(The following article is a chapter from the book "Five years of saffron rule in Karnataka", edited by Amrose Pinto and Published by Manak, New Delhi.)
“The feeling of pride that communities have in their own identities is being slowly converted into a feeling of hatred for other communities, and their narratives of self-respect are being replaced by narratives of violence against other communities”
The idea of communalism is not a mere idea of violence and extinction of human lives from existence that take place now and then with frequency but a thoughtful daily attempt at polarization, discrimination and leaving a deep imprint of fear which further pushes weak communities and forces them to form ghettos within ghettos and live there. The designed discrimination is a form of apartheid which one witnesses in the daily urban and civic life and constitutes a reality of civic space today. This discrimination is controlled and sustained by media imagination created on a perpetual basis.The article examines the day-to-day or everyday alienation communities are made to experience as a result of the implementation of the SanghParivar ideology on the people of the state.
The rise of the BJP in Karnataka is historic. The party for the first time formed the government in Karnataka in 2008. Since its formation the party has been through one crisis after anotherand a third Chief Minister was sworn in just a few months before the election. The story of these five years is not only a story of rampant corruption, nepotism and bad governance but more important is the fact that these five years have given solid space to Hindutva forces to spread, expand and strengthen their routes through their terrorist activities creating fear and tensions among ordinary people. As Panikkar argues ‘the rise of Hindutva was neither sudden nor spontaneous. It owes much to the slow transformation in social consciousness as a result of sustained interventions in the cultural and religious life of the people’. What is important is to examine the sustained intervention that has taken place to evolve a new consciousness in the majoritarian community.
The last five years of turbulence has given these forces a comfortable time for ‘sustained intervention and expansion’. The agenda of their advancement has taken different forms through different means in the state–direct violence on minorities, cultural invasion, saffronization of education, discrimination, cow slaughter bill, bill on terrorism, attacks on religious places or framing of Muslim youth. The BJP in Karnataka thus has left behind a script of deep violence that has led to division and hate among communities in daily living. In spite of being not communal by its history, Karnataka has remained as a strong base of RSS. Some territories of the state have been more communal than others. They include Mysore and Malnad regions but over time the coastal region has become its strong center due to continuous social engineering. While coastal Karnataka with over 3,000 RSS shakhas is the biggest base for the SanghParivarin Karnataka,its success in the Malnad region, comprising Shimoga, Chikmagalur and part of Hassan districts, and Old Mysore districts of Mysore and Bangalore, is no less.
The history of communal violence is recent in the state of Karnataka. In December 1986, Mysore witnessed one of its first communal riots that lasted for one week. This riot was seen as an extension of the Bangalore riots over the short story in the Deccan Herald titled ‘Mohammed the Idiot’. The other incident of communal violence was once again an article that led to organized violence and biased response from the state.Two people were killed and 15 others were injured in Shimoga and Hassan districts of Karnataka following violence that had erupted in protest against an old and translated article of controversial Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen in a Kannada newspaper in Sunday Magazine section on 1st March 2010. Many places of worship were targeted. The article was on the wearing of the burkha by Muslim women.Hundred of youth were rounded and tortured after series of violentclashes were over.
Although the communal violence on large scale is not very rampant in the state but violence as routine ‘incident’ is part of daily life in coastal Karnataka that is a hot bed of communal forceswhere the RSS has decided to aggressively to implement its agenda.While incidents of large scale violence terrorize the community, the daily incidents of violence make the community once again perceive itself as ‘the other’. Just a glimpse of some of the incidents will give insight into nature of violence, discrimination and hate campaign that take place day after day in Dakshina Kannada.
a.Three years ago, one Ms. Vinita of Billava Community had been to thank a Muslim friend for his assistance to get her the Job at Baikampady(in Mangalore). Shewas attacked by the Bajarang Dal men for meeting a Muslim. She committed suicide as she couldn’t tolerate the humiliation. Police has not taken any action against the culprit till date.
b. For mere mutual conversation and chatting in a public place, classmates Joulia, Robert, Vahid, Abdul and Sunil were attacked by the men of Bajarang Dal.
