GR the lion

April 3, 2019 at 9:15 PMApr (Activism, Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Two years ago when a circus company arrived in Udupi, I was keen on seeing a show but was not getting company to go with. One day when my friend Sahamata called to say she was coming to Udupi for some work, I suggested we could together go watch circus. She agreed but never came. I was disappointed.

Around the same time, I got a call from G. Rajashekhar. He had called to ask if he could borrow my copy of Teesta Setalvad’s autobiography. I agreed to lend him my copy on the condition that he would take me along when he goes to watch the circus. Not many who know GR as our conscience keeper and his remarkable life of activism and literary criticism that he has seen all the circus shows that arrived to Udupi in his lifetime. Since I knew of this, I was sure he would be going to watch a show that year too. So I made this offer on listening to which he said, “I usually sit in the Gandhi class and watch circus. I am not sure if that would be okay with you.” I said it was fine with me and in the following week GR and I went to watch circus.

That night I promptly called Sahamata and told her I had just returned home after watching a circus show. “Nice,” she said and asked if I had gone alone. When I told her I had gone with GR, she laughed aloud saying, “People go to the circus to see a lion. But you went to see the circus with a lion.” I too joined her in the laughter.

Photo: Kuntady Nitesh

Within a month after this, we all comrades of concern had gathered at the clock tower in Udupi for a protest. I was talking to GR who was sitting besides the flag post with the national emblem. When I saw another friend (Idrees, if I remember correctly) come join us I went to greet him, who stood on the other side of the the flag post. While I was talking to Idrees I could see the three lions in the national emblem of India and behind the emblem was GR. At one moment GR turned back and it looked like the fourth invisible lion in the national emblem had turned around to look back!

I remembered what Sahamata had said and in that moment I imagined the fourth lion of the national emblem looked like GR. Even if not so, I dont think it would be any unfair to see GR as the invisible lion in the national emblem for he has dedicated his life to defending democracy.

Today is 3rd of April. GR turned 73. Happy birthday, Sir!

Permalink Leave a Comment

Hug

March 20, 2019 at 9:15 AMMar (Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

A friend who met after long hugged me tightly, while about to leave after our brief meeting. The hug lasted a bit more than what the usual “okay bye” hug lasts. “Are you fine?” I asked and the answer came, “I just wanted to be hugged.” It immediately reminded me of another friend who had once mentioned of the intense desire felt to be just cuddled to sleep.

On both occasions I just wished I could be comfortable enough to effortlessly express my desire, the way my friends did; to be held, to be embraced, to be cuddled.

For some reason we are culturally conditioned to believe that to seek love, to seek affection is a sign of weakness and hence not good. As a continuation of the same, we are unconsciously made to feel guilty for wanting to be held, to be hugged, to be loved. ‘Desperate’ becomes the word to label such a harmless need. It stems from a feeling of disgust towards vulnerability which the society shames and has taught us to look down upon.

In a society that celebrates only strength but never prepares humans to accept vulnerability, sadly, embrace becomes just a photo-op and a formal gesture of networking.

A warm hug to all of you who are reading this. If we cross paths ever in life, please come give me a hug. The chips of this unbearable loneliness of being might just erode to some extent when held, when embraced.

PS: Kindly don’t use the cheesy expression ‘jaadoo ki jhappi‘ when you come hug me.

Permalink 1 Comment

Liberation from the Past

March 16, 2019 at 9:15 AMMar (Cinema, Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

The eldest brother asks the youngest brother to take him to a therapist. The middle one is lying in a secluded place with the lady of his love, holding her hands. The two threads are inter-cut. The perpetually fighting brothers, for the first time in the film, begin to speak of the long shadow of past that is cast on the present causing friction between the two; one to the therapist and the other to the girl he is in love with. The stories unfold & both make way for the frozen tears to flow down their cheek. Both feel relieved with the unburdening of their hearts. The middle one holds his lover to his chest and the elder brother puts his hand around his youngest brother’s shoulder as they walk out of the clinic of the therapist.

To outgrow one’s own past one requires help from outside in the form of therapy and solidarity in the absence of love. In love the healing happens from within.

