By Rayan Joel Lobo, SJ
Struggling under the national regime for centuries, India Finally received its political freedom, 66 years ago. But it is very unfortunate to note that the common man in India still struggling with insecurity and uncertainty. Standing at the verge of yet another celebration of our nations Independence, let’s look at the recent violence in Mangalore with a critical eye.
It was yet another black day in the history of Mangalore as the modern day Talibans, activists of Hindu Jagarana Vedike attacked the helpless youngsters, including ladies, and treated them like animals in the name of saving the so called ‘Indian culture.’ So called, ‘Moral Policing’ which in fact lacked morality brought back the tremors of 2009 attacks. Late evening drama of Saturday, July 28, is another black dot in the history of peace loving Mangalore. The incident is an example for growing intolerance and anti-social activities, marked in the name of culture, in the city of Mangalore and around. No wonder, people are uncertain and insecure about their lives in Mangalore. It has made the Mangaloreans bow their heads with shame before the nation.
It was not long back when Mangalore was terrified initially with the attacks on the local Christian communities and later when the activists of Sri Rama Sene assaulted girls in a pub on Balmatta Road. They too sang the similar slogans of protesting the culture. One of the prime accused, Subhash Padil, was out on bail within three months. This enabled him to carry out even more damaging attacks of the black Saturday. Probably, if the law of the land had treated and punished the culprits of 2009, we wouldn’t have seen this calamity.
Amidst all this, the issue that stands out is the bashing of the young, helpless girls. “One of the attackers touched my friends body like a hungry dog, treating her like an object of play. I cannot explain...please understand what the real purpose was...”said one of the victims recalling what happened at that dark hour. It is perceived that this incident also had the hidden agenda of rape and loot, which seems quite obvious watching the footage's of the whole incident. In a land where woman is worshipped, the act of this sort is nowhere close to morality. I fully agree with Virendra Hegde, Dharmadhikari of Sri Kshetra Dharmasthala, who rightly put it, “ What is good and what is bad; what is our tradition and what is our culture cannot be dictated by anybody to anyone.”
In Mangalore, in the recent past, there were cases of Love Jihad. The sources close to the accused reveal that some Muslim boys are partying with Hindu girls. Unfortunately, it was not so. But by the time they realised, it was too late and some over excited activists had moved too beyond control. Thus they lost even the chance of colouring the whole issue as communal attack against Muslims. It looked funny as the victims were arrested instead of the activists.
It was really disheartening to see the media acting so irresponsibly. First and foremost they did not even bother to inform the police. Let’s not forget the special privileges media holds to contact any official with the press card. It was very unfortunate that they were telecasting the faces of the victimised girls without even bothering to blur them. Mohan Alva of Alva Educational Foundation rightly put it, saying, “they failed in their responsibility as the citizens (before being journalists).”
No wonder, people of Mangalore are worried, insecure and angry. Worried as this sort of incidents which are time and again disturbing the rhythm of the whole society. Insecure as these modern day goondas are not reasonable. It is becoming more and more scary for a boy and a girl, even brothers and sisters and husband and wife to walk together, for if somebody feels that it is wrong, they will be beaten up. And angry because, the whole administration looks involved. In the past, in similar incidents, if the culprits were dealt harshly and with what they deserved, this wouldn’t have been the case. Let’s not forget that this sort of a move has taken it’s all go, from the time of BJP ruling. In general, life in the state, especially in Mangalore has become more and more uncertain in the past few years.
Having gone through Hindu, Muslim, Christian and many other scriptures as part of my study, I find no culture noted in any of these scriptures that justifies this. Thus the big question in many minds now is about the concept these people are speaking about ‘Saving the Indian Culture’...??? India is a cradle of religions with mixed cultures, which adds colours to the beauty of the nation. At this point, one might even think that these people were trying to force the so called ‘Hindu Culture’ on others. As I understand, a real Hindu is a peace loving human and an Ahimsavadi (Non violent). No matter what these people claim to protect, the act was in no way ‘cultured.’
Turning the pages of Indian history, we have the greatest human ever lived in India, Mahatma Gandhi, who preached and practised Ahimsa (non-violence). Whenever he sat on Satyagraha, prior to it, he always spent sufficient time in prayer and fasting, checking the purity of his own intention and making the necessary modifications whenever necessary. No doubt, this was the secret behind his noble acts for humanity, especially for Indians. I am not sure, in what way, these people who thrashed the helpless youngsters in black and blue, be called people who worked for a noble cause. Gandhian ways may look outdated today. Even then there are better ways and means to communicate, whatever needs to be communicated. Thus we humans are known as civilized beings. Can these acts of violence be called civilized?
Coming to the social status of women in India, they are largely seen as subordinates or confined to the four walls, for long. In these modern times, women are asserting themselves and moving ahead boldly. Especially women in Mangalore are proactive, forward looking and modern, yet with full of virtues. No doubt, they have broken the culture of silence, in the recent days. Most probably this is an attempt also to discriminate women and to tell them that their place is only within the four walls. This, I believe, should not be tolerated, as it acts as a threat to the fundamental freedom of the citizens.
When there were attacks on women in 2009, there were protest marches. Yet the culprits were scot free in no time. This time too it’s a welcome sign that several women organizations have taken up the issues seriously. Social evils of this sort cannot be fought individually but in groups of movements. With elections round the corner, we hope to see atleast this time something really happening, in this regard.
The attack may also be an attempt from Hindu Jagarana Vedike to proclaim its up rise or show its identity. If at all these young activists could invest their energy in the constructive works like, serving the needy, fighting against corruption, which is destroying the state and such works, then this youth power which is blinded now under narrow minded ideologies be an asset to the nation. But will this ever happen in this country?
People around the country are watching keenly on how the whole issue be dealt with by the officials…? Already there are second opinions on several peoples' minds on how safe is Mangalore for any sort of investments? The incident will affect Mangalore very badly in many ways. It’s the time for the BJP led government to put its foot down and act and also for the fundamentalist movements to learn to look beyond, lest the time will tell them that they are outdated. Because, this time it’s not a communal issue, but a battle with the youth power of the country. We, hope that the government will take stern action against the accused.
As I mentioned earlier, life in Mangalore looks fearful and uncertain. But let’s not forget, people if united, together have the power to uproot any such evils that haunt the society. Let it not be buried like many other incidents of the past. Let Justice prevail. We hope to see a free Mangalore again, where people, especially women, feel free to live on. Let this national shame in Mangalore, be an instrument to unite people and a lesson for the future to fight any such odds.
Let’s change our attitudes to and break our bondages' of narrow minded thinking to rise and lead, that we might build a free nation.