Tuesday, September 16, 2008

ESSENCE OF LIFE, DENIED!

(This post is written as a response to the large number of messages, calls & SMSs that I have received over the past 3 days enquiring about the fresh round of violence that has gripped Mangalore. The views expressed in this post are made solely for the purpose of finding a way out of this alarming situation that faces all Mangaloreans)

The essence of life is to move forward.

What happened in Mangalore on the morning of September 14th was contrary to the essence of life. We have now moved backwards by, at least, a hundred years.

It all began with a leaflet/booklet* purported to have been published and circulated by a Christian group called ‘New Life’. The ‘New Life’ is a break away group of former Catholics & Protestants. They believe in evangelization and try to lure people to their flock; at times with the power of money. Their main targets are actually Catholics and Protestants themselves. They are of the opinion that belief in Jesus Christ only can bring salvation to mankind.
* The booklet, entitled 'Satya Darshini', was originally written in Telugu & then was translated to Kannada.The accusers haven't produced the copies to the district authorities, nor have they been able to tell the authorities the location where the leaflet has been found.

It is said that the book derided the Hindu Gods.

If this is so, I condemn the booklet in the strongest of terms. Religion is personal and precious to each individual and no one can ridicule, deride or insult any religion.

The Bajrang Dal, which has always maintained that the Christians convert Hindus; and are vehemently opposed to conversions, seized the moment and took law into their own hands. A helpful BJP Government at the helm of administrative affairs in Karnataka encouraged their cause and they proceeded to attack & destroy the ‘New Life’ centers and prayer halls all across Mangalore, Udupi & Chikmagalur Districts on Sunday morning. They beat the people up and destroyed furniture and desecrated the places of worship.

In Mangalore, in addition to the 'New Life' centres, a Catholic convent was also attacked. A gang of 8-10 youth walked into the chapel of the convent and proceeded to smash the altar, desecrate the Blessed Sacrament and break the legs and hands of a statue of a crucified Jesus Christ. This was followed by attacks on other churches in and around Mangalore.

The Catholics of Mangalore took to the streets in protest. What followed was mayhem. The agitated youngsters, unmindful of Section 144, protested on the streets in front of various churches in Mangalore the next day. Mangalore ground to a halt on Monday. A partisan Police force, angry at being stoned & egged on by some members of the Bajrang Dal, systematically quelled the protest of the indignant Catholics by brutal force using lathis, stones and tear gas,(even women & children were not spared) in the process arresting scores of Catholic Youth for violating section 144 of the IPC.

Then a farce was played out before millions of Television Viewers. The Bajrang Dal called a press conference and took the onus for the attacks & warned of more attacks to follow; a jubilant looking Home Minister openly approved the acts of the Bajrang Dal and played down the attacks on the places of worship. The state Bajrang Dal convener, while taking onus for the attacks, openly warned Christians not to resist the atrocities of his men, else more would follow; and he still runs a free man. A partisan Chief Minister visited Mangalore on Monday; shed crocodile tears and promised to repair the places of worship with the tax payer’s money. His ire was directed to people who are engaged in conversions. He skirted the issue of the attacks on places of worship. The minister in charge of the District pretended that he was illiterate – he had not read newspaper reports nor seen the Television coverage of the Bajrang Dal press conference wherein the leader had taken responsibility to the attacks, and denied the hand of the Bajrang Dal in the attacks. So much for democratic governance.

On Tuesday, a delegation of Congress leaders descended on Mangalore and shed copious tears. Every single politician has descended on Mangalore, like vultures actually, looking for someway of extracting mileage from the incident. For the politician, building up support among the people on the basis of good governance is a far more arduous task than carving out electoral bases on the basis of divisive politics.

In response to the protest by Catholics, another outfit called the Sri Ram Sena called for a bundh on Tuesday. An uneasy calm has settled over Mangalore as I write this post. What I had feared most has come alive.

Time and again I have warned my friends that a day will come when Mangalore will observe a bundh every other day; not out of solidarity but out of fear!

It is tragic, to say the least, that a few hundred youth can hold lakhs of people to ransom.

What is happening out here?

One must go down to the underbelly of Mangalore & one goes directly to the root of the problem. The economically backward, be it the Hindus, Muslims or the Christians, have to face up to a problem. Their youth are just not employable. They lack quality education and skills that would have made them employable. So there you have it; a large population of frustrated and unemployed youth.

