September 2006 
Year 12    No.118

Cover Story

Endorsing hate crimes

Rewards for public humiliation and assault of Muslims – Karnataka’s
BJP-JD(S) government stands exposed

September 13, 2006

Bangalore: This is not news. Charge-sheeted persons occupying positions of power in the government is unfortunately neither new nor significant any more. And yet the Karnataka BJP-JD (S) coalition government’s decision to nominate Hindu Yuva Sena leader Yashpal Suvarna to the Udupi Town Council deserves all the attention it gets and more.

In normal practice, people are nominated as councillors in recognition of their contribution to the city. Suvarna’s claim to fame however rests on a charge sheet naming him as the primary accused in a shocking incident of communal violence that took place in Udupi in March 2005. His nomination despite this signals the increasing process of communalisation currently underway in the state and the blatant government endorsement and support accorded to this process.

Punished for ‘offending the Hindu way of life’

On March 13, 2005 two residents of Mooluru village near Kapu, Udupi were stripped, paraded naked and brutally assaulted in front of an audience of more than 100 people by fascist Hindu right wing forces. The public humiliation continued with the publication of a photograph, for which they were forced to pose, on the front pages of leading Kannada newspapers.

Hajabba (60) and his son, Hasanabba (29), were being ‘punished’ by Hindu Yuva Sena (HYS) members for offending ‘the Hindu way of life’. In what appears to be a pre-planned attack, HYS activists accosted Hajabba as he arrived to transport a calf, dragged him to the Adi Udupi helipad near Udupi town and continued their assault even as a crowd gathered. Hasanabba, who went in search of his father, was also waylaid and publicly humiliated. Both Hajabba and Hasanabba suffered serious injuries – Hasanabba’s leg was fractured while Hajabba’s spine was damaged – and remained in hospital for several weeks. There is no accounting for the mental trauma that they underwent at the time. A press photographer summoned at the end of this barbaric display of strength was asked to ‘show all the Muslims what would happen if they didn’t listen to Hindus’.

"We were horrified that such an incident took place in the first place. What made it worse was that there was a silent crowd watching the spectacle as it unfolded," said KL Ashok, convenor, Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike. "This silent support, the fear immobilising people is what sustains communal forces."

Police: clothed in saffron

It can come as no surprise that police action at the time of the incident was hugely inadequate and delayed. The location where the incident took place falls under the Adi Udupi police station limits. Local police officers failed to take cognisance of the crime despite wide coverage of the incident in the press. It was only when the issue was raised in the Legislative Assembly by MLAs Shriram Reddy (CPI-M) and Jayaprakash Reddy (Independent), and the Congress government demanded answers from the police, that they sprung into action. The Udupi superintendent of police at the time, S. Murugan, was intimated of the incident through a telephone call from the then chief minister, Dharam Singh, enquiring about the progress made in arresting the accused. Several senior police officers, including Murugan, were criticised severally for their lapses as well as for their alleged pro-Hindutva leanings.

One of the reasons cited by the police for investigational delays and police lapses was jurisdictional dispute. The sub-inspector of Malpe police station at the time, CD Nagaraj, did not follow up the stripping incident because it started at Moodabettu, an area under the Udupi town police station.

"Jurisdictional dispute is unacceptable as an excuse. The CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code) clearly stipulates that although the place where an offence is initially committed is important, no officer can shrug his responsibility on the plea that it falls beyond his jurisdiction limits. In any case, both Malpe and Udupi town police stations fall under the responsibility of the Udupi circle inspector of police. What was his excuse?" asked Sheela Ramanathan, advocate, Human Rights Law Network.

Subsequently, both the Udupi circle inspector, Praveen Naik, and Malpe sub-inspector, Nagaraj, were placed under suspension.

‘Communal violence will be countered on the streets’

Within a week of the incident, the Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike, an aggressive secularist force bringing together all progressive movements in the state in a broad alliance, organised a massive rally and dharna in front of the then Udupi deputy commissioner’s office. With the perspective that communalism was not merely an onslaught on religion but rather an attack on democratic processes (defining aggressive secularism thus), the Vedike sought to strongly condemn communal forces and to demand stringent actions against the culprits involved. Over 15,000 people marched on the streets to demand that the deputy commissioner ban "reactionary organisations" indulging in violence and that action should be taken against the police personnel who support "reactionary forces".

Protestors included the seer of Murugarajendra Math (Chitradurga), the Sri Revannasiddeshwara Math (Dharwad) seer Basavaraja Devaru, Sanath Kumar Belagali, KL Ashok, Kalkuli Vittal Hegde, KM Sharief and Annar Sadath.

"The protest was important to show sangh parivar forces that the communal violence being inflicted by them will be countered on the streets," observed Gauri Lankesh, editor, Lankesh, and state committee member, Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike. "We wanted to tell society and the state that there are people who will gather to question and condemn the hatred being infused by Hindu right-wingers. We stand for communal harmony and we will defend it in this state."

Shamed into action by the number of people who had gathered on the streets and the growing anger over police inaction on the issue, the state handed over investigations into the incident to the Corps of Detectives (CoD) in May 2005. In the preliminary report filed by the CoD, key Hindu Yuva Sena leaders, including Yashpal Suvarna, have been held responsible for the stripping and assault case. A charge sheet was filed against Suvarna in the Udupi town police station.

Riding the cow: communal agendas gain foothold

Although cow slaughter is banned in Karnataka only in particular instances under the Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act, there is no law regulating or banning the transportation of cows. Sangh parivar forces constantly use this law to implement their communal agendas and forcibly block transportation of all cattle. The fact that a significant number of livestock traders are Muslim provides sufficient grounds for Hindu communal forces to persecute Muslims and further their communal agenda.

It is pertinent to note that stringent official and unofficial actions against the transportation of cattle gained ground after the NDA assumed power at the Centre in 1999. For the record, police officials say that incidents where Hindu organisations confront people transporting cattle and assault them "are viewed seriously" and cases were booked against people indulging in such acts. Similarly, "a serious view is taken of people transporting cattle, especially cows, in violation of laws".

At an all party peace committee meeting held at the Udupi deputy commissioner’s office on March 22, 2005 following the Adi Udupi incident, the then deputy commissioner, T. Sham Bhatt announced: "The district administration will provide information about Cow Slaughter Prohibition Act to the public. If there is any violation of law, information should be given to the departments concerned. No one should take law into his hands. If the officials did not respond, then superior officials should be approached."

These are statements that have remained on paper. More than a year after the Adi Udupi incident, the state has chosen to recognise Suvarna’s contribution in this specific case by awarding him a nomination to the town council even as it continues to turn a blind eye to the increasing number of attacks by sangh parivar forces on Muslim livestock traders across the Dakshina Kannada district.

"It is crucial to not only condemn police inaction when attacks on livestock traders take place but more importantly, we need to protest against the Brahminical values being forced down on us through official and unofficial legislations," observed Vasu HV, convenor, Bangalore unit, Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike. "After all, beef has been the traditional diet of not only Muslims but entire sections of the Dalit population as well. We don’t consider Dalits to be Hindus but according to the sangh parivar’s own definitions, Dalits are Hindus too. So by their own logic, where is the question of beef-eating offending the Hindu way of life?"

The Adi Udupi incident has exposed not only the anti-human face of the sangh parivar but the communal nature of the current BJP-JD (S) coalition government. There can be no doubt that the government’s decision to nominate Yashpal Suvarna for the post of councillor on the basis of a recommendation by medical education minister, Dr VS Acharya, and Udupi BJP MLA, K. Raghupathy Bhatta, is but a direct endorsement of Suvarna’s crimes. 

Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike


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