We fear for lives of women in this state… is the Government listening? Is there a Government in this State at all? Or is it only a political party whose highest priority is its own regressive right wing agenda, which violates the responsibility of governance?
In one of its latest acts of bigotry and intolerance, members of the Sri Rama Sene and the Bajrang Dal barged into a lounge bar on Balmatta road in Mangalore and viciously attacked the girls who were present there. Their crime: Firstly they were indecently dressed and second, despite being Hindu, they were daring to socialise with Muslim boys. Prasad Attavar, State Deputy Convener of the Sri Ram Sene said that it was “a spontaneous reaction against women, who flouted traditional Indian norms of decency.”
And what was the spontaneous response from the government to this absolutely uncultured act of violence against young girls in the name of culture? Not surprisingly a studied silence from the powers that be and total inaction and apathy from the subservient police force in South Canara.
It took two days of repeated broadcast by national and local channels and some public noise from the opposition to provoke a damage control exercise by some of the representatives of the government including the Chief Minister and Home Minister that was not only ineffectual and weak but also callous and careless.
Stop politicising the issue, you predictably said. Is this kind of deliberate intimidation and oppression in the name of religion and culture that has become the norm in Mangalore and South Canara not an outright political act to consolidate your power and authority in the state, we wonder!
The attackers have been picked up for questioning, to examine their motives, you said. Can any motive justify this act of brutality against innocent youngsters, we ask.
It was a spontaneous reaction to the deterioration in our values that is offending our sensibilities you concluded. If this was a spontaneous reaction, God save us and our sensibilities from such planned and premeditated attacks!
Seventeen of the assaulters have been arrested we hear from TV news. But the legal advisor to the Sri Rama Sene, Dinakar Shetty whom the TV news channels had no difficulty at all in finding for interviews, is still absconding the police say… Do you expect us to believe this? Especially when the police, particularly in this part of the state which is the stronghold of the saffron lobby, has been repeatedly turning a blind eye to all acts of violence that are being committed against Christians and Muslims in the name of tradition and culture by these very groups since 2007.
What is the culture that these goon organisations are claiming to protect? Is beating and molesting women in public places in order to control and make them conform to their own perverted notion of decency a traditional Indian value? How is this any different from the moral policing that the Taliban does in Pakistan and Afghanistan and what right wing Islamic groups do in Kashmir?
Is it a traditional Indian value to burn women at the rate of almost 3 – 4 women a day in the city of Bangalore in cases of “unnatural” deaths of women in marriage? Or preventing them from even being born in the increasing incidence of sex selective abortions, such that the sex ratios are becoming seriously imbalanced in regions like Mandya. Or selling women into the trafficking industry or marriage market from poverty struck regions in North Karnataka to states like Haryana where the female population is on the decline. Perhaps the moral police think that practices like dowry, female foeticide and trafficking of women are part of the same glorious tradition like Sati, the burning of widows on the husband’s pyre, which we remember, a former BJP Chief Minister upheld as part of Hindu culture.
Speaking at the session named Inclusive Growth in Karnataka – Challenges and Strategies of the 24th India Economic Summit, jointly organised by the World Economic Forum and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in New Delhi, the Chief Minister B.S.Yeddyurappa had stated that his government would focus on improving safety and security of women, and improve their political environment towards this objective. Is letting goons take law in to their own hands to “correct” women who dare come out into the public arena and intimidate them into staying within the confines of their homes your idea of improving the political environment and making it more inclusive Mr.Yeddyurappa?
Mr Advani, one of the leaders projected by his party as a chief contender for Prime Ministership of India should BJP come in to power, has very rightly said in his portal www.lkadvani.in about women …“They must be treated with respect and dignity both at home and in the public sphere. Few things outrage me more than reports of atrocities on women. Hence, my understanding of security envisages a situation in which our sisters and daughters feel safe to travel anywhere and at anytime without any fear or apprehension.” Does Mr. Advani know that 30 students of the St Marthas education institute were attacked when they were on an excursion to Mysore only because the girls happened to be Hindu and some of the boys Muslim. Does he endorse the tacit support that State Government is giving to the goon culture of Shri Ramsena and Bajrang Dal, in anticipation that it will bring the party electoral gains in the upcoming general elections? Just like what Mr. Modi did in Gujarat.
If women are visible and active in so many fields of public arena including political spaces, it is not due to concern or action by the self-serving political parties that are ruling either at the center or in states, but due to hard struggles waged at every front including home, work, community, religion and politics by countless women over the past many decades. We have had to fight every inch of the way and will not be cowed down by cheap goonda tactics. We will begin to teach all those misled mindsets with perverted ideas of good women and bad women what women are and what they can do to transform the world – starting from our own families once again, if need be!
As women who have always borne the brunt of fundamentalist cultures within the home and the community, we refuse to silently witness the brutal assaults on our pluralistic and open cultures in the name of language, tradition, religion and region that are spreading through our land. We refuse to endorse this deeply divisive political culture that is going to leave behind a legacy of hatred ad intolerance for the coming generations.
We, organisations working to protect the human rights of women, do not just condemn the activities of the groups that are now proudly and shamelessly claiming the responsibility for the attacks on the women in Mangalore. We demand that you, the government takes responsibility for these repeated violations against the life and dignity of women in this State. If there is any vestige of concern and shame is left in the ruling circles in this State, you would take immediate steps to prevent further such attacks by goons in the name of religion or traditional values.
If this is not possible and the matter is out of your hands, then have the decency to publicly declare that protecting women from the Saffron versions of Taliban squads is not within your capacity and let the public honestly decide the nature of governance they require.
26th January 2009
Signatories: Vimochana, Hengasara Hakkina Sangha, Namma Manasa, Alternative Law Forum, SICHREM, Mahila Karmikara Munnade, GAATWU, Dalit Bahujan Chaluvali, Visthar, Samanatha Mahila Vedike, Navajagruthi Mahila, Samanatha Sainika Dala, Openspace, Sadhana Mahila Gumpu, Karnataka Sex Workers Union, Sangama, LESBIT, SAMARA, Karnataka Sexuality Minorities Forum, Global Concerns-India, National Youth Foundation, CIEDS, Human Rights Law Network-Karnataka, Pedestrian Pictures, PUCL-K