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Mystery of the Mangalore mob

india Updated: Feb 01, 2009 00:40 IST
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Inspector Ghote scratched his chin thoughtfully. The evidence of the crime was clear — the broken glasses, the overturned tables, the frightened girls and the bruised customers at the pub all testified to it. More importantly, the people who had molested the girls had not only admitted their guilt, they were boasting about it. The only problem was the motive. Did these people really believe in all that traditional Hindu culture stuff? They said they did, but Ghote had been a policeman long enough to know that nothing is as it seems. He needed to find the real reason for the attacks.

Was there a financial angle? Maybe a rival pub owner had paid these guys. But inquiries revealed there was no other pub in the vicinity. Perhaps there was a local hooch shop? Could this not be a Machiavellian ploy to wean young professionals off beer and introduce them instead to the joys of toddy? Unfortunately, there was no hooch shop nearby either.

Could the reason be personal enmity? Possibly, thought Ghote, the pub owner had disowned his wife and children and married his mistress, converting to Islam to legitimise the second marriage and the goons had been sent by his irate father, who had disowned him in turn. But the pub-owner turned out to be happily married to the same woman for the last 30 years.

Could there be a political motive? “It’s possible,” said the political analyst Ghote consulted, “that the attack on the pub was meant to polarise the minority vote in the region, which in turn would impinge upon the manner in which the Vokkaliga votes, which immediately affects the Lingayat vote. Naturally, the consequence would be a consolidation of the Dalit vote, which will not only impact the prospects of an alliance of the BJP with the Trinamool Congress, but also have international ramifications on Obama.” Ghote hastily decided this was a web so complex it was best left untangled.

Could there be a psychological reason? “Definitely,” said an eminent psychologist. “The behaviour of the ruffians clearly shows their mothers were frightened by alcoholics when the goons were in their wombs, which is why they have strong Oedipal feelings and want all women to be like mothers.” “It’s like Norman Bates in Psycho,” added the psychiatrist helpfully. But Ghote’s boss killed that line of reasoning. “We’ll have to put them in a nursing home if it’s proved they’re nutcases,” he said.

What if there’s a sexual angle? Didn’t the Rajasthan chief minister say recently he was against boys and girls holding hands in malls? So guys holding guys’ hands was okay, right? In short, could these people be gay and the attack on the pub the first strike of a revolt against heterosexuals? But many of the hooligans turned out to be married, although unhappily.

Ghote was getting desperate. Maybe these people really believed in what they preached? A vision of a culturally pure swadeshi pub floated before his eyes — a pub in which boys and girls, wearing dhotis and saris, sat decorously apart in separate enclosures sipping lassi and rasam and occasionally breaking into kuchipudi dances while the sound system blared the latest bhajans.

He shook his head to get rid of the nightmare. Suddenly he knew he had got it. Didn’t some cameramen barge into the pub before the goons did? How else were all those pictures shown on TV? So the goons had made sure the whole thing was being filmed, obviously because they wanted publicity. Who would have bothered about a minor incident carried out by crackpots in a small town if the national media weren’t there to cover it? And now the Sri Ram Sene was known all over, its leaders making it to the front pages of papers. “Eureka, the motive is crystal clear,” shouted Ghote triumphantly. With a sigh of satisfaction, he closed the file.

(Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint)