Above the law
Police terror in Mangalore
H. PATTABHIRAMA SOMAYAJI
minister of Karnataka, HD Kumaraswamy was brazen in his defence of the
police’s style of violence management in Mangalore. "Were they to dream of
such violence?" he asked defiantly. The answer is unequivocal. In coastal
Karnataka the police could certainly have predicted the occurrence of
communal violence at any time without having to resort to dreams:
alertness on duty alone would have been enough to prevent the mayhem. Lack
of alertness was not however the sole problem. In fact, during the
Mangalore violence of October 2006 the police were either lost in
daydreams in the face of daylight looting and atrocity or were themselves
inflicting nightmares on sleeping Muslims in the dead of night.
During the Sharada tableau procession in Bajpe on October
3, Muslim shops were looted in the presence of hundreds of police
personnel, including the superintendent of police (SP) and the district
commissioner (DC). On BC Road in Bantwal taluk, five shops in
Vasudeva Plaza and six other nearby shops on the highway, less than 100
metres from the police station – all Muslim owned – were systematically
looted for a full hour in broad daylight in the presence of the police.
And in Bunder, Mangalore city, Goodina Bali in Bantwal and Ullal on the
outskirts of Mangalore, the police themselves broke down the back doors of
hundreds of Muslim houses, looted what they could, destroyed what they
could not carry, mouthed vile invectives against Muslims and arrested the
men who were then framed on criminal charges and shifted to far-off
Bellary jail (a well-known criminal confinement centre). Family members do
not know why, like wild beasts, the police broke into their houses, nor do
they know why their men were arrested.
Until we visited these areas and ourselves witnessed the
destruction and looting, we were completely unaware about what had
occurred. The press and the media have always suppressed news of violence
against Muslims in the coastal belt but this time around they completely
suppressed reports of police atrocities as well. Even non-BJP parties
maintained a studied silence about it. This is a new development in the
bloody history of coastal Karnataka’s communal violence. The
administration, the police and the media have never worked so unanimously
in such perfect tandem.
Conversely, from what we saw in the violence affected
areas, in most cases where the Muslims had also taken to destruction – as
they have, this time – this was done in response to the violence inflicted
on them and was sporadic and non-systematic.
In Bajpe: "Communal Amity", Hindutva style
The violence in Mangalore during the first week of October
2006 in fact erupted in Bajpe, on the outskirts of Mangalore city.
Mangalore airport, now international, lies in Bajpe. On October 3, a
Sharada procession was scheduled to traverse Bajpe’s main road where the
Bajpe masjid also stands. Some Muslims spoke to the police about their
objection to one of the tableaux in the procession. They submitted a
written complaint to that effect and the police then requested procession
organisers to remove the concerned tableau. Krishna Palemar, the Bharatiya
Janata Party MLA (BJP member of the legislative assembly) who was present
at the spot, also requested the organisers to oblige. Nevertheless, the
requests went unheeded. The procession organisers did not even comply with
a modified request – that at the very least the concerned tableau need not
pass directly in front of the masjid. The police then stopped the
procession whereupon the organisers, in defiance, chose to place the
Sharada idol in the middle of the road.
What was the controversial tableau all about? Organisers
and others claimed the tableau depicted Bappa Beary of Bappanadu in
devotional posture before the goddess, Sharada Mata (Durga), insisting
that it contained nothing that could be construed as an insult to Muslims.
According to the popular legend that the tableau invokes, long ago, a rich
Muslim merchant, Bappa Beary’s boat stopped while on a river voyage, in
waters that had turned to blood. The goddess, Durga Parameshwari, then
revealed herself to the merchant in a dream. Bappa Beary became a devotee
of the goddess and built a temple for her worship. The area where the
temple was situated came to be called Bappanadu. (Today Bappanadu village
is located near Mulki on national highway 17, equidistant from both
Mangalore and Udupi.) There is also a popular Yakshagana Prasanga (folk
narrative) called Bappanadu Kshetra Mahatme based on this legend.