c. For helping Hindu girls by holding their bag in a crowded city bus, Syed, Zulfiqar and Ameen were attacked with the Soda bottles by the workers of Bajarang Dal.
d. Hajabba (60) and his son Hasanabba (30) both are residents of the village called Moolur of Udupi District. Attack on them on 25th March 2005 was very heinous in nature. Hajabba was beaten up on the mid-way in public view by the activists of Hindu YuvaSene and Bajarang Dal for transporting cattle. People around remained as dumb-observers. Learning the incident of attack on father, his son Hasanabba arrived at the spot. He too was beaten like his father. Both of them were stripped and beaten, as hundreds of people were looking on. Severely wounded victims had to undergo the treatments for weeks together. Hasanabba had the fracture in leg while Hajabba suffered from the fracture of back bone.
e. Because he was fighting for the rights of minorities and oppressed classes, and playing a very instrumental role in getting justice done for them, a human rights lawyer NoushadKasimji was shot dead in front of his house. It was an inhumane and heinous act of conspiracy designed by fascist organizationswhohave posed a challenge to the justice system in the Dakshina Kannada District. The act was also a warning for those who fight for the cause of the rights of minorities. The SanghParivar sponsored daily violence has led to the worsening of law & order situation in the district making people live in terror and horror.
f. Two teenage activists belonging to Students Islamic Organization (SIO) were attacked by a mob of about 30 Hindutva fascists. The two boys were pasting the posters for a meet on anti-violence near Vivekananda College of Puttur town. Boys were of age 15 & 17 years. One had lost partial eye sight. The police said that a case under the Karnataka Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act, 1981 had been filed against the boys for pasting the posters. However, their attackers, according to the police, were yet to be identified. Circle Inspector Srikanth said: “The boys were assaulted by hand and such offences are non-cognisable.” While he concedes that nobody has the right to take law into their own hands, Mr. Srikanth said that the attackers were left with “no option” since the boys were pasting the posters “without police permission”.
Reacting to routine violence in Dakshina Kannada PUCL observed in its report,“It is the everyday acts of living in amulti-religious society that are currently being rigorously policed and ordered by vigilante Hindu groups. The aim of cultural policing is to produce a form of social apartheid where the various communities become self-enclosed structures with inter-community social interaction being actively discouraged. This makes a mockery of the Indian Constitutional order as well as Indian traditions of tolerance and pluralism. Hence the developments in Dakshina Kannada call for urgent national attention.These incidents of targeted violence are not only against Muslims but largely on Muslims because they form the largest minority community.
Although Justice BK Somasekhara Commission report on the 2008 church attacks interestingly found ‘nothing’ substantial, the members of the Christian community and their pastors continue to bear the brunt of violence unleashed by right-wing extremists. So far this year, 24 incidents have been recorded in which pastors were attacked and cases foisted on them for allegedly indulging in religious conversion. Citing the nature of biasness in identification and investigation in these incidents, Sri PB D’Sa, State President of People’s Union for Civil Liberties had said “In its interim report, the commission held the state government responsible for the attacks. But it made a U-turn in its final report. On one hand, the government has withdrawn 76 cases filed against BajarangDal activists. On the other, 338 cases filed against Christians for peacefully protesting against the attacks haven’t been withdrawn”.
In another very fresh controversy a historical Buddhist site near Gulbarga, 584 km from Bengaluru, where the first inscribed image of Ashoka was discovered, became the communal flashpoint. Dalit organisations and a Buddhist monk were protesting against what they claim was an attempt by Hindutvavadisto appropriate the monument by placing a Durga idol.Four Dalits and a Buddhist monk were arrested then for removing the idol. However, the protesters claim that they had removed the idol only to take it to the deputy commissioner’s office when they were arrested.
The late Home Minister, V. S. Acharyahad come under severe attack for his subtle support to Sri Ram Sene activists in the infamous Mangalore pub attack case. His inability to stop attacks on churches had made Governor HR Bhardwaj recommend his shiftingfrom the Home Ministry. He was also accused of favouringGopalHosur, the state intelligence chief who activists claim has been complicit in running the Sangh agenda.
