The Udupi-Mangalore belt in South Canara of Karnataka was rocked by violence unleashed by Sangh Parivar in the third week of March. All in the name of protecting the proverbial Holy Cow. Notably, the series of violent incidents started soon after the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s three-day ‘Pratinidhi Sabha’ concluded at Mangalore on March 12 expressing serious concern on “declining Hindu population” turning it to “minority community” in many parts. Later, addressing the RSS rally, its Sarsangha Sanchalak, K. S. Sudarshan, called upon to rebuild India on Hindu philosophy “where soul is as important as the mind and body”.
The series of violence started the very following day with the shocking incident of stripping, assaulting and parading nude of two Muslim cattle traders, Hajabba (60) and his son Hasanabba (25), for about three hours at Adiudupi on March 13 night by activists of Hindu Yuva Sena, Bajrang Dal and VHP alleging that the victims were transporting a calf in their Maruti van from Moodbettu of Kodavoor violating the cow slaughter ban in the State. The assault left Hasanabba’s nasal septum leg fractured and Hajabba’s spine damaged seriously. Both were admitted to hospital.
What followed was a series of agitations, charges and counter-charges. It culminated into massive violence in Mangalore on March 24-25, when the RSS unleashed attacks on Muslims and clashed repeatedly with the police. Tension loomed large in Mangalore on Good Friday with clamping down of prohibitory orders. The Chairperson of Karnataka State Minorities Commission, Mohammed Masood, wanted the Government to formally declare Udupi and Dakshina Kannada as communally disturbed districts. “The prevailing social situation”, he said, “is unbearable for Muslims as the fundamentalists are undermining the economic and social spheres of minorities, especially Muslims”. According to Mazood, the police failed to handle the stripping and parading incident appropriately which “sent wrong signals to the Muslim community”. Although action should have been taken against the Sub-Inspectors of both Malpe and Udupi Town police stations, only the former had been placed under suspension, he said. He also demanded forces with special powers to be deployed to handle such situations.
The “Karnataka Komu Sauharda Vedike” organised a massive rally and dharna in front of Udupi Deputy Commissioner’s office on March 19 to protest against the stripping incident and demanding stringent actions against the culprits involved. Their memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner also demanded banning of “reactionary organizations” indulging in violence, action against the police personnel who support “reactionary forces”, resignation of political leaders on moral grounds owing responsibility for the incident, and action against a section of media for wrong reporting. The Udupi district president of Vedika, Rama Diwana, in particular, demanded suspension of Superintendent of Police, S Murugan, and Deputy Superintendent of Police, U R Pangam. In a separated statement, Vedika President, Prof. Rachappa, and Secretary, K. P. Sripal, said: “The fascist face of Sangh Parivar has been exposed with this incident. The massacres and communal violence being perpetrated by Sangh Parivar has now entered Karnataka. A fascist organisation like the Sangh Parivar which believes in violence has no moral right to talk about Naxalites or non-violence.”
A memorandum to Governor T. N. Chaturvedi submitted by Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) said: “The act of fanatic Hindu groups were inhuman and barbaric which were against the human civilization and not heard of in recent years except at Abu Gaib jail in Iraq.” Senior police officers, especially the Udupi Superintendent of Police, S. Murugan, was criticized severally for his lapses as well as for his alleged pro-Hindutva leanings. The Additional Director-General of Police (Law and Order), Subash Bharani, and Inspector-General of Police (Western Range), H.N. Sathyanarayana Rao, have reportedly sought explanations from Murugan about the lapses relating to the stripping incident. Murugan reportedly came to know about the stripping incident only when the Chief Minister, N. Dharam Singh, called him from Bangalore to get the details. Senior officers claim that stripping incident missed their attention since they were attending another communal flare-up at Majoor, which turned out to be a minor one, at that time. Question of jurisdiction dispute also caused the police lapse. The Sub-Inspector of Malpe police station, C. D. Nagaraj, did not follow up the stripping incident since it started at Moodabettu area, which falls under the Udupi two police station limit. Although Cr.P.C. stipulates that a place where an offence is initially committed is important, no officer can shrug his responsibility on the plea that it falls beyond his jurisdiction limits. Interestingly, both Malpe and Udupi town police stations functioned under the Udupi Circle Inspector of Police, Praveen Naik. Shockingly, the police officers failed to take cognizance of the offence even after news reports appeared in the local media. Apparently, the reality stared in their face after the report about the incident highlighted in a Kannada daily was raised in the Assembly.
