PRESIDENT, SRI RAMA SENE
NUMBER OF CASES: 53
DISTURBING COMMUNAL HARMONY
IN THE end, three days was all it took to catapult Pramod Muthalik and his Sri Rama Sene to national prominence. Those who know him well, and there are very few who do, say that for all the media outrage at the January 24, 2009 attacks on women pub goers in Mangalore, the assault was merely a natural outgrowth of Muthalik’s well-ingrained hate politics.
Once a long-standing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) member, Muthalik is a self-avowed brahmachari who decided early on to spend his life fighting for the Hindutva cause. Govind Rao, an RSS shakha batchmate, remembers him primarily for his restlessness. “He spent every minute on the work our seniors allotted. He was ambitious even then and definitely had a sharp tongue.”
Muthalik’s first brush with the law came during the Emergency (1975-77) when he was jailed for a month in Belgaum, reportedly for anti-government activities. A full-time RSS pracharak from 1978, he worked aggressively in 1992 to meet Sangh Parivar calls for men and money for the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign that led to the destruction of the 16th-century Babri mosque at the hands of rampaging Hindu zealots. In 1993, he was assigned to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).
The same year, spurred by BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi’s attempt to hoist the national flag at Lal Chowk in Srinagar, Karnataka BJP workers attempted to do the same at Idgah Maidan in the town of Hubli. The ground soon emerged as a communal hotspot, with tensions peaking in police firing on August 15, 1994, killing six people. Muthalik was among the Sangh leaders present there at the time, with Uma Bharti and Sikander Bakht. Two years later, he was handed charge of the Karnataka Bajrang Dal and named its state convener.
All through this period, Muthalik managed to get himself charged in a string of cases for provocative speech making; he also became to the Bajrang Dal’s south India convener. In 2004, he spent his only significant period in jail — two months, in connection with an anti-Christian agitation — an achievement much celebrated within Bajrang Dal ranks as a mark of what ‘Anna’, the elder brother, had suffered for Hindutva. His time in jail left him upset with the BJP for ignoring him. He quit the Bajrang Dal later that year, though it was another three years before he launched the Sri Rama Sene.
An estimated 53 cases have been booked against Muthalik across Karnataka in a decade. He has been banned over 20 times from entering public places across the state.
Such a prolific history of active communal venom could hardly have been possible without state patronage. Despite his previous falling out with the BJP, Muthalik has benefited tremendously from the party’s rule in Karnataka, both when it was in coalition with the Janata Dal (Secular) in 2006, but especially since the BJP won power last year. In August 2007, the coalition government withdrew 51 cases against Bajrang Dal activists, including five in which Muthalik was an accused. Last week, three weeks before the Mangalore attack, another 11 cases against Bajrang Dal and BJP activists were withdrawn. Muthalik was an accused in one. Before his January 27 arrest, the Karnataka police and the state government pretended that he was absconding, apparently ignorant of the fact that he was addressing public meetings across the state and was freely speaking with journalists.
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 6, Dated Feb 14, 2009