I was away on my regular evening walk on the beautiful Corniche of my city when I bumped into an old acquaintance, exchanging pleasantries we talked of old times and then suddenly he remarked – You are from Mangalore aren’t you? Understanding his reason for this question and without batting an eyelid I said ‘No Sir I live far away from there now’. The cock had not crowed thrice nor did the earth open but the shame of disowning my own was as good as selling my identity for 12 pieces of silver. An identity that I proudly wore on my sleeve as a proud Mangalorean. The shame brought upon our beautiful and vibrant city by a few and the wounds of this episode will continue to fester for a long time unless the elements that perpetrated these acts are brought to book.
As I gathered from news reports, these riots were the result of a minor vehicle accident involving one carrying cattle allegedly for the slaughter house and another driven by members from a majority community. I have all along suspected the motives behind the usage of these terms majority and minority when describing the Muslim and the Hindu communities.
In this India of the 21st Century who do we consider a majority? Do we assume that all Hindus are worshippers of the same God? Do they have a single Hindu Pope? A single Holy Book? Let me take it further; within the Hindu community there is a further break down. If he is from the Brahmin Community, then he is from the Upper Class. If not he is from a Lower class. Thanks to the ‘commissions’ it is further broken down into privileged lower class under privileged lower class, those who still do not fit into these layers are called the creamy layer and it goes on. They do not speak a single language, do not have the same colour of skin, each section have their own rituals and practices, their own sects, subsects, subcastes and what have you, but and as good Indians join together as an identity in festivals and occasions. Now does that make them a majority?
In this great land of ours all of us are a minority. The Hindu, The Muslim, The Christian, The Sikh, The Buddhist, The Parsi, The Jain, all together make up this colourful fabric called India. It is a few who have held a majority of us to ransom by dividing us into groups of majority and minority for their sinister ends. The politics of appeasement has got to stop and those who preach the politics of hatred and violence should be shown the door. Bending backwards has been the norm of the peace loving people of the district till now.
An off the cuff remark by my Political Science lecturer, the Late Mr. J.M.Rebello in the classroom in the late 70s that a particular community could be using the NCC gun training as a part of their political agenda , gave him a hole in his pocket for two broken windows. Mind you it wasn’t Shivaratri. Was it a prank?…. Was it a warning? I don’t know! but there was another remark that he made in private that is now sending a chill down my spine. The emergence of certain community ghettos that were coming up in certain areas of the city.
It is well-known that Mangalore from time immemorial has attracted migrants from all over India. From the medieval age to the refugees from Maratha and Portuguese invasions of Goa, the Arab Traders and now the conducive educational environment that makes Mangalore a great place to live. But the key to success for these generations to coexist prosper and grow has been the total assimilation of these people with the local population, empathizing with them, celebrating their joys and sharing their sorrows and being one with them. Alienating into groups, living in cloistered colonies and unfortunately developing an ‘under siege’ mind frame could be a tinderbox waiting to explode. An inconsequential fracas could just ignite the flames of passion based on religion.
In the aftermath of all this destruction that has taken place, there is one institution that we must salute. The Police: A remarkable job done under the circumstances and conditions. Imagine being at Farangipet, Bantwal, Hampankatta, Bunder, Carstreet, Kudroli, Surathkal, Bajalkeri, Kaladka and other trouble spots at the same time. They were stretched beyond their limits ands hats off to DGP B S Sial who used to be a SP in Mangalore in 1979.
A much slimmer B S Sial leading a lathicharge down St. Aloysius College Road is one of the mischievous memories I cherish. Welcome to Mangalore Sir, although under unfortunate circumstances.
Well the damage has been done. Its time we picked up the pieces and carry on. Its time we learnt lessons from this dark chapter of our lives and ensure that our children will not face this type of violence in their lives.
Today, Mangalore as never before in its history, stands on the threshold of its biggest march to progress. Today we face the biggest challenge of all, an Ethical challenge, a challenge to match Progress with Forgiveness, Compassion, Love, Peace and Understanding.
Dear Mangaloreans don’t think…..WE CAN DO IT!!!!!!!!
About the author:
Author: Brian Nazareth- Koppa