In modern day Yakshagana Prasanga performances Bappa Beary
is often depicted as a clown even as Muslims around us are heartily abused
and insulted. The Bajpe tableau was a visual of similar ridicule. The
Muslim contention was that in the tableau the pitiable man with cap, beard
and hands raised in appeal seemed to portray a miserable maulvi rather
than the rich merchant, Bappa Beary. In any event, in this instance the
Muslims did not pick a fight – they had merely, and in writing, registered
their displeasure with the police.
That very night i.e. October 3, the authorities decided to
allow the Sharada procession with no changes being made either in the
concerned tableau or the procession route. Seven Muslim and two Hindu
shops near the masjid were looted by a mob of nearly 1,000 people.
Mohammed Hanif of "Top Collections" incurred the highest losses. Hanif had
opened his shop with the help of a bank loan a mere two months earlier and
his Ramzan collections worth Rs 15 lakh were all stolen. Ismail’s fruit
stall was burnt down. Anwar’s watch shop and Siddiq’s cellphone shop were
looted. Even as the looting was in progress, carried out by "promoters of
communal amity", there were present, in fact, at least 200 police
personnel, six sub-inspectors, the superintendent of police and the
district commissioner himself overseeing the procession as silent
witnesses. We saw video footage of nearly 1,000 men armed with talwars
(swords), iron rods and soda bottles, together with the police, SP &
DC in the procession. The next morning, all the newspapers on the coast
reported that Muslims had objected to a symbol of communal amity and had
stalled the procession!
In Ullal: Beasts in uniform
In Bajpe the police were silent witnesses to bestiality.
In Ullal, on the outskirts of Mangalore, they were themselves the beasts.
On the afternoon of the bandh called by the Sri Rama Sene (a sangh parivar
outfit) on Friday, October 6, three Hindu shops on the Ullal approach road
were set on fire. There was also stoning and rioting in nearby Masthikatte
and Subhash Nagara. The police concluded that perhaps Muslims in Ullal
were the culprits. Perhaps. Nevertheless, police personnel on duty veiled
their faces like terrorists and gatecrashed Muslim houses in Ullal.
The Ullal police have not informed anyone in Ullal why
their houses were attacked and looted, and why Muslims alone were
arrested. Instead, those who sought information were rashly beaten up. The
police attack in Ullal took place at around 6.15 p.m. on Friday, October
6, just as Muslims were scheduled to end their Ramzan fast and when most
Muslim men were away at the masjid. The police chose to attack Muslim
homes at precisely that time. They surrounded the houses, broke down back
doors to force entry and robbed cellphones, gold and cash – TVs, DVD
players, computers, showcases, cupboards, wall clocks, doors, windows and
cooking stoves, which they could not carry, were smashed. All the young
boys and men at home were arrested. Women, children, the aged, the
physically challenged, were all beaten up. Nearly 70 Muslims in Ullal –
most of them boys – were arrested and taken to Mangalore. On October 8
they were falsely charged in criminal cases and moved to Bellary jail,
over 400 kilometres from Mangalore. Muslims in Ullal still do not know
what crimes they are accused of. The police did not even bother to find
out the names of the persons they were arresting so those arrested include
people visiting these houses, their iftaar guests, too. The police
had arranged for those arrested to be transported to Mangalore in two
buses and since six seats were still vacant after the initial round-up,
they picked up another six people, bystanders, at random. Senior police
officers in Mangalore are yet to explain why these arrests were made and
name the specific provision of the exact criminal law that was applied.
In Bunder: Midnight incursion
Bunder, in popular parlance, is a "Muslim area". But
Hindus live here too, in substantial numbers – Many wholesale shops in
this commercial centre of old Mangalore are owned by Hindus. However,
thanks to persistent and pernicious propaganda, it is now considered a
communally sensitive area.