Even over couple of weeks after I watched Kumbalangi Nights, I haven’t been able to get over this sequence.

Finally, in the film, it is love which liberates all (men in the film) from their past and strengthens the solidarity.

Permalink Leave a Comment

At the saloon…

March 11, 2019 at 9:15 PMMar (Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

There are a few things that I grudgingly have to do regularly. Going to the saloon to get a shave and haircut is one such thing. I conveniently avoid getting a haircut and shave no matter how long the hair and beard grows. If asked I just say, “When I have a beard I look less ugly. This is my social service,” and avoid further conversation. But then there is one thing that I cannot avoid; mustache when it grows long! It makes eating and drinking quite difficult and it is only when the mustache comes in the way of my food and me that I finally drag myself to the saloon.

Today was one such day.

From the past one year I have been going to this particular saloon at a walk-able distance near my house. The only barber of this saloon, a no nonsense fellow, left for his home town in Uttar Pradesh few months ago and he was replaced here in the saloon by his cousin Sameer. I happened to be the first customer of Sameer in this saloon and by the end of that haircut and shave, Sameer and I became friendly with each other.

My usual conversations with Sameer and prior to him with his cousin is a reflection of the complexities of this society about which I will write some other day. Today is about what happened today.

Sameer had just mopped the floor of the shop when I entered today. As always he greeted me with a warm smile asking how I have been. As I took my seat he asked, “kitana choTa kardun?” (how short should I trim your hair?). Not being in a good state of mind, I said, “aapko jitna sahi lagta hai utana karo.” (As much as you think is neat enough.) He immediately exclaimed, “yeh bhi koi baat huyi?” (What are you saying?) to which I said, “aap pey bharosa hai.” (I trust you.) Sameer took a pause to register and extended his hand to pick up the machine saying, “Theek hai.” (Okay!)

After shortening my hair he looked at my quite a long beard and asked, “kitana?” (how short?) raising his eyebrows as he asked. I just made a face indicating an ‘I dont know’. He stared at me and smiled. “aap hee ko nahi pata toh kisko pata?” (If you yourself dont know [what you want], who else will?) came words from between the smiling lips. “aapko jo sahi lagta hai woh karo,” (Do it however you wish to do it) I said to which Sameer said, “Theek hai phir,” (Okay then…) dragging his expression of “Theeek.” That dragging of the word made me fear he woul do some funky stuff which just wouldnt go well with me. So i immediately said, “ek kaam kaaro French beard rakhtey hai. aadha kaTega toh maa khush, aadha rahega toh main bhi khush.” (Lets keep a French beard. It will make my Mom hapy for I am not completely bearded and I will also be happy because I am not completely shaven.) Sameer quickly said, “poora shave kartey hai phir. maa ko khush rakhna chaahiye.” (Let me give you a complete shave then. One should keep mothers happy always.) I laughed and said, “khushi mukammal kisi ko nahi milti. na unki pasand na meri pasand, chalo French beard final hai.” (Happiness never arrives unwaxed. Neither her choice nor my choice, let us go for a French beard.) Sameer agreed saying, “Theeeek hai.” (Okay!)

Taking another machine meant for cleaning the beard he got to work. He trimmed the bread with the machine first then took a scissor to shape it a bit and then asked me if I wanted a clean shave on the remaining parts of the cheek or if I wished to have very short remains of the beard for the texture of it. I was in no mood to think about it all. So I went back to what I had told him earlier; that I trust him and he could make the decision. Sameer, this time, said “Theek hai” but did not drag the ‘Theek’ and was firm i his expression. It seemed like he had decided to take complete charge! He let a short turf of beard remain on my cheeks and shaped the French beard around my mouth neatly and looked at it, moving my head once to the right and then once to the left, sharpening the focus of his eyes. “baraabar?” (is it alright?) he asked me in a firm voice and I answered raising my thumbs up!

When I put down my hand on the handle of the seat and was about to push myself up from the seat Sameer instructed, “baiTho,” (bea seated/ dont get up) and continued to say, “face wash kartey hai.” (I will give you a face wash.) I immediately refused. But Sameer tried to convince me by saying, “bahut time baad thoDa chehra dikh raha hai toh face wash achcha rahega.” (After long a portion of your face is seen. So it is better to get a face wash done.) Very hesitantly I, the fashion illiterate, asked Sameer what does face wash include?” To the ignorant he explained as an elaborate wash of the face. This time I was the one who said, “Theek hai” dragging the “Theeeek”.

