Mangalore has seen 139 incidents of communal violence since January, data compiled by a rights group show, underlining the big divide in the Karnataka city with a history of Hindu-Muslim face-offs.
The city’s polarisation was revealed once again on Monday when a group of Hindu vigilantes tied a Muslim man to a pole and flogged him in public for an hour for allegedly interacting with a Hindu woman.
The latest data was compiled from police records and media reports by Suresh Bhat Bakrabail of the People’s Union for Civil Liberty (PUCL), one of the country’s oldest human rights organisations.
Hindu right-wing groups, accused of frequently targeting the minority community, defended Monday’s attack .
“For the last 20 years, Hindus and Muslims have been clashing in Mangalore over just two issues: women and cattle,” said Sharan Pumpwell, Bajrang Dal’s Karnataka convenor.
“Every time a Hindu woman is harassed by a Muslim man, the Bajrang (Dal) will be at the forefront of the agitation. Such attacks will continue as long as cow slaughter and love jihad is not stopped,” he told HT.
‘Love jihad’, a term which has gained currency in recent times, is used by the Hindu outfits to describe an alleged ploy by Muslim men to lure and marry Hindu women and then convert them to Islam.
Rights activists and groups say that ever since the BJP-led government swept to power at the Centre last year, Hindu outfits have been systematically targeting minority communities and their institutions across the country.
The PUCL data of Mangalore showed that activists of Hindu organisations like the Bajrang Dal and the Hindu Jagarana Vedike were responsible for 132 of these vigilante attacks.
Sharan, however, blamed the Congress government for “failing to understand the feelings of Hindus.”
“Such attacks were rare when the BJP was in power. Back then the police used to cooperate with us when we reported cases of love jihad and cow slaughter. Now, they file cases against us,” he added.
The statistics, however, show that neither the BJP nor the Congress have managed to stop the vigilantes. There were 124 attacks in the last nine months of BJP’s rule and 100 attacks in the first nine months of the Congress’ rule. Seven of the eight MLAs in the district are from the ruling Congress.
“Fed up with incidents of moral policing during the BJP rule…the people of this district supported the Congress. But the Congress has failed miserably to deliver on the secular mandate,” said Muneer Katipalla of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
State home minister KJ George, however, insisted that the state government was doing all it can.
“I will instruct the Mangalore police to book these communal elements under the Goonda Act and the UAPA,” he said.
Although outnumbered by Hindu organisations, Muslim groups such as the Popular Front of India (PFI) also contributed to the communal violence, the data showed.
Since January this year, PFI activists have allegedly accounted for 6 of the 139 incidents of moral policing.
“It’s not that complicated. When Hindu woman is seen with a Muslim man, the Bajrang Dal and Hindu Jagarana Vedike launch an attack. When a Muslim girl is seen with a Hindu man, the PFI attacks. But both Hindu and Muslim groups rejoice when their men gain the affections of a woman from another community,” said Vidya Dinker of the Mangalore-based Coalition Against Immoral Policing (CAIP).
PFI spokesperson Shafi Bellare said that there was an “organized effort to destroy the honour” of Muslim women.
“We have no problem when our women go with Hindu men without any external pressure. But the PFI will always take a stand when our women are forced or cheated,” Bellare added.