Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) might not have its government in Karnataka, but has both ideological and political presence in the coastal region of the state. How is it that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal (BD), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and BJP have established themselves here in the coastal region? Although it is not entirely true that these regions have turned communal after BJP’s victory in 2014, the communal forces have assumed greater extent of impunity in the last five years. These organisations have been able to establish themselves in this region by generating fear.
Since the ascent of Modi, there have been 78 cases of mob attacks and lynchings in the name of cow protection, led mostly by people associated with right-wing organisations – Sangh Parivaar. These horrific attacks caused deaths of 29 people, and left 273 injured, including 148 persons seriously injured.Over two thirds of these victims were Muslims and the remaining, mostly Dalits. These incidents were sparked off by wild and manufactured rumours of beef eating, cow slaughter, etc. In some cases, like Junaid’s lynching in Faridabad, a minor incident in a train turned into lynching by a hate-filled mob. In most cases, the killers are either free or the trials are stuck in court.
One more such example is of Hussainabba in Perdoor. On May 30, 2018, Hussainabba, a 61-year-old person involved in the cattle business was attacked and killed by the Bajrang Dal activists with the help of police. Hussainabba, who was allegedly transporting the cattle in a scorpio car from Perdoor to Udupi was stopped by the police under the pretext of inspection. He and the three others in the car were scared of the consequences, and started to run away from the police. According to a report in daijiworld, Hussainabba ran in a different direction, and was chased by the police.
One of the two who escaped reportedly received a call from the police, informing them about the death of Hussainabba. The family was told that he fell off a hill while trying to escape, and died. The family, however, refused to believe this narrative of the police, as there were visible injuries on his eyes and head, and have filed a complaint against the police and Bajrang Dal activists.
But here is a story of death of Vinayak Baliga, a BJP party booth level worker from Mangalore, a city in the coastal region of Karnataka.
This is a story of the fearless amidst the fear generated by Hindutva organisations. Baliga, a sincere party worker, had attempted exposing various cases of corruption plaguing temples, mutts and other educational institutions. This cost him his life. The case of Baliga introduces us to the nature of the impunity the Hindutva organisations and the BJP enjoy in the region.
The Story of the Fearless
Harsha Baliga and Shweta Baliga, two of the three sisters of late Vinayak Baliga met with NewsClick at their residence in Mangalore. Both the sisters remembered their beloved brother. “Sheltered, we were. None of us in the family knew about him being in politics. He would always just talk to us about taking care of our ageing parents,” said the elder sister, Shweta.
Harsha said, “He was interested in politics; he would involve himself in getting things (electricity, water, roads etc) fixed by talking to the local authorities, but we had no clue that he was into politics, and was with the BJP.” Both the sisters said that none of the BJP workers or leaders have offered any help to them.
Also Read: Vinayak Baliga Murder: Family Seeks Answers From Amit Shah
“It is only our neighbours – even though are from a different caste, and are tulunad (Tulu-speaking) people, who came running to help us. None of the people from our i.e. GSB [Gaud Saraswat Brahmins] community supported us. It is only the Left organisations like Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), Students’ Federation of India (SFI), All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) and other Dalit organisations that stepped forward,” said both the sisters.
The GSB community – an upper caste – migrated from Goa during the Portuguese rule. These were the people who had declined to convert to Roman Catholic faith, and had migrated to the coastal belt of Karnataka and Kerala.
Nayak explained that the community grew rich by the way of businesses and their presence in the government offices. The hatred that this community had against Christianity because of this history of migration was encashed by the VHP that slowly communalised them.
When NewsClick approached two men from the GSB community – a businessman and a temple trustee – both refused to talk about politics and claimed that they are aware of the communal violence in the region, but they are “apolitical”. On probing a bit, one of them, asking for anonymity said, “The BJP is full of liars and is poisonous.”
Nayak, who is also a family friend of the Baligas shared how a brother of Vinayak Baliga’s father – who famously had donated Rs 80 crore to Kargil soldiers – refused to help the sisters in the case. He also said a cousin of late Vinayak had asked for a letter seeking help. Both these gentlemen, Nayak said, are with the BJP, and like most of the GSBs, are the backbones of the VHP and its sister organisations.
Also Read: No Justice For Vinayak Baliga Two Years After His Murder
Nayak told NewsClick, “Vinayak was an RTI activist, who had filed more than 100 applications under the Act, and had filed cases too. He had caused big institutions like the Manipal University to pay up as much as crores of rupees in fines. He had pointed out many irregularities with the Kashi Math under whose supervision the temple was functioning. He had written many letters to the temple authorities, and had also filed cases against them. He had also drafted a document which he had submitted to the court and a commission had been appointed to probe the case. The court had also asked for a re-audit of the accounts and one chartered accountant had agreed to take up the job too.”
“But once Baliga was murdered, these proceedings came to a grinding halt. The chartered accountant, who had agreed to take up the audit, withdrew citing threats to the safety of his staff. The whole process of making a scheme for making the temple authorities accountable to the community stopped abruptly. All these cases were due for hearing within a short while of Baliga’s brutal murder. But the investigations halted after the arrest of the accused no 1 (Naresh Shenoy, the founder of the NaMo brigade) and his subsequent release on conditional bail.”
“This is how it works in the region. They would just kill you if you speak against them,” opined Nayak.
The Result of this Fear
The result of this fear is that the region has been under BJP’s rule for last three decades. As NewsClick has reported several times in the past, the BJP is desperate to make inroads into South of the country through Karnataka. In the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP had used “development” as a keyword during the campaign. But, as Swati Chaturvedi commented, “When thin attempts at headline management and appeals to vikas (progress) don’t work, the BJP instinctively switches to its default mode – communal polarisation.”
In light of the communal riots and violence in the state of Karnataka, the representatives from the Alternative Law Forum (ALF), Bangalore, told NewsClick, “What happened in Gujarat was not a knee jerk, spontaneous reaction, as the Sangh Parivar makes it out to be, but was an implementation of reasoned, well planned strategy on the ground that was continuously being prepared for it. It is in this light, therefore, that one must understand the threat of the fascist forces that can turn ‘Karnataka into Gujarat of the South’.”
The Sangh Parivar has been working hard to help the BJP to dominate the political landscape in a big way. Nalin Kumar Kateel, who has been a full-time member and pracharak of RSS, and is the sitting MP from the region, is yet again contesting the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, as today, on April 18, 2019, the Southern part of the state, including the coastal belt goes to polls.
Speaking to NewsClick, sitting in his car, along with a gunman provided by the government, Nayak said, “These guys don’t care if you are in BJP or in any other party. If you are a hurdle for their criminal deeds, then you will be killed.”
Also Read: Hussainabba a Sixty One Year Old Man Killed by Gorakshaks in Mangalore