Sunday for the Christian community in the Koppa taluk. Even before the TV channels brought us face to face with the form of terror the Christian community had not faced since the ‘pogroms’ conducted during the reign of Tipu Sultan, there was a little development that took place in a small hamlet called Jayapura between Koppa and Balehonnur which went un noticed and was not reported in the media.
A group of masked youngster’s reminiscent of Hitler’s storm troopers came in a hired vehicle, entered a evangelical prayer hall and went on a rampage breaking idols, beating up the faithful gathered in prayer (including a pregnant lady), the Pastor and his family members and sped away. Rudely awakened from their usual Sunday routine, members of the public immediately took down the number of the vehicle and the direction it was heading. Thanks to a combination of factors, commonsense, thinly populated forest lands, and locally available technology, the mobile phone, a few youth who organised themselves in minutes stopped them twenty kilometres from the spot and duly ‘blessed’ them with their fists and branches of trees before handing them to the Police, who on the insistence of local leaders filed a case under Section 307 of IPC.
An hour later, Mr. Mahendra Kumar was on a television channel known for its Christian baiting, gloating the fact that he was responsible for the attacks on Christian institutions as they were proletyzing and also that the Christian institutions were defiling the Hindu religion with trash literature etc. Although the day started with him reading from a script in his hand, it ended with him ranting the same sentences to all the channels by heart.
The national conference and the leaders that attended the conference took second place. The chief minister and his ‘sensitive’ Home minister seemed be nowhere. Drawing from the cobwebs that had clogged their brains they seemed to be muttering only one word ‘Conversion’. The reaction from the docile, if I may say so, Christian community seemed to have shocked them.
Well, then what could they do? Let loose the police! It is a commonly known fact the police force is an extension of the ruling clique, sometimes deriving their legitimacy however mistaken from the political system. Let’s face it, a policeman who works independently and honestly is often transferred or hounded to an unknown destination. The cop has little security in terms of tenure, promotion or increment. The best way of leading a less stressful life is to cater to the whims of the ‘Badshah’ of the day. Hence it did not come as a surprise when the Lathi Charge took place, what was surprising however, was the ferociousness of the charge. I do not for a moment condone violence, If the police were attacked with stones then they were right in charging into the crowd, but why attack the ladies and nuns who were peacefully sitting and praying? Why enter Churches and mercilessly beat people praying? Was it blind rage or were they blinded by saffron?
The day also had its hilarious moment – a national leader remarked that the Deputy Commisioner Dakshina Kannada, Mr Maheshwar Rao had justified that the police action was necessary as the protestors were a hindrance to the smooth flow of traffic. ‘Come on Mr. Rao. You could do better’. A Traffic police constable job would be an ideal choice. Just look out of your window and see the Traffic chaos at State Bank bus stand, Bunder area, Car Street, there seems to be a lot work to be done there. Try that. Also you seemed to have conveniently forgotten the mine Lorries that damage the roads of the city resulting in congested vehicular traffic. Just a little advice on how things could be better for all of us. Mangaloreans expect a better performance from you.
A positive fallout from this episode has been the coming together of the various Christian denominations in the Coastal and Malnad belt. Historically, Mangalore has been the melting pot of different cultures and religions. It has been an inclusive
Society and I pray it remains so. Peace has now come to our town, but for how long? The Peace pact (whatever that means) is, or may be a stop gap arrangement and above all who does it protect? Only Catholics? Oh yes, appeasement!! Cut a deal with the devil!!
As we try and bury the events of the past week, there seem to be many questions which seem to defy logic or remain to be answered.
Wasn’t it suicidal for the Bajrang Dal or any other saffron organisation to launch an attack on Christian Churches just when the National Conference of the BJP was on and that too in Bangalore. So! Was it bad timing or deliberate precipitation of a crisis?
The Chief Minister and his Home minister didn’t seem to have a clue of what was going on answering only in monosyllables and uttering Conversion! Conversion! Conversion! And then New Life! New Life! New Life!
If there was an Intelligence failure, let’s accept it. Someone’s head has to roll!!
Was the Christian Community a victim of the internecine politics of the ruling clique? The Home Minister happens to be from the coastal belt worst affected by the violence. (It was a week later that two churches in Bangalore were desecrated).
If Mr. Mahendra Kumar is to be believed he was only against the New Life Sect and had no hand in the attack on the Adoration Monastery etc. Now, in all fairness he knows the difference between the Catholic Church and other denominations as between marbles and arecanuts.
Finally the Peace pact. With due respect Your Lordship, you in your wisdom have bought peace, but at what cost? From whom? From three self styled Hindu leaders who have absolutely no control over the lumpen elements? Well we all yearn for Peace! Don’t we? You could be right!
In a way we are all selfish. Aren’t we? Sorry, But then folks, that’s my opinion??. Take it or Leave it.
Author: Brian Nazareth- Koppa