As Karl Marx once said ‘Religion is the opium of the People’; the last resort of these people is religion. You don’t need special skills to grow into a fanatic. Slowly and surely these youth are proving to be a malaise; refusing to go away.

I have had opportunity to travel to the hinterlands of Mangalore. I have met with these youth groups. They too have dreams, ideas and plans; but there is no one listening. The educational institutions in these places impart superficial education. The youth grow up with an absence of the breadth of knowledge. They haven’t mastered the language of business – English. Their soft skills haven’t been honed. They are languishing; easy prey to wily politicians & religious leaders. Keeping them unemployable helps the cause of these charlatans.

Unless we Mangaloreans come together to sort out these issues, we are doomed. No industrialist would want to set up business in a place which observes frequent bundhs.

It is time for Mangaloreans of every faith to commence a meaningful dialogue on religion. It is important to respect each others religion and understand that only when we co exist in peace can we build prosperity. The youth of Mangalore have to be made employable. And in all these endevours, it is important to keep all selfish politicians at bay.


P.S. On September 19th, at around midnight, the Police, bowing to pressure from all quarters, finally arrested the State Bajrang Dal convener. He has been remanded to judicial custody.
On September 30th, the VHP, bowing to pressure from the BJP, asked the convener to relinquish his post. As if on cue, the state government slapped 7 different cases on the scapegoat!
Meanwhile a chastened State Govt has decided to conduct a judicial probe into the incident.

2 comments:

Vetri Pandit said...

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA - By Shabnam Hashmi & Ram Puniyani
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA




September 15, 2008

New Delhi



Dear Dr. Manmohan Singh,



The blasts in Delhi (September 12, 2008) are another in the series of tragic blasts in which scores of people have been killed. We strongly condemn the blasts and demand a proper, unbiased investigation into the same. We demand that the guilty be punished. At the same time it seems that our investigating agencies are ignoring some thing very crucial in the matters of investigating the acts of terror.



The acts of terror have been occurring and Home Ministry is watching helplessly. While the current investigation is totally focused around SIMI, many an alleged culprits have been put behind the bars, despite which now some unknown entity Indian Mujahideen seems to have been projected as being responsible for the current ones. At the same time another stark truth is being deliberately sidelined and undermined. And that relates to the blasts done by Bajrang Dal and Hindu Jagran Samiti. We fail to understand as to why the investigation authorities are turning a blind eye to some of the well established facts.



1. In a serious case of blasts in Nanded in April 2006 two Bajarang Dal workers died when making bombs. Similar incidents of bomb blasts were witnessed in many places around that time, Parabhani, Jalna and Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Most of these were in front of the mosques. The Nanded investigation ‘leads’ were not followed. On the contrary the investigation in that direction was not pursued at all. The attitude of police in this investigation has been totally lax. Social activists made the complaint about this to Human Rights commission. The commission summoned the Superintendent of police, Nanded, in its hearing held on 17thJune. The SP failed to turn up for hearing! There seems to be a deliberate cover up of this important finding of Maharashtra Anti terrorist Squad. ATS did investigate the links of the dead with Bajrang Dal, an RSS affiliate. At the same time the injured were visited in the hospital by the top brass of local BJP and associates. Local BJP MP told the police not to harass those related to the culprits in the wake of the Bajrang Dal involvement in the bomb making. In Nanded, ATS also found fake moustache and pajama kurta, the idea being that the culprits will dress like a Muslim while doing these black deeds.



2. A bomb blast took place at the RSS office at Tenkasi, in the Tirunelveli District of Tamil Nadu on January 24. After a thorough investigation, the Tamilnadu Police had arrested 7 persons belonging to Sangh Parivar outfits. They had confessed that they indulged in this terror act to instigate the local Hindu population against the Muslims.



On further investigation, the Tamilnadu Police arrested Siva Alias Sivanandam, who is the General Secretary of Hindu Munnani at Kadayanallur, a neighbouring town of Tenkasi. Formed in 1980, Hindu Munnani is a frontal organisation of Sangh Parivar operating in Tamilnadu.



Siva, who has earlier worked in quarries in the neighboring state of Kerala had supplied the ammonium nitrate and other raw materials for preparing the bombs.



3. The bombs which exploded in Gadkari Rangayatan on 4th June 2008 injured seven people. Again Maharashtra Anti Terrorist Squad succeeded in nabbing the culprits. The culprits were part of Hindu Janjagaran Samiti (HJS), an outfit of Sanatana Ashram in Panvel. These culprits were also involved in other blasts, in Vashi, Panvel and Ratnagiri. We have not heard anything about the further tracing of this very important lead.