At midnight on Sunday, October 8, the police broke into
Muslim houses in Bunder, threatened residents, mouthed obscenities against
Bearys (a vibrant Muslim community which speaks the Beary language and is
concentrated mainly in coastal Karnataka) and arrested the males. There
have been communal disturbances in Bunder before but the police had never
broken into Muslim houses, less so at midnight. More importantly, this
time around, Bunder had not witnessed any incidents of communal violence;
it remained completely peaceful. As in Ullal, Bunder’s Muslims also do not
know why the police stormed their houses at midnight and arrested their
men. Although the police certainly have the authority to suspect, detain
and enquire, surely this must be done in accordance with legal procedure?
Yet, when it comes to Muslims no procedures are ever observed. For a
number of years now, when the Hindutva brigade has repeatedly encroached
upon the civil rights of Muslims the police have not intervened. This
time, however, the two worked together in tandem against the Muslims.
The following instances provide some measure of the
aberrant, unilateral police offensive in Bunder. Tauseeman, in Bunder, is
a very old household. Six Muslim joint families, about 40 family members,
live in Tauseeman. Most of the men are hut-shop owners, street vendors or
drivers. One or two work overseas in the Gulf countries. At midnight on
October 8, as Tauseeman’s residents slept, there were knocks on the door.
Since a curfew had been in operation for two days, the occupants were too
afraid to respond. The police then broke down the doors to barge into the
house, manhandled and beat up women and arrested Mohammed Imran (18), a
jeep driver, and Abdul Rasheed (20), a tempo driver. When their mother,
Zohra, asked why the youth were being arrested, she was informed that they
were only being taken in for routine enquiries and would then be released.
However, the young men were not taken to Bunder police station but to
distant Barke police station where they were beaten up in custody. Two
days later they were shifted to far-off Hassan jail; they have been
falsely accused in cases of temple stoning and rioting. The youth were,
however, offered a chance to go. They were asked to sign a statement –
incriminating the Mangalore mayor, K. Ashraf, in instances of rioting at
various locations in Mangalore – in exchange for their freedom!
Far more absurd is the arrest of Mohammed Riyaz (40).
Riyaz has been running a business of his own in Saudi Arabia for the past
10 years. His wife and young child live in a rented house in Bunder. Riyaz
has an intestinal ulcer; he had come home to Bunder for treatment a few
days earlier and was to be operated on after the month of Ramzan was over.
At midnight on Sunday, October 8, the police broke into his first floor
house, arrested him and took him to Barke, not Bunder, police station.
Riyaz was later shifted to Hassan jail. A week later, Riyaz was released
on bail but now faced charges in a temple stoning and rioting case. When
his wife went to the Bunder police station and the SP’s office on October
9 to find out why her husband had been arrested, she was abused and turned
away – unable to even find out where her husband was.
Faizal’s arrest was equally preposterous. In Bunder on a
personal errand, he couldn’t get home because of the curfew and had to
spend the night in town. He was asleep at an acquaintance, Ibrahim’s house
and when the police arrested Ibrahim’s son, Farook, they took Faizal along
The Muslims we met in Bunder all asked: "Couldn’t the
police conduct their enquiries during the day? With three continuous days
of curfew, where would our children abscond to? Would they be asleep at
home if they were involved in rioting elsewhere?"
The only consolation, if one can call it that, was that
the police in Bunder didn’t loot and destroy Muslim houses as they did in
In Goodina Bali: More of the same
Goodina Bali, near BC Road in Bantwal, also witnessed
police atrocities. This however had a certain background. At around 7 p.m.
on October 13, four mild explosions took place near BC Road bus stand,
slightly damaging four nearby shop windows. Two people had been stabbed.
To make matters worse, electricity in the area had failed at the time. The
next morning, the press reported this under bold headlines as if it were
part of a terrorist plot where it is tacitly understood that terrorism is
the sole monopoly of Muslims, in the past and forever in the future.