Sameer got to action quickly. He changed the cloth spread over my body, pulled my hair back, put a band around my forehead, brought tissue papers, tucked it around the collar of my shirt. Then he went to the corner of the saloon where he has a cubboard kept. Stadning there he asked me, “kaunsa flavour?” (Which flavour?) I felt uncomfortable realizing this face wash to be some fancy thing. I said I dint want to get a face wash and explaned to him I had never indulged in such things and that it is not something that intersts me either. Sameer came to me pushed me back to my seat while I was about o get up. “poochna he nahi chaahiye tha. agar koi particular nahi ho toh aise bolo ki kuch bhi chalega,” (I shouldnt have asked you in the first place. If you are not particular about the flavour say that anything would do!) said Sameer and brought a small box of some cream and neatly took out a scoop of it with his finers and started smearing them on my face. “kuch der aankh band karke baiTho,” (close your eyes for a while) instructed Sameer. I just followed the instruction.

As Sameer kept giving me a face-wash I struggled with all the dark thoughts in my head which I couldn’t avoid with my eyes shut. When he was scrubbing my forehead I also asked him quite melodramatically, “wahan jo bhi likha hai ussey miThaa do.” (Erase what is written in my fate) Sameer just laughed at it and continued doing his work. As he continued to do his work I struggled to keep my eyes shut. Couple of time when I tried to open my eyes Sameer said the face wash material might get into my eyes if I opened my eyes. I politely told him I had work (of course a lie) and did not have much time to spend on face-wash.

Sameer quickened his actions and in a while was wiping my face with a wet cloth. He was done in a while. “ab aankhein kholo,” (now open your eyes) he said and I did. As I looked into the mirror to see what had been done, Sameer said, “pata hai log ghanTo lagaatey hai inn sab cheezon mein.” (You know, people invest hours together for this purpose.) Not knowing what to say Isaid, “unka bhala karey bhagwaan.” (May God bless them.) Sameer laughed and said something interesting. He said, “log jitna achcha dikhney mein mehnat lagaatey hai utna mehnat achcha ban’ney mein lagaatey toh ya baat hoti.” (It would have been so nice if the energy people invest into looking good is invested into becoming good humans.)

I was moved deeply. I paid Sameer and while leaving promised him to try and invest more energy in becoming a good human being. Sameer guiltily siad, “woh aapke liye nahi bola tha.” (I was not referring to you while saying that.) But I know it is something that I need to tell myself and listen to.

Permalink Leave a Comment

A Speech Prepared and Rehearsed

January 31, 2019 at 9:15 AMJan (Friends, Literature, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Three years ago when the West Indies cricket team won the T20 World-Cup naturally they were celebrating their success and everyone were watching it with not much involvement. Later that day at the press conference the Captain of the WI team revealed of the economical constrains they had faced during the run-through to the World Cup, despite which they won the Cup. His words won the hearts of the people and people saluted the team of West Indies for their victory against odds. After the captain at the press conference the team member who won the man of the series title addressed the press with his legs placed on the table. This behaviour irked many and called it arrogant and indecent.

All of this made me ask myself if our indifference, compassion, intolerance everything, are they independent?

Do people of certain colour, caste, country, class become worthy of our attention and compassion only when there is a miserable touch to their existence? Why are we not understanding of the anger of the very same people? Is anger and pride permitted only to a few with social capital alone? Why the pride of some people comes across as indecent behaviour to us? When people deprived of social capital are discriminated based on colour, race, caste, class, religion and identity, have their guards high and their personality forms rough edges, why do we not understand it but only judge the behaviour of theirs? Why is this roughness largely unavoidable? Why does it become unacceptable while self-pity or imaging of self in misery becomes acceptable to an extent? Why striking a balance between self-pitying misery and rough edged pride/ arrogance to establish dignity becomes so difficult? How is one to achieve this balance?