The cultural mobilization by the Hindutva forces today involves the inclusion and assimilation of Dalits and tribals and using them as instruments in the violence against minorities. This is done through different forms of processes. One does not fail to notice the attempts made to change traditions and external expressions of subaltern communities. In the five years of the BJP in power, the SanghParivar has been actively involved in the renovation of temples, hijacking of feasts and festivals of subaltern communities and adding of the heroes of these communities into grand narratives of Hindutva.As Badri Narayan in his work points out “the BJP is now culling out the local heroes of various castes, particularly the Dalit castes living in different regions of the country, and adding them to the metanarrative of Hindutva”.
In the coastal region of Karnataka the communities ofMogaveeras, Bunts and Billavas are used for different projects of Hindutva and their religiosity has also seen a shift from their local practices to the Vedic forms. To analyze and understand the dynamics of this shift and change one needs to be critical. In the communal violence at Shimoga and Hassan, Dalits were used to inflict violence against Muslims. Dalit leader from Hassan Dharmesh accepted the fact that Dalit leaders were involved in this communal frenzy.
In the coastal area of Karnataka all the subaltern communities have been Hinduised. MuzaffarAsadistates how it is done. “Nonetheless, Hindutva identity was also constructed through other means. One important means is the convening of ‘Hindu Mahasabhas’, or ‘Hindu Samajotsava’ other than the usual ‘Ganesha festival’ or ‘temple bhajans’. It is through these ‘Samajotsavas’ that Hindutva engineered a larger social coalition of groups or identities. Different backward castes or classes were invited to participate; including the heads of their respective mutts. Every year this has been the programme, systematically done to indoctrinate the ideology of Hindutva. This has helped in the social coalition of dominant caste (‘Bunts’), backward castes/class (‘Billavas, Kulalas, Devadiagas’, etc), and the upper caste (‘Konkanis, Brahmins’, etc). It is in this context that internal contradictions have been covered up to impose a larger unity, build a larger coalition among the groups. In the immediate context the internal contradictions or the conflicts are treated as not the major or the immediate concern. Thus, politics necessitated the construction of two externalities: one, construction of the ‘Other’ and two, construction of an ‘abstract threat’. It is here that the convergence of a debate or discourseon ‘globalisation’ and the ‘Muslims’ needs to be located. One important thing is that in the process of constructing a homogeneous category of Hindus, Hindutva allowed spaces for localised symbolism to exist”.
The role of Mutts is very critical in all the processes. The state government under the scheme of special social expenditure has given approximately 394 crores toMutts and religious bodies associated with Linagayats, the dominant political groups in the state, numerically the largest.
The Policy and Politics
The politics and policies of the last five years include targeting and framing of Muslim youth, framing of innocent members of the minority community, license to right wing forces to carry on their hate discourse, cultural campaign of ‘Hindu nationalism’, promoting vegetarianism and saffronization of education.Just 10 days before he died on 14th February, state Higher Education and MuzraiMinister VS Acharya, 72, got the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments (Second Amendment) Bill passed. It provides for the setting up of state and district-level quasi-judicial bodies called DharmikaParishats with the power to decide whether a religious institution is a Hindu place of worship or a composite one shared with other faiths. The Parishats will also have power over composite shrines.It is argued that the management committees of prominent temples would be infiltrated by politicians from the BJP and used to further the Hindutva agenda.
The Class V textbook (Veda KaladaBharata) says cow slaughter was forbidden in the early Vedic period. The historical record, however, suggests otherwise. Historians such as DN Jha have shown how the Rig Veda has references to beef eating.The coloring of textbook goes along with the controversial Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill, 2010. The Bill, passed by the Assembly and adopted by the Legislative Council, seeks a blanket ban on the slaughter of milch animals and draught cattle. But the bill sent to the President was returned to the Legislature suggesting some changes. The bill was termed more draconian than the controversial Madhya Pradesh law because it extended the prevention of slaughter provision to not just cows but also bulls, bullocks and buffaloes.Political analyst Shiv Sunder contestthe bill by questioning, “What do you expect the animal owner to do? In an ordinary situation, the farmer would sell it, make money and buy younger cattle. Here he is not allowed to sell his cattle. You are attacking his means of livelihood.”