"Soon" after this, at around 11.30 p.m., the police swung
into sudden action. They broke into Muslim houses in nearby Goodina Bali
and arrested all the men they could find – 20 in all. Women and children
were beaten up. Goodina Bali has nearly 200 Muslim houses. Most of the
people here work as beedi rollers. Some are coolies. All of them are
The same police had slept through the day on October 5,
when the Bajrang Dal had forced a bandh on the district. From 11 a.m.
onwards on October 5, right on the main road and less than 100 metres from
the police station, 11 Muslim shops were systematically and
uninterruptedly looted for about an hour in broad daylight. Muslim shops
in the huge commercial complex, Vasudeva Plaza, and elsewhere –
Sirajuddin’s "Mobile Care", Athiq-ur-Rehman’s "New Zenith Times", Ahmed
Sherriff’s "New Dulhan Readymades", Mohammed Sherriff’s "Fashion Palace",
Suleiman Saab’s "Mark Communications", Abdul Kareem’s "Action Footwear",
Abdul Razak’s "Garment Shop", Haroon Rashid’s "Cell Times", Ahmed
Sherriff’s "Shoe Shop" and Abdul Majid’s fruit stall were ransacked,
looted thoroughly. A mob of 60-70 people had broken open the rolling
shutters and looted not only watches, cellphones, electronic goods,
ready-made clothes, gift items, shoes, etc, but also bulbs, tube lights
and ceiling fan fittings, destroying the showcases, tables, chairs and
other items it could not carry off. However, in the media this systematic
and targeted looting and destruction was labelled a "communal riot".
Soon after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992,
Muslim houses and shops in several parts of coastal Karnataka were looted
and in many places Muslim women were waylaid, harassed and insulted. Since
then, in the various attacks on Muslims, specifically in Puttur (1997),
Surathkal (1998-99), Kundapur (2002) and Adi Udupi (2005), and in many
other assaults on Muslims and Protestant Christians, there was no communal
tension, nor were two opposing groups engaged in rioting. The attacks
were, in fact, systematic atrocities carried out on the minorities by the
Hindutva brigade. It is now routine for the Hindutva brigade in coastal
Karnataka to co-opt the media, level false and absurd charges against
Muslims, raise an alarm that Hinduism is in danger and then attack Muslims
with redoubled bestiality. In coastal Karnataka this is what a "communal
riot" has come to mean.
At Bejai masjid: Murder of an imam
Close to the Mangalore KSRTC bus stand but in a little
known corner of Bejai stands a masjid surrounded by Christian houses. On
Friday, October 6, (during the district bandh forced by the Sri Rama Sene)
the young imam, Abdul Gafoor Madani, was alone at the masjid after evening
prayers. During the month of Ramzan the masjid is normally full of people
but that evening they were all away at an iftaar gathering. A mob
of about 15 persons jumped into the deserted masjid premises from the
adjacent compound and stabbed Gafoor. The knife used was a special one,
said to be available only in Gujarat: it opens up like a three-petalled
blossom after penetration. Gafoor was murdered with one thrust to the
Abdul Gafoor Madani (23) was appointed imam at Bejai only
a year ago. He belongs to Goonadka, in Sullia taluk, on the
district border. A few minutes before he was killed, Gafoor had telephoned
his mother in Goonadka to tell her that though there was rioting in
Mangalore there were no disturbances around Bejai. Gafoor is well known
and liked in his hometown, Sullia. Friends from Sullia told us that people
of all castes and faiths were saddened by the young imam’s murder. And
this is why there was no communal violence in Sullia this time even though
it is a Hindutva stronghold.
One for the road: The murder of B. Ibrahim
B. Ibrahim of Boliyaru, near Bantwal, a thirty-year-old
father of one, was a clothes merchant in Goa. His family, his father,
mother, younger sister and brother, live in Boliyaru. Ibrahim’s murder
during the recent violence in Mangalore is eerily reminiscent of the many
absurd tragedies that dot the stories of Saadat Hasan Manto.