Though not very deprived socially and economically, in the course of my journey of life love, basic human respect and social acceptance was quite absent. I spent a major portion of my life battling with depression, indulging in a sort of self-pity and in this battle, in order to protect my self-respect and the idea of self-worthiness, also have displayed arrogance thanks to the rough edges that got formed in my personality. Both these cost me quite a bit, in terms of my social life and my own development. It also created a dent in my emotional health.

Writing did help me a bit in striking the necessary balance between self-pity and egotism or roughness. It is true that I had to face discrimination, insult, and intolerance even because of my writing. But it did not break me like it did earlier. This was majorly because slowly writing had strengthened my ‘self’ to some extent.

Saying all of this, that too on the day of the release of my book is not to say I have answered life and the world for what I was made to go through. I say this just to remember what writing did to me and celebrate this journey for a moment. As life continues the efforts to strike this balance and uphold dignity will also continue. It is never ending because the shadows of certain experiences are cast on our entire lives.

The reason to have this book release on this very day is because today my father completes 70. All through my life he has supported, sheltered and encouraged me like most fathers do. But more importantly he has constantly redrawn his own boundaries in his attempt to understand my eccentricities, my madness and be by me in all of this. That is rare or not I know not. But I know the significance of it. So as he completes 70 what else can I gift him other than an attempt to tell him that in this life I have managed to weave words, managed to strike this balance between self-pity and egotism to some extent, managed get a hold of myself to an extent, managed to not lose my mind completely, managed to earn some basic human respect which was denied in several ways, and earn friends like you all who are a part of all my seasons! Within my limitations this is the least I could do in life which I can present before my father. Hence the book launch is scheduled on this day.

Akshata Hunchadakatte, Publisher Aharnishi Prakashana \ Dr. Vijay, Pricipal, MGM College, Udupi \ G. Rajashekhar, Cultural Critic and Kannada Writer \ Rajaram Thallur, Former Journalist, Writer, Translator and Media Critic \ Your’s truly \ K. Phairaj, Writer-Activist. (Left to Right)

(Speech I prepared and rehearsed several times in my mind for the release function of my book ‘baaLkaTTey’ on 27 Jan 2019, which in my nervousness couldn’t deliver as planned)

Permalink Leave a Comment

Odd thoughts on Children’s Day

November 14, 2018 at 9:15 PMNov (Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Those were the days which ingrained a sense of inferiority in me and ensured I have a low self esteem. Childhood was not rosy for me and though childhood evaporated long ago the impact of childhood experiences continue to bear their weight on my heart. A long process of unlearning in the days after childhood ensured my worldview undergoes a fundamental change but my idea about myself and my position in this world, in relation to my fellow human beings, are still colored by the experiences of childhood marked by discrimination, humiliation and alienation. Those who remember me from my childhood, remember me as “an angry child,” and cant/ don’t see why I was angry and why I am still angry. Life after childhood has seen many battles one among them has been a very personal and internal battle to overcome the burden of my childhood which I have been carrying within me since my childhood.

There are many who have had childhood experiences more traumatic and paralyzing than my experiences. To all of them and to all those who have been crippled in one or the other way by childhood experiences here, take a warm hug for love and warmth is more important than laddoos in schools and discount offers in the market.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Transgressing Gandhi

October 25, 2018 at 9:15 PMOct (Activism, Media, Musings, Soliloquy)

Ahmedabad faced great trouble because of the rabies dogs in the year 1928. Coming under the influence of Gandhi the people of Ahmedabad had imbibed the value of non-violence and this put them in a serious dilemma when faced with the threat of these dogs. When the municipality decided to kill these dogs, the people of Ahmedabad under the leadership of Seth Ambalal Sarabhai went to Gandhi seeking his suggestion. To their shock, Gandhi asked them to let the dogs be killed.

Gandhi faced several questions by his followers and Gandhi answered them all.

Around the same time, a calf in Gandhi’s ashram had a serious injury and was suffering because of it. After trying all sort of medications Gandhi finally passed an order to kill the calf. Disciples of Gandhi protested and yet Gandhi stood his ground. A meeting was called after the calf being killed where Gandhi was put on trial. Facing the question, “How could you who preach ahimsa and non-violence get down to killing an innocent calf?” Gandhi said “I couldn’t see it suffer so i had to kill it.” The disciples argued further and asked, “So if a man is suffering will you kill him too?”. To this Gandhi replied saying, “Man can at least voice his suffering but the calf couldn’t even voice its suffering. It was suffering silently.”

