Guest post by APURVA MATHAD
I was recently in Mangalore with a friend, taking some time off to clear my mind. Our conversations inevitably led to the riots that had happened in the city just a month ago. He comes from a Mangalorean Catholic family though he doesn’t subscribe to any of religious practices anymore. Yet, he was clearly angry about the entire episode.
During a small tour of the city, we visited a place called the “Sisters of Poor Clare’s “Adoration Monastery”, commonly referred to just “Adoration Monastery”. It is a small discreet building with a small chapel and houses a group of nuns who have cloistered themselves, dependent on the charity of people for their survival. They take prayer petitions from people and intercede on their behalf. This was the first place that was attacked in retaliation to the allegation of forced conversions. The broken pieces of glass, the bent monstrance, the torn books and the broken cross of Christ are still as they are, serving as a reminder that the events are not past and that they are still fresh in the memory of the people here. This small place of worship, just a stone’s throw away from Milagres (a famous church with its own website), is evidence against the consistent statements of the Karnataka administration that only those place that were involved in “forceful” conversions were targeted.
It has been over a month since the riots in Mangalore but the anger has not gone away. It is not just the vandalism of the Bajrang Dal and the continuing attacks on churches in Karnataka that has contributed to their anger, but also the statements of the chief minister and the home minister who have sided with the Bajrang Dal. The manner in which the police used indiscriminate and excessive force on peaceful protesters including women and nuns who had assembled in Milagres square, only added to the resentment of the Catholics. There are also rumours that it was not the police who beat the protesters but Bajrang Dal dressed in police uniforms. The (in)actions of the chief minister has infuriated the Catholic community.
First, they maintained that Bajrang Dal was not involved in spite of Mahendra Kumar, Bajrang Dal State Convener, openly admitting to have been involved in the attacks. Yeduyurappa instituted a judicial probe into the acts of violence only after considerable pressure was exerted upon him. The continuing violence in Orissa where BJP is a minor partner of the ruling coalition has not helped either.
In a city that has never known communal violence and where Bajrang Dal has never really had a strong presence, the recent events are disturbing and begs the question as to whether the Gujarat experiment is being replicated in Karnataka and Orissa.
(Apurva Mathad works in Bangalore and blogs as Madhat.)