'Moral policing' rankles voters in Mangalore
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'Moral policing' rankles voters in Mangalore

At the sprawling campus of the NIT near this Karnataka town, students are now discussing moral policing rather than their syllabus. While one wants to give a "befitting reply to communal forces", another wants to make Mangalore "safe for everyone".

india Updated: Apr 29, 2009 09:30 IST

At the sprawling campus of the National Institute of Technology (NIT) near this Karnataka town, students are now discussing moral policing rather than their syllabus. While one wants to give a "befitting reply to communal forces", another wants to make Mangalore "safe for everyone".

The youngsters are voters in the Dakshina Kannada Lok Sabha constituency and have only a day to decide whether to vote and whom to vote for. The second and last phase of elections to the 28 Lok Sabha seats from Karnataka will be held on Thursday, when Dakshina Kannada will be among 11 constituencies to hold balloting.

Mangalore, the main town of the coastal Dakshina Kannada district, about 350 km from state capital Bangalore, was the scene of brutal so-called moral policing in January when around 40 activists of a Hindu group roughed up women for going to a pub.

Since then there have been several instances of moral policing, including an attack on a Muslim boy for talking to a Hindu girl, daughter of a Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) legislator in neighbouring Kerala.

"It is time to give a befitting reply to communal forces and their moral brigade. I have decided to vote against them," said Srikanth P, a 23-year-old student of the NIT in Surathkal, about 30 km from Mangalore.

"Our vote should help make Mangalore safe for everyone. The city does not belong to one group and nobody has the right to dictate do's and dont's to us," said Preety Rai, a 20-year-old student of fashion design.

It is not just the youngsters who are angry over moral policing. Businessmen and academics whom IANS spoke to were also upset and worried about the negative impact on the image of the city, a well-known commercial and education centre.

"This has clearly affected investment in the city as businessmen are thinking twice before making new business deals, looking at the volatile situation," rued Santhosh D'Souza, former secretary of the Kanara Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Agreeing with D'Souza, chamber president Kumble Narasimha Prabhu said business across the city has been "gravely" affected after the Mangalore pub attack. "Mangalore is reeling under severe financial loss," said Prabhu.

The acts of the moral brigade have hurt the image of Mangalore as the education hub of Karnataka.

Over the years, the city had become a sought after place for students from across India and abroad, mainly Southeast Asian countries, to study engineering, medicine, business management and hotel management.

"The matter is of great concern and government needs to think on the issue," said Ramesh Bhat, professor, department of dermatology in Father Muller Medical College.

"Parents of students, especially of females, will think twice before sending their wards from far-off places to the city," senior journalist BV Seetharam said.

"Cases of attack on women and youngsters in the name of protection of age-old Hindu culture and tradition have become almost regular in the city," he said.

Though the Hindu groups created a huge furore over pub-culture, Mangalore has only six pubs. They have suffered heavily since the January attack.

"Business is down. Regular pub-goers have stopped trickling in after the Jan 24 incident," lamented a pub-owner, who did not want to be named.

Dakshina Kannada is set for a triangular contest between Janardhana Poojary of the Congress, Nalin Kumar Katilu of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Madhava B, Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) supported CPI-M candidate.

The main battle is between Poojary, a former central minister, and Katilu.

While the Congress expects anger over moral policing to help Poojary, the BJP candidate asserts "the Congress and moral policing are not an issue at all for the voters. I will win comfortably".

First Published: Apr 29, 2009 09:22 IST