Ashraf, a close relative of B. Ibrahim, was to leave for
Dubai on Saturday, October 7, 2006. A mill coolie in Mangalore, Ashraf was
leaving to take up a similar position in Dubai. He had a ticket booked for
9 o’clock that night. Since curfew had been imposed and no vehicles were
plying, Ashraf rented an ambulance from Somayaji Clinic on BC Road,
Bantwal, and left for Mangalore airport. There were seven people in the
ambulance, including Ibrahim. At Punchame, outside Mangalore, their
vehicle was stopped by a group of nine persons armed with talwars
and iron rods, who had followed the ambulance on three motorcycles. "Who
is the one leaving for Dubai?" the mob demanded, and set upon Ashraf and
the others with their weapons. They then poured petrol on and set fire to
the ambulance. The attackers fled when they saw a jeep approaching.
Although seriously injured, most of those in the ambulance somehow managed
to jump off and flee. But Ibrahim, who had been hit on the head, died on
The injured got themselves admitted to Unity hospital,
Mangalore, where we spoke to Ashraf about the incident. We also asked him
whether he was a member of any Muslim communal outfit, to which he
replied, "I am not even a member of the masjid jamaat. Being a
coolie, I cannot afford to pay the jamaat subscription."
Near the emergency ward
The brutal attack on 70-year-old Ahmed Masliyar also
recalls the sometimes bizarre anecdotes of Saadat Hasan Manto.
Masliyar is a native of Beluvayi in Moodabidri taluk.
For the past eight years he has been imam of the masjid in Mangalore’s
Yenepoya Medical College Hospital building. After evening prayers, at
around 7.10 p.m. on October 6, Masliyar was alone in the masjid at the
basement level when five or six talwar-wielding youth broke into
the mosque. Masliyar was hit on the head with talwars several
times. Just as the mob was about to ram a sword into his stomach, Masliyar
covered the area with his hands to block the thrust. This saved his life.
His right palm bears a deep gash from the blade; the wounds on his head
bear several stitches. After the attackers had left, a profusely bleeding
Masliyar struggled up the stairs to the emergency ward on the ground floor
on his own. That was the only saving grace – being stabbed so close to the
We met Ahmed Masliyar; we asked him whether he knew who
his attackers were and whether he had managed to see them clearly. He
seemed quite composed, "I don’t know who those boys are. I was sure that I
would die. Why should a dying man see who his killers are?"
Faisal Nagara, Veera Nagara:
Veera Nagara and Faisal Nagara are localities situated on
the outer edge of Mangalore city by the banks of the Nethravathi river, in
a contiguous area formerly called Kodange. While Muslims are a majority in
Faisal Nagara, a substantial number of Hindus live there too. In Veera
Nagara, Hindus are a majority but there are quite a few Christian
households. The two Nagaras are not distinguishable from one another in
any significant way. Yet, while reporting on the October violence, the
media in this coastal region presented the two Nagaras as if they were in
fact two separate countries.
On October 6, Friday evening, Muslim youth stoned some
houses belonging to Hindus in Faisal Nagara. The mob broke into four Hindu
houses and caused some damage there. In one place, a middle-aged man and
his son were beaten up. We visited the house but saw no signs of
systematic destruction. The same evening, the police forcibly shifted 30
Hindu families out of Faisal Nagara to a camp set up at a school in
adjacent Veera Nagara. While doing so the police warned residents that if
they stayed back in Faisal Nagara it would be at their own risk; the
police would not be responsible for any danger to their lives.
Nearly 150 people who were forcibly shifted out returned
to their homes after spending three days at the camp. (The ‘camp’ was a
high profile one, repeatedly broadcast and publicised by the media,
frequently visited by dignitaries thereby reassuring the ‘Hindus’
elsewhere that they would be kept safe.) We talked to many of those who
had been thus relocated. All of them categorically stated that they would
not have left but for police pressure and that they perceived no threat to
themselves either during the period of violence or thereafter. One woman
asserted vehemently, "We went because the police pushed us into the vans!"
We also met three families who had refused to leave Faisal
Nagara despite police pressure. Even after repeated queries, their answers
did not waver. "We were not afraid. We had no fears then. None now. We
have been living here for the past 40 years. Could we have survived this
long if we were so afraid?"
And though this relocation of Hindus from Faisal Nagara to
Veera Nagara only occurred because of police irresponsibility, it provided
the media with a golden opportunity to fan communal hatred and tension.
