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JOINT STATEMENT ON THE BARBARIC ASSAULT IN MANGALORE
Bangalore: 9 p.m., 29 January 2009
We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the horrific and unprovoked assault by a group of 40 hooligans, reportedly members of the Sri Rama Sene, on young women in a pub in the coastal city of Mangalore, Karnataka, during the afternoon of Saturday, 24 January 2009. We are saddened by the inaction of the public who looked on as the brutal attack unfolded. But we appreciate the attitude and actions of the staff of the pub, who tried to intervene, and the young man who stood up to the attackers.
We are shocked by the tardy action of the State administration, police, and political leadership, some of whom have dismissed this is as a “minor incident”. We believe that violent threats to the democratic freedoms and human rights of citizens, whether women or religious minorities, cannot be trivialised as “unfortunate”.
We are deeply disturbed by the sharply escalating trend of political and social violence against women in public and private spaces as a means to enforce a particularly regressive interpretation of culture in the name of “religion and country” that has been seen in several parts of India. We condemn all such forms of gender-based violence against women and children and the attitudes that make such violence acceptable, whether in the family or in the social and public spheres.
We believe that the Mangalore assault was not an isolated episode by self-appointed “moral police” and their sympathisers who criminally took the law into their own hands, but that it is part of a pattern in the profoundly contested political struggle over what constitutes Indian traditions, religions and cultures. It is evident that in this instance the attackers were emboldened to carry out the unprovoked assault in a political environment that supports a particularly narrow and fanatical view of Indian culture as also a repressive attitude towards women.
We recognise the role of the media in bringing the assault to public notice and their unrelenting efforts to get the State to act against those immediately responsible for it. However, we are gravely concerned that those members of the media who had prior notice of the planned assault did not deem it their responsibility as citizens to inform the police.
We strongly believe that the State and democratically minded citizens must stand up to the violent targeting of women and re-affirm our commitment to the human rights and civil liberties of all people. There can and should be dialogues on what constitutes “Indian-ness”, but regardless of the interpretations of Indian culture and traditions, beating and molesting women cannot be condoned.
All Signatories — updated on 9 Feb 2009.