The non-violence of Gandhi not just held a streak of violence in its womb but, more importantly, was not a value blind to pressure of time and the needs demanded by the situations, dictated by time and space. His value system was more of a sincere and honest response to the here-and-now.

Gandhi, who in his earlier days spoke only against untouchability and not the caste system, overtime welcomed inter-caste weddings, inter-community dining and also led them. More than being a strategic move of slowly taking the mass into new consciousness step by step, this was a sign of Gandhi’s change of vision and ideology. This change was caused majorly by the widening of his horizon and new awareness about the world, stemming from his honest engagement with the world and his experience of life. He was dynamic and open to learning. Another example for the same is his initial statement, “God is truth” being turned on its head at a later stage as “Truth is God.” When he witnessed the aftermath of partition, the same Gandhi who called God as truth and truth as God, desired the world had turned atheist.

Gandhi’s thoughts, vision, ideas and actions were never frozen and stagnant. They were not just like flowing river but also constantly and continuously testing itself and overcoming itself in order to refine themselves. They never desired to become timeless as each of his actions and his thoughts were determined by the need of the hour, without compromising with the larger goal. To make Gandhi relevant today means to respond to our times understanding the condition of today, caught in time and space, and doing the necessary without compromising with the larger goal of greater good. Gandhi continuously redefined himself, his worldview and actions by transgressing himself endlessly. The only way to be loyal to Gandhi now is by transgressing Gandhi.

[Originally written in Kannada for the monthly magazine Mayoora for their Gandhi-150 special issue, October 2018]

Permalink Leave a Comment

Stree

September 10, 2018 at 9:15 PMSep (Cinema, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

In the country where superstitions are deep rooted, in times when champions of anti-superstition bill are being killed, to make a film like Stree is undoubtedly an act of bravery. In Bombay cinema the genre of horror films has always played to the stereotype using the superstitions to its benefit and has strengthened those superstitions. Stree breaks away from this tradition and subverts not just this genre but also more.

The last few years, specifically after the 2012 Delhi gang-rape incident and the following protests across nations, Bombay cinema has played to the newly awakened feminist thought line among the masses. If one were to look at it just as a response of popular culture without diving deep into discussions about feminism and the feminism of popular culture, one can say that these series of films including titles like Gulaab Gang, Pink, NH 10, Queen, Highway etc, have tried to make a point in their own ways and attempted to puncture the prevailing patriarchal ideas and beliefs. But more or less all these films have been quite two dimensional and more or less sloganeering, even if we have to assess these films as cinema of popular culture. Stree does what all these films attempted to do, in a much engaging and convincing manner without reducing the thought into slogans or sermons!

Very few imaginative writers and directors are able to make a larger point through a genre like that of horror films, Under the Shadow, written and directed by the Iranian filmmaker Babak Anvari being one of those exceptional cases. For a nation where stories of ghosts and spirit existing is more or less equal to the head count of living human beings in the country and where there has been a tradition of horror films across A and B grade films, it has not been much possible to do turn the superstitions on their head and through them make a comment on the real! Stree becomes an important film for these reasons!

Stree written by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK and directed by Amar Kaushik is refreshingly original which at the very beginning of the film declares it is based on ‘a ridiculous phenomenon’. Making its position clear thus, the film goes on to weave horror, humour, satire in right elements and present a film which is hilarious, scary and also political.

Set in the small town Chanderi, the film Stree revolves around the myth of a ghost, known just by the name Stree, who every year visits the town only at the time of festival and picks men up leaving behind only their clothes. To save the men in their house each house write on their walls, “Aye Stree, Kal Aana,” to mean, “Oh Stree, come tomorrow.” Writing this, it is believed, will keep the ghost away. If this is to save the men at home, there is no way one can save the men on streets during those four nights during the festival. The easiest way found out by the men of the town is to not step out of their house after sunset. By chance if they have to step out, it is believed they should not meet eyes with Stree who is believed to call men from behind thrice before abducting them.

Vicky (played by Rajkumar Rao) is a tailor in Chanderi popular for his ways of taking measurement without using a measuring tape but through his gaze alone. His friends are Bittu, who owns a readymade clothing shop and Jaana. The friendship of these three and their acquaintances with the town scholar Rurdra (played by Pankaj Tripathi) keeps underlining the quintessential quality of a small town, its worldview and its lifestyle. One day Vicky meets a girl (played by Shraddha Kapoor) who wants to get a dress stitched before the last day of the festival and a fond relationship flowers between the two. Her refusal to reveal her identity, her phone number and her strange demands for the tail of a lizard, hair of a cat etc. in her first letter to Vicky, which he and his friends understand as a love letter, makes his friends come to the conclusion that this mysterious friend of Vicky in real is Stree and is after his life. What adds strength to this conclusion of theirs is the fact that this unnamed girl doesn’t enter the temple or take the prashaad offered by the temple and more importantly nobody except Vicky has seen or met this girl.

When his two friends arrive at this conclusion Vicky has gone to meet the girl in an abandoned place. The friends go in search of Vicky to save him and fail to find him. The two scared of being spotted by Stree return and in the last leg of their way back take different routes to go to their respective places. That is when Stree makes Jaana her catch, leaving behind only his clothes.

The disappearance of Jaana makes Vicky and Bittu go in search of Stree and bring back their missing friend. For this journey they take the help of the town scholar Rudra and after making a surprising discovery the three along with a fourth comrade not just fight the ghost but also discover the past of the ghost which becomes a mirror of the societal values and hypocrisy.

This entire journey is thoroughly funny and scary. Short but powerful dialogues which are in tune with the story line also echo a larger political commentary. While dialogues like, “Andh bhakti buri cheez hai, kisi ko bhakt nahi hona chaahiye,” is a comment on the political worshipping; dialogues like “Stree ijaazat kay bagair haath nahi lagaati,” underline the issue of consent in a way which is non-argumentative. The past of the ghost and the past of the protagonist Vicky and how the fighting four respond to these are remarks made on the existing social values and through their response the film subverts them. These elements which form the heart of the narrative a political film wrapped in a horror genre. But the politics of Stree doesn’t beat its drum hard yet doesn’t fail to make its point.

While saying all of this it must be said that the film which otherwise speaks about women’s issue with such conviction could have avoided the item number where the camera drools over the body of the dancer and reduces the women to a body. Also and more importantly demonizing one of its central characters in the end also could have been avoided. These wouldn’t have taken away anything from the film even by an inch and avoiding them would have made the film even the more lovable.

This calendar year after Raazi we have one more creative and brilliant political film which dares to look into the eyes of the times we live in and show our times a mirror.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Raag and the Rain

June 13, 2018 at 9:15 PMJun (Friends, Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

One afternoon, in the third week of this April, I was with my friend Randheer in Jammu University. I had gone back to that campus after two years. In a while, our other friends- Sonia, Nisha and Shaabaaz joined. As we sat under a tree with chai in our hands, we requested Nisha to sing and Shaabaaz to recite his poems. Understanding the mood of the situation, Shaabaaz called his friend Aakash, a trained and passionate singer, to join us. Akash was with us in two minutes.

Nisha began the mehfil by singing a gazal by Begum Akthar. After Nisha sang and Shaabaaz recited his poems, now it was Akash’s turn. Akash sang quite a few songs and ghazals for us, pausing his singing to explain which raag it is, other musical details and some related anecdotes. Once while he was explaining a raag to us, the impulsive and innocent Sonia asked Akash if its true that some raag bring rains and some light the lamps. My immediate reaction was, “What a juvenile question,” which of course I did not say loud. I do not know what others thought but Akash clearly did not think so. Very spontaneously he said, “I am not sure if it happens in the outside world. But it has happened within me. I have witnessed rain within me, while listening to some raag and have witnessed lamps being lit within me, while listening to some other raag. That is all I can say.”

I was glad Sonia asked that question. When Akash’s singing continued, I could feel a new vibration within me.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Troubled times