Even as the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill, 2010, is pending Presidential assent, the BJP government in December 2012 passed the controversial Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Preservation (Amendment) Bill, 2012 without debate on the last day of the legislature session in Belgaum. The amendment to the 1964 legislation (now passed) includes several provisions that the State government had proposed as part of the Bill now pending for Presidential assent. It also expands the definition of ‘cow’ to include bull and bullock in the category.
Along with all these the siphoning off of Rs 50 crore by a former chairman of the Karnataka Minorities Development Corporation (KMDC) which has blocked financial loans to needy people of the minority community for the past five years is yet another example that how the state is functioning and for whom.For four years since, the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC) have frozen funds to the state. “Not a single rupee has been disbursed so far. Because of this corruption, deserving and needy people are being deprived of loans,” says Syed Samiullah, chairman of the Karnataka Integrated Welfare Society.
In these five years of rule the patronage system has never ended whether it’s donation for mutts or protection of perpetrators. The favor has been extended to the media house of right-wing newspaper too. Rules were bend to accord“HosaDigantha’, a paper committed to further the interests of the SanghParivar, status of ‘state newspaper’. Resultantly it got state govt. ads worth Rs 1 crore in the past few months. Even though the RSS mouthpiece lacks the necessary circulation, print and certification from the central Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), rules were bent with the state government providing two industrial sheds in Bengaluru worth Rs 5 crore to the newspaper for Rs 1.5 crore.The question of media and control is very serious and complex. To maintain sanctity and honesty in the media is no easy. The communal presence in the media has been effectively influencing the nature of the public discourse in Karnataka.
Image Courtesy: commons.wikimedia.org
1. Badri Narayan, Fascinating Hindutva, Saffron Politics and Dalit Mobilisation, Sage Publications, 2009
2. K.N. Panikar, In the name of nationalism, Frontline: Volume 21 – Issue 06, March 13 – March 26, 2004
5. lurch http://www.tehelka.com/story_main50.asp?filename=Ne090711Frozen.asp
6. Karnataka KomuSouhardaVedike, Karnataka under Saffron siege?, Page 10 (http://pedestrianpictures.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/karnataka-under-saffron-siege.pdf)
7. Bhanutej N, The Saffron Spell, The Week,
8. Cultural Policing in Dakshina Kannada, PUCL Report
9. MuzaffarAssadi: Karnataka:Hindutva Policies in Coastal Region, Vol – XXXVII No. 23, June 08, 2002 (http://communalism.blogspot.in/2003/01/india-karnatakahindutva-policies-in.html)
10. Karnataka KomuSouhardaVedike, Communalisation and media – discourses in public sphere
12. Field notes
Badri Narayan, Fascinating Hindutva, Sage Publications, 2009
 K.N. Panikar, In the name of nationalism, Frontline: Volume 21 – Issue 06, March 13 – March 26, 2004
BhanuTej, Saffron Spell, The Week
 Deccan Herald, 7th December 1986
Karavali Ale: 12th Feb. 2009
The Hindu: 7th Sep. 2008
The Hindu- 7th Sep. 2008
 The Hindu, Mar 19, 2005
The Hindu 26 Feb. 2009
 PUCL Report: Cultural Policing in Dakshina Kannada, December 2009
Tehelka: 8 October 2011, Issue 40 Volume 8
Tehelka: October 8, 2011, Issue 40 Volume 8
Tehelka: March 10, 2012, Issue 10 Volume 9
Tehelka: February 25, 2012, Issue 8 Volume 9
 Badri Narayan, Fascinating Hindutva, Saffron Politics and Dalit Mobilisation, Sage Publications, 2009
Economic and Political Weekly, June 08, 2002, Karnataka: Hindutva Policies in Coastal Region
Tehelka: February 25, 2012, Issue 8 Volume 9
Tehelka: February 25, 2012, Issue 8 Volume 9
Tehelka: July 9, 2011, Issue 27 Volume 8
Tehelka: 28 October 2011, Yeddyurappa flouted rules to back RSS newspaper