Thursday, February 19, 2009

MANGALORE MUSINGS

(How green was my valley……)

I am sad and frustrated.

I am sad that my hometown, where I was born and bred, has been taken over by lumpen elements, made up of unemployed school dropouts, bus conductors, auto drivers etc., who, among others, are led by a 4th std failed 40 year old man whose fetish is to see young girls wet their pants when he and his ilk threaten them!

I am frustrated that people who talk and write about it fail to understand the situation in its totality and get easily side-tracked by lesser issues.
Just the other day, I read in a respectable newspaper “some young men took law into their own hands and beat up girls at a pub in Mangalore”. Come again, which law was that?

Look, this was a case of molestation, assault & battery, and outraging the modesty of a woman. And most importantly, it was a case of trampling on the liberty of an individual.

The events as they unfolded and narrated to me by a person in the knowhow are as follows:
The pub in question was paying protection money to a bunch of goons who owed allegiance to a certain outfit called Shri Ram Sene. (The allegiance was for the sake of identity and it served as protection from prosecutions) Considering that the membership in the group was steadily increasing; what with the downturn and all that, the leader upped his monthly payment by a whopping 250%. The management of the pub who too were feeling the heat of the downturn refused payment.
That infuriated the leader. So he sent his boys to teach the management a lesson. Knowing full well that on a Saturday afternoon college students and that too girls would be present; the rowdies descended on the place like a committee of vultures. Seeing the girls, who were from well to do families; and knowing full well that they would never be able to get close to any of them otherwise, they cornered them, groped them, pulled their hair, then chased them and beat them up; all this was very well captured and documented by the media who were called to the place on the pretext that illegal activities at the club were being exposed. Someone called the cops, who arrived within 10 minutes (It is alleged that the cops too were being paid protection money) and in the next 10 minutes the first culprit was apprehended. Within the next 2 hours five ruffians were netted and were treated to a wide array of police entertainment.
Then some media person uploaded the videos on to youtube.com. This was seen all over India and the world; and then the national press descended. And the whole issue was hijacked. The founder of the Shri Ram Sene, a certain Pramod Muttalik Desai was made famous overnight. Had he had spent crores of rupees, he wouldn’t have got even a fraction of the publicity that he got from the national press. Since the lumpen elements owed allegiance to the Shri Ram Sene and were identified with Hindutva; the state BJP govt instructed the cops to go slow. A wily lawyer, who is a prominent BJP party- member was sent to defend them. And so began the intimidation of the victims and the witnesses; which ensured that no FIR was filed. So the cops treated the hoodlums with new found respect. That gave the lumpen elements the upper hand. Their bail plea was supported by the public prosecutor too, who is appointed by the state. And so the rowdies are free and the whole nation is divided in its opinion. And pink has become the flavour of the season.

The issue of stifling a constitutional right, nay trampling it, was swept under the carpet and the issue of pub culture took centre stage. Fork tongued politicians harped on the alarming rise of pub culture; but did nothing to revoke the licences of the pubs. We needn’t scratch our heads to see why; around 5000 people, out of a population of 6 lakhs, frequent clubs, pubs and restaurants in Mangalore and it is the concern of the party in power to play to the galleries which can ill afford to visit a pub, while at the same time ensure the liquor revenues keep spilling in. Incidentally it has been reported that the liquor department has been the only revenue department which has not fallen short of its target collections this fiscal year.
A certain Union Minister was vociferous in her opinions and said that Mangalore was being ‘talibanised’. This raised the hackles of the Mayor of Mangalore (and only 14 others) and he filed a case on the Minister. That he has more pressing matters to attend to, including the flawed Self Assessment Property Tax which has been incubating under his incumbency, did not deter him. (Shows how one can be swayed by politics rather than governance.) This prompted her to say that she is ‘amazed and amused’! And so am I together with being disgusted by the likes of him.
Meanwhile, the victims are scarred & scared. Witnesses are stifled. The hooligans with their saffron headbands, scarves and lungis go around intimidating people; now that they enjoy the patronage of a fascist government. A minor girl, victim of of a thrashing by these moral police for being in the company of a boy of another community, committed suicide a few days ago unable to bear the humiliation. Once again her tormentors are roaming free.

I have been sceptical about these elements from 2006. I had, in fact in one of my blogs, clearly stated that ‘the city don’t know what the city is getting’. Uneducated and unemployed youth searching for an identity are always dangerous. And if they are handled by fascist forces, then even God wouldn’t be able to help Mangalore.

I am amazed at the reactions of some of my friends. They seem to have temporarily taken leave of their senses. The girls are now being blamed for being at the pub. The victim is further victimised. Mind you if such of my friends were parents of the victims they would have been singing a different tune.

I am sorely disappointed in the state government and more so in the Chief Minister and the Home Minister. The old adage ‘People who stay in glasshouses should undress in the dark’ is lost on them. The Chief Minister is accused of murdering his wife because she did not approve of his amorous adventures. He had a live-in relationship with a woman then, which he has carried a step further now by making her a minister in his cabinet, and in many public appearances she does give the impression that she is his spouse. The Home Minister, famous for his ‘half-kidnap’ remark when the local MLAs wife left him, has aided and abetted a suspicious death (that of the aforesaid lady, the wife of the MLA).

I shudder to think: What if our youth stop going to pubs; but have live-in relationships instead and knock of protesting wives and then go on to govern us?
As stated earlier, this is election year and also a crucial year for the Indian economy as we are plunging into a crisis of epic proportions.
When I stand in the queue to vote I will ponder:
• I want unifiers, and not those who divide.
• People want offices to work in; there are enough temples where one can pray.
• I want a government that is proactive
• And more importantly a govt that is tough on extremism of all kinds.

If I think that the candidates cannot deliver the above, I will invoke section 49-O of the 'conduct of election rules 1961'which states that If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark.

Not that it matters to the political class........ but perhaps it will matter to you my friend?