“We’ll have to speak to his mother. I wonder how she raised him. We'll have to ask her where he gets this attitude.”
That was women and child development minister Renuka Chowdhury on Saturday to Hindustan Times, firing some of her own salvos at extreme-right, self-proclaimed Hindu leader Pramod Muthalik who has been declaring that good Hindu girls must avoid pubs, men of other religions and stay at home.
At a time when political noises are growing against what is being termed “pub culture” among women, Chowdhury is emerging as the sole voice from the Centre and the Congress party willing to speak up.
As she did that, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa made an early exit from the BJP conclave in Nagpur to return home after doing some explaining to senior BJP leaders who wanted to know why such incidents were happening in Mangalore.
“There shall be no more incidents from tomorrow,” he told Hindustan Times, as he left the conclave amid indications that he wanted the police to crack the whip on Mangalore’s moral police, who have brought disrepute to his government.
In Delhi, Chowdhury — after last week’s comments on “the Talibanisation of Karnataka” — called the Mangalore attacks “a national security issue and a deep-seated gender security issue”.
“Please don’t be diverted from the enormity of the problem and read it as a matter for state legislation only and that too only about pubs,” she told reporters in Delhi on Saturday.
“There is complete breakdown of law-and-order in Karnataka.”
She then said: “The Centre may have to intervene if the Karnataka government does not take control and take appropriate action.”
Chowdhury described the continuing incidents in Mangalore as “an outrage against Indian democracy”.
On Friday, the schoolgoing daughter of a Kerala MLA and a Muslim boy of her acquaintance on the bus they were traveling in, were both forcibly taken out by alleged Sri Rama Sene activists outside Mangalore and interrogated about their ‘relationship’.
The only other response from the Centre so far was on Friday from Minister of State for Home Affairs, Sriprakash Jaiswal, who said the Centre would “send out advisories” to the states following Ram Sene’s threat to disrupt Valentine’s Day celebrations in Karnataka.
“Such moral policing is illegal and against women’s freedom. Now they are giving it a communal twist. They want to destroy this country,” said Chowdhury.
Referring to Nirmala Venkatesh, member of the National Women’s Commission (NCW), whose report on the Mangalore pub incident has been rejected as “incomplete” by the NCW — Venkatesh did not meet the molestation victims, choosing instead to check the pub's liquor licence — Chowdhury said she “may have whatever reasons for not fulfilling her mandate.”