Ever hungry for such fodder, the media repeatedly showed images of
"terrified Hindus" at the Veera Nagara camp.
A few other incidents that took place in Veera Nagara must
On October 6, "AK Stores", a shop in Veera Nagara
belonging to Abdul Khader (of Faisal Nagara), was attacked. A mob of
nearly 100 persons looted all the groceries in the shop and destroyed two
refrigerators. Abdul Khader lodged a police complaint naming some of the
looters but no one has been arrested. Instead, the same evening, an hour
after the attack, the police barged into Khader’s house, arrested his
second son, Pervez, and took him to Bellary jail. When Khader’s elder
daughter-in-law, Fathima questioned the police, they shouted, "Why do you
teach your children looting and destruction?" She countered, "It is our
shop that was looted and you are arresting our children!" One policeman
then tried to molest her but, fortunately, his colleagues stopped him. As
she described the incident to us Fathima also told us of the many Muslim
families who had left their homes for fear of the police. "Why is it that
no TV channel shows any of this?" she asked.
Forty-year-old Basheer, who makes a living doing tyre
resoling jobs, lives across the road from Khader’s house. Basheer’s wife
is a schoolteacher. Basheer was in bed with jaundice at the time when the
police broke down the door to his house and arrested him. When his
pregnant wife pleaded against the arrest, she was beaten up. Basheer was
taken to Kankanady police station. Fortunately for him, on the following
day the sub-inspector at the police station was somehow convinced that
Basheer was indeed suffering from jaundice and they let him go.
Of the many Hindus forcibly shifted to the Veera Nagara
camp, four families have still not returned to their houses in Faisal
Nagara. Two of these families now live in a rented house in Veera Nagara
while one family lives in Naguri. When we spoke to them, they told us
categorically, "We won’t return to Faisal Nagara. We are afraid of the
Bearys." As they went on to tell us the names of their sons, we understood
why they were so afraid. These were the names of people whom the Muslim
victims we met in hospital had identified as their attackers.
We also spoke to a middle-aged Hindu victim who had been
admitted to a reputed hospital in Mangalore. Both his legs were fractured
and doctors had carried out rod implants in his limbs. There were deep
gashes in his back and stomach. He is a poor man; formerly a tailor,
illness had rendered him incapable of work. Utterly miserable, he told us,
"I recently married off my daughter and incurred a huge debt because of
that. And now I am faced with this." His son, who was also wounded by the
Muslim mob when they attacked his house in Faisal Nagara, figures in the
list of those accused for attacks on Muslims.
Two incidents, two possibilities
Fifty-five-year-old Hasanabba belongs to Maanur village of
Bantwal taluk in Dakshina Kannada district. Maanur lies six
kilometres from the Mangalore-Bangalore highway. Of the nearly 20
households in the village, five belong to Muslims.
Hasanabba is a beedi contractor for many brands, including
the famous "Ganesh Beedi". A well-to-do man with business operations in
Mangalore and Davanagere, Hasanabba employs nearly 120 people from the
neighbourhood in his beedi factory, all of them non-Muslim women. Thanks
to his business contacts, Hasanabba has also provided employment to many
youth in Davanagere. Born and brought up in Maanur, Hasanabba’s ancestors
settled here over 100 years ago. Maanur has no proper public transport;
even private vehicles, auto rickshaws or taxis, do not ply there. When
needy villagers call in times of emergency, Hasanabba always takes them –
the aged, the sick, pregnant women – to distant hospitals in his vehicle,
free of charge. The people of Maanur held Hasanabba in high regard.
Behind Hasanabba’s house is a madrassa attended by about
20 children. To the left lives Hasanabba’s relative, Imtiyaz. On the night
of October 6, about 20 youth from Maanur disconnected the electricity
supply in the neighbourhood and first attacked the madrassa. Well armed
with petrol, kerosene, soda bottles, wooden sticks, iron rods and
talwars, they broke the madrassa windows and threw crude petrol and
kerosene bombs inside. The two teachers in the madrassa managed to save
themselves by escaping through the back door.
