//Saffron policing fanned Mangalore flames

Saffron policing fanned Mangalore flames

Johnson T A, Indian Express,Monday, October 16, 2006

Vigilantism by Sangh Parivar outfits, Dy CM Yediyurappa of BJP justifies it, says ‘action can be taken only after people catch them committing illegal act’

MANGALORE, OCTOBER 15 : While both Hindu and Muslim groups took the lead in playing aggressor at different points of time during the violence in this coastal district, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Hindu groups like Bajrang Dal and Srirama Sena have been running a parallel policing system.

One of the two deaths that occurred during the violence was of a man in a group that was chased by Hindu activists in the belief that they were trying to get away after desecrating a temple.

On October 7 evening, the group of seven was travelling in an ambulance to Mangalore airport to drop one Ashraf. The ticket, booked about a month in advance, bears out their version.

Says Iqbal, who was in the ambulance van, “Earlier in the day some people from our village, Boliar, had taken the ambulance to the highway. We thought it would be a safe way to see Ashraf off. But our attackers seemed to have been following us. We knew many of them. They pulled us out, accused us of desecrating a temple and stabbed Ibrahim (who died).”

The victim was a Goa-based textile merchant.

Boliar panchayat member Bhaskar Shetty, a BJP worker, vouches for those who were in the ambulance. “Ibrahim was a good man. He wouldn’t have indulged in communal activities. I know all these people. They wouldn’t do such things.”

District Superintendent of Police B Dayanand says,

“It’s an unfortunate incident, the result of a misconception. We have arrested 14 of the 30 people named by the victims.”

But there have been several incidents of saffron groups playing vigilante.

In March 2005, Hajanabba, aged 60, and his son Hasanabba, 29, were stripped, paraded naked, and beaten in public by the Hindu Yuva Sena. Their crime: Hajanabba was caught buying a calf near Adi Udipi. In June last year, Bajrang Dal activists stopped and looted a bus taking Hindu and Muslim employees of a shop owned by a Muslim. They were going for a picnic and Dal activists objected, saying this would encourage affairs between people of different religions.

In May this year, one Krishnayya was killed for playing mediator in the sale of cows. The suspects arrested are all Bajrang Dal activists.

Incidentally, the recent outbreak of violence in Mangalore, too, had to do with cows. A truck carrying some cows was chased by a group of people after an accident.

According to police, the driver thought he was being chased by “saffron police” and alerted his own people, who attacked the chasers in the Kudroli area of Mangalore.

“There are several incidents of policing by Sangh Parivar groups in this district,” says a young Muslim leader. “It’s not as if Muslims are not at fault. It would be okay if they handed over offenders to police.”

But Deputy Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa of the BJP justifies the vigilantism: “Action can be taken against offenders only after people catch them committing the illegal act. Transporting cattle is outside the law.”

Post-Babri, the people of this prosperous district have become highly polarized, and as many as 10 of the 11 MLAs from here belong to the BJP.

What is ironical is that the roots of the recent violence lie in a dispute over a symbol of communal harmony-a Hindu temple built by Muslim leader Bappa Beary. The temple procession was disrupted by Muslims over the way Bappa Beary was depicted in a tableau.

The tension escalated with the attack on a Hindu teacher the next day. And finally, the chasing of the truck carrying cattle proved the spark that started the conflagration.

Police say they were initially caught off guard because reserve forces were away in Chikamagalur, where the Sangh Parivar had planned to defy a ban on religious processions associated with the Datta Peetha shrine, shared by both Hindus and Muslims.

Over 250 people have been arrested for the violence, among them is Vinay Shetty, head of the Bajrang Dal cow protection unit.

Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular) and his deputy from the BJP have both ruled out special inquiries into the violence. They have made it clear that the coalition won’t be affected by the violence.

On Thursday curfew was lifted completely. People hope business will return to normal soon and provide the balm to heal the wounds of communal conflict. Kanara Chamber of Commerce & Industry vice-president Kumble Narasimha Rao pointed out that the day before the violence broke out was when the first international flight was inaugurated from Mangalore airport.

“Only continued peace can bring good domestic and foreign investments into Mangalore, people need to understand that,” he said.

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