In December 2007, three Muslim boys and two Hindu girls entered Ideals, a popular ice-cream parlour in Mangalore, after a private tutorial session. They were having their scoops when 20 Sangh Parivar men barged into the parlour, pulled out the group, carted them to an abandoned building and beat all of them.
The attackers then lodged a complaint against the students for engaging in indecent behaviour in a public place. The police sent the girls home, but detained the three boys and continued beating them until a Congress leader intervened.
In December 2008 again in Mangalore, Sri Mata Education Trust hired a bus for an annual educational tour to Mysore. At the outskirts of the city, Sangh Parivar men stopped the bus, pelted stones at it and snatched purses, cell phones and other belongings of the students.
The teachers filed a complaint. But the police opined that the institute should not have encouraged overnight travels by boys and girls of different faiths.
Mangalore-based human rights activist and author H. Pattabhirama Somayaji has documented 20-25 such acts of violence that happened over the last 10 years. Of them, about seven or eight were on students in 2008 alone. In most of these cases, women were particularly targeted.
Young women in the city, which is an educational hub and have at least 40 per cent students in professional colleges from different parts of the country, have become targets of self-styled vigilante groups like the Sriram Sene.
But Yogesh Bhat, BJP spokesperson, said, “We were not the perpetrators of these attacks. We do not appreciate or approve of people taking law into their own hands. But how come these students were dancing in a bar at around 3.45 pm when the management had no permission for running a dance bar?”
Even senior leaders of the Parivar, while condemning violence, insisted that women should behave better. Kiran Maheshwari, president, BJP Mahila Morcha, said: “Women are seen as mothers in India. They are considered to be devis. They are not expected to drink. If they do, they fall in the eyes of society.”
However, this attitude is not limited to Hindu rightists alone. Karnataka Forum for Dignity, a lesser-known Muslim organisation, has been advocating a similar morality for women of their faith. “We encourage brotherhood and harmony, but women must follow certain rules of Islam in their interaction with men of other faiths,” explained forum secretary Attawulla.