A shabby private medical centre - Shivaleela Nursing Home on Uttarahalli Road on the outskirts of Bangalore - was the venue for Sri Rama Sene founder Pramod Muthalik's
on Wednesday to chalk out the strategy for the Sene's protest on Valentine's Day on February 14. Talking to 100-odd members of his pro-Hindu outfit, Muthalik also harped on the POA for expanding in other states.
During lunch, he moved into a private room - the occupant, a patient, left the room without speaking a word as one of the activists asked him to wait outside for a while - to talk about the episode at the Mangalore pub, non-violence and his icon Nathuram Ghodse. But beneath all the fiery talk could be traced a sense of despondency that members of the Sangh Parivar are playing politics to keep him away. Excerpts:
What is the agenda for today's meeting?
This meeting will discuss eight points - from the arrest of our members to growing beyond Karnataka. we have received invites to launch units in Delhi, UP, Rajasthan, Maharastra and Andhra Pradesh. Next is to raise women-related issues - from harassment and exploitation to poor depiction in cinema and on television. We also plan to set up a women's wing.
What will these campaigns focus on?
We will oppose Velentine's Day. The method will be discussed today (February 4, 2009). We will also take up cow slaughter. We will discuss more such issues later in the day.
Why do you want to obstruct young men and women on V-Day?
It is not our culture. It is western culture and thrust upon us by Christians. You cannot limit love to one day. Let me also tell you that there's a big international conspiracy to mislead young men and women in our country through these Days. It is not appropriate for members of the Christian lobby to thrust their culture on us. Let me assure you that we will not take law into our hands this time. Tomorrow (February 5), we will meet the Chief Minister, the Governor and the Home Minister and other people's representatives and request them to ban the celebrations on that day. We will also request the heads of educational institutions and restaurant owners to protect our own culture. In 2008, I remember that 17 girls (college students) were raped on Valentine's Day in Karnataka.
Don't you think people should decide what is appropriate for them and protest if they feel that such culture is inappropriate?
People cannot unite on their own. That's why non-political organisations like Sri Rama Sene have to create awareness and take up the cause of the people. Take the case of our recent campaign against pubs. It has led to a nationwide debate on the pub culture, with Chief Ministers of four states, the women's commission and even the Union Health Minister speaking up against it. At least 10 crore people have expressed their willingness to join us and have sent word that they will be with us when we protest against V-Day.
Do you approve of the manner in which your boys behaved at the pub in Mangalore?
I was away in Pune to attend a function, and got to know through the media about this incident on Sunday evening. Immediately, I said sorry. This will never occur. The method was wrong, but the intention was good.
Will you resort to Gandhigiri this time on V-Day?
It will be within the norms of a democratic system. Gandhigiri and those means adopted by Bhagat Singh will be used to oppose V-Day.
But we are known for tolerance over thousands of years. Why do you want to propagate intolerance?
True, we accepted people with open arms from all over the world. But these people are forcing us out of our own homes. Why should moulvis oppose singing Vande Mataram? Why should people going on Haj get a special allowance, but not those who go to Hindu pilgrim centres? There are thousands of such instances, which we plan to oppose.
Is there transparency in functioning of Sene? Where does your organisation get its funds from?
We accept donations from people from all walks of life. All the deposits are displayed in our balance sheet every year. We are a registered non-political organisation.
Do you seek donations from the BJP governments? What other help have they extended to Sene?
We'd be happy if they don't cause problems for us. It is not right for them to file cases against people who are working for Hindutva. They imprisoned Mahendra Kumar (Convenor of Bajrang Dal who owned up attacks on churches in Mangalore in September 2008). They put me in prison for a week recently. We have one request to the BJP government in Karnataka: protect the people who have worked for the cause of Hindutva over the last 50 years. We don't want any donations from this government.
Please tell us about the structure of your organisation. What is the ultimate goal of Sene?
We meet every weekend at our Satsang or Sahana Kendra and enroll new members. There are 1,317 units of Sene in Karnataka with 58 full-time workers and office bearers in 13 districts. Our ultimate aim is the creation of a Hindu state. Now, every Hindu is being treated as second-class citizen. Every Hindu is a patriot and a law-abiding citizen.
But this is the same agenda of the Sangh Parivar.
I am not accepted in the Parivar because of politics - only politics, and nothing else. I will try to convince them in future.
I believe you had a good rapport with Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa when you were in the Bajrang Dal. Have relations soured recently?
No. I will meet Yeddyurappa tomorrow and talk to him about our programmes. Earlier too, I met him to congratulate him when he became Chief Minister.
I believe you are an admirer of Nathuram Ghodse and visit Pune on his death anniversary every year.
He is my icon. He did nothing wrong. Whatever he did was to prevent the partition of India. Yes, I am his admirer.