Next, the mob set upon Imtiyaz’s house. They broke the
doors and windows and then set fire to the brand new Indica car parked
outside. We saw the burnt remnants of his car still lying there. Then the
mob went to Hasanabba’s house where Hasanabba was fast asleep. They stood
in the courtyard and called out to Hasanabba, "The imams of the madrassa
are calling you. They want you to come." On hearing this, Hasanabba awoke.
As soon as he opened the door, a stone came flying in and hit him on the
head. Sensing danger, Hasanabba immediately shut the door. The mob then
tried to break down the door but to no avail. They did however manage to
break the windowpanes. A Maruti Omni car and a jeep parked in the
courtyard were turned to scrap.
Watching all this from inside the house, a frightened
Hasanabba telephoned his friend and lawyer, Ramesh Upadhya, and told him
what had happened. Ramesh Upadhya, a BJP man, arrived there shortly.
Shocked to see Upadhya there, the mob then fled the scene.
The next day the elders of the village all met Hasanabba
and expressed their sympathies. Hasanabba pleaded with them, "I know all
these boys. They are all from our village. They are your children. Please
take them to the village temple, let them swear to your god that they
won’t repeat this kind of thing in the future and let them pay a fine to
god. That is enough for me; if they do that I won’t lodge a complaint with
the police." None of the elders responded to his plea. So an unwilling
Hasanabba lodged a complaint with the police, naming the culprits. He
showed us a copy of the FIR (first information report) that was filed. But
the culprits still roam at large in the village. The elders who met
Hasanabba to express their sympathies seem to have no regrets about what
Hasanabba’s family is terrified. The women, in particular,
entreat him, "Let us leave this place. God will guide us elsewhere. Why
should we die here?" But despite all that had happened, when we spoke to
him Hasanabba still said, "I was born here. God willing, I shall die
The violence in Maanur is but a metaphor for the hatred
and violence taking root in coastal Karnataka. But we saw a ray of hope at
Perlagudde in Veera Nagara, Mangalore.
At the entrance to Veera Nagara and surrounded by Dalit
homes lies a lone Muslim household. Khalid (30), a bachelor and a mason by
profession, lives here with his two older sisters. His eldest sister was
abandoned by her husband long ago. The younger of his two sisters is
unwell; her husband, who lives with them, is also in poor health – in
hospital. At around 3 p.m. on Friday, October 6, when Khalid was returning
from the mosque after his noon prayers, three talwar-wielding men
waylaid him, stabbed him and beat him up. When we met Khalid in hospital,
he gave us the names of his attackers. He said that when he was bleeding
profusely after the lethal attack, the police were everywhere and he
begged them for help. But instead of helping Khalid, the police abused him
and turned him away.
The next day, a group of five or six people surrounded
Khalid’s house, stoned it and were about to set it on fire when Kalyani,
an elderly woman aged 70, and other neighbours, all of them Dalits, braved
the attacking group. Kalyani confronted them, "What has Khalid done to
you? He and his family have done no one any harm. If you wish to set fire
to his house, first set fire to our homes and then proceed further." The
attackers tried to argue, "Muslims have indulged in violence there and
elsewhere." Kalyani said, "Maybe. But nothing of the sort has happened
either here or around here." Unable to do anything in the face of her
resistance, the mob then left the neighbourhood.
Kalyani is extremely poor. She is not literate. As we were
about to leave, in the courtyard of Khalid’s house Kalyani told us, "We
have known Khalid and his family for so long. They have done no one any
harm. If someone says we’ll set fire to his house, how can we sit quiet?"
Will this good sense prevail and come to the rescue of the
many towns and villages in coastal Karnataka infected with communal
hatred? That is the real challenge.
(G. Rajashekhar is a writer and activist. H. Pattabhirama
Somayaji is a lecturer and activist. Both are active members of the
Karnataka Communal Harmony Forum. Harshad Vorkady is a Kannada poet and