4. On 24th August, in Kanpur two Bajrang Dal workers died while making bombs. Rajiv alias Piyush Mishra and Bhupinder Singh were killed while making crude bombs on Sunday afternoon.



On 25th August, Monday, police recovered some crude hand grenades, lead oxide, red lead, potassium nitrate, bomb pins, timers and batteries from the spot, inside a hostel in Kalyanpur area of Kanpur, about 80 km from Lucknow. No further investigation, why?



Every time there is a bomb blast immediately the agencies and the media declare that it is done by some Muslim organization without any proof. Hundreds of innocent young boys are picked up, what follows are illegal detentions, torture, arrests, harassment of families, forcing the families and victims to sign blank papers. For years these helpless victims are tortured in jails, denied legal aid, even lawyers who try and fight their cases are attacked openly in courts. Their images tarnished for life time. If they are lucky they get let off after years as neither the agencies or the police have any proof against them. The cacophony of stricter laws rises so that a police can extract a confession by third degree torture and present that as evidence. Through this systematic vilification campaign the process of demonization of minorities continued unabated.



If we look at the timing of the terror attacks it is very clear that one and only one political outfit is gaining from it and that is Sangh. With their eyes on the central government their agenda of polarizing the voter is going ahead successfully.



On the other hand there are constant attacks on minorities on one pretext or another. Orissa thousands of Christians have been attacked, rendered homeless, their homes ransacked and looted and burnt down, churches attacked and even orphanages are not left alone.



Karnataka a similar picture is emerging. We have personally briefed very senior people in the government and the Congress party about the Karnataka situation and that it might explode but nothing was done and we have seen what has happened yesterday.



While we write to you now, the police are firing at Muslims in Yakutpura in Vadodara. Yesterday during the Ganpati procession a local dargah was broken down and shops of Muslims looted and ransacked. Already one boy has died and many are injured.

Last few days the only Muslim village Nandepeda in the Dangs, Gujarat has been attacked, ransacked. Villagers have been beaten up brutally including women and children. All men have fled to the jungles. The police not only took away all the goods but before going they poured kerosene into the eatable good so that they could not eat anything too. A proposed VHP rally today was stopped after spending 4 hours on the phone and pressuring various police departments.



UPA had formed the National Integration Council under tremendous pressure. The first agenda papers which were prepared, if you remember, were highly communal and objectionable. A number of us had raised it during the meeting and the Home Minister had replied’ treat them as scrap’ in your presence. Probably the Home Minister realized that people like us were too uncomfortable to have in the NIC, who would raise these questions. The NIC was never convened again. It was supposed to meet every six months.



The country unfortunately has been given on a platter to the Sangh and the government looks helplessly in providing security to ordinary citizens whether they are victims of terror attacks or victims of the constant attacks by the Sangh Parivar’s various outfits.



We hope you will intervene and question why are such clear cases of involvement of RSS affiliates in terror attacks being ignored. It seems the investigating authorities deliberately want to cover up the role of RSS affiliates in these acts of terror. Can the real truth behind the dastardly acts come out without properly investigating these incidents, where the culprits’ involvement is very clear? We urge upon you to instruct the investigating authorities to pursue the investigation in an unbiased, honest and professional manner. The life of innocent citizens is at stake and such irresponsible cover will definitely prevent the real truth from coming out. For the sake of fairness, honesty and the values of our constitution, we need to pursue these cases in their logical direction.



Can we look forward to you, Mr. Prime Minister to make your Government to rise above partisan attitude and unravel the truth behind the blasts which are rocking the country in a painful way?

Sincerely

Shabnam Hashmi, Member, National Integration Council

Ram Puniyani, Social Activist, and writer

Rakesh Vanamali said...

Despite being the largest democracy in the world, the practise is far from happening in today's India. Instead, groups fight one another while disturbing the livelihood of many thousands!

Bread butter issues which need ultra-urgent attention lie neglected for decades and development is a myth.

As if all this was not enough, people fight one another in the name of caste, creed and religion!

We Indians, can never live in peace let alone unity. We cannot mature as a nation an usher in development and demand our politicians to change!

I am reminded of Khalil Gibran's verses from 'My Countrymen' which I read on a friend's blog

"I hate you, My Countrymen, because
You hate glory and greatness. I
Despise you because you despise
Yourselves. I am your enemy, for
You refuse to realize that you are
The enemies of the goddesses."

Good post Sir!

Regards

Rakesh