Later, both Udupi Circle Inspector Praveen Naik and Malpe Sub-Inspector Nagaraj were placed under suspension. Although the cow slaughter has been banned in Karnataka, militant Hindu bodies take it upon themselves to enforce the law by forcibly blocking transportation of all cattle, especially cows. Since majority of cattle traders are traditionally Muslims, it easily gives avenue for occasional communal frictions. And, there was a motivating pattern. The Hindu militancy on cow slaughter in Dakshin Canara belt increased after news reports described how Dara Singh, the killer of Graham Staines and his two children in Orissa, started his own movement in forcible preventing cows transported to West Bengal. Through South Canara cattles are transported to Kerala, the foremost beef eating state in South India which is free from cow slaughter ban. According to officials, transportation of cattle, especially cows, is on the rise in the recent past, creating occasional frictions between two communities. Notably, stringent official actions against transportation of cattle started under the influence Hindu militancy especially after the NDA dispensation occupied Central power in 1998-99.
Notably, only cow slaughter has been banned in Karnataka, and not transportation of cattle. However, officials connive with unofficial Hindu militants’ move to frustrate Muslim traders transporting cattle of all kinds in the name of Holy Cow. For the record, police officials say that the incidents of Hindu organisations confronting people transporting cattle and assaulting them “are viewed seriously” and cases were booked against people indulging in such acts. “Similarly, we also take a serious view of people transporting cattle, especially cows, in violation of laws.” Police sources also maintain that they seriously take into account the underlying tensions while dealing with such cases since, more often than not, “people transporting cattle are Muslims and those opposing them are Hindus”, which has all elements of communal tension. Yet, police always are keener to take action against the cattle traders, than the perpetrators of violence against them, under the notion that “prevention (of cattle transportation) is better than cure”. A
t an All Party Peace committee meeting held at Udupi Deputy Commissioner’s Office on March 22, the Deputy Commissioner T. Sham Bhatt announced: “The district administration will provide information about Cow Slaughter Prohibition Act to the public. If there is any violation of law, information should be given to the departments concerned. No one should take law into his hands. If the officials did not respond, then superior officials should be approached.” As arrests started belatedly on the stripping incident, various Sangh Parivar bodies started making allegations to divert attention from the main issue. The Udupi district unit of Hindu Yuva Sena took out a protest march on March 17 against what it termed “political attempts” to implicate them in the case. It wanted the police to stop arresting its activists and the cases filed against them should be withdrawn. Instead, the district administration should take action against those violating the Cow Slaughter Prohibition Act, the Sena resolution demanded.
Diverting the issue to new dimensions with a tinge of jingoistic sensationalism, the Udupi district President of BJP, K. Raghupati Bhat, alleged that pro-Pakistan slogans were raised at the March 19 rally by the Karnataka Komu Sauharda Vedike. Besides raising “anti-India and anti-Hindu slogans”, speakers at the rally insulted Swamijis of the Ashta Mutts and the whole Hindu community. According to Bhat, “the rally was supported by divisive forces, naxalites, and Pakistani agents”. Armed with baseless reports in a section of local media, other Sangh Parivar bodies also alleged that Pakistan flags were waved at the rally. There were also demands to arrest all of them as subversive elements, and to treat those who engaged in cow slaughter as criminals. Officials, however, disputed these allegations as frivolous. According to Udupi Superintendent of Police, Murugan, nobody was heard shouting pro-Pakistan slogans in the police video graphs of the entire rally. He also disputed the allegation about waving Pakistan flag, saying that the flag shown in certain press photographs was not the national flag of Pakistan. To prove his point, the SP took out a calendar of flags and showed that Pakistan’s national flag was different from those appeared in some newspapers. “I am receiving calls from both sides — one side asking how the “Pakistani flag” was allowed to display in the rally, and another saying that the flag used was not “Pakistani flag”, the exhausted officer on apparent verge of dejection said.
Stoutly refuting charges of using Pakistan flag and raising pro-Pak slogans, president of Udupi district of Karnataka Komu Sauharda Vedike, Sriram Divana, demanded legal action against the newspapers which had wrongly depicted a flag of a “dargah” as the national flag of Pakistan. All the slogans shouted at the rally were pre-determined and not one of them was anti-patriotic, he said. With the aid of photographs, he showed the drastic difference between the “dargah flag” and Pakistan national flag. The lone exceptional similarity between the two, however, is its green color. That leaves a moot question to ponder: Is green colour, too, a taboo for Hindutva variety of patriotism?
Courtesy : Indian Currents, Issue 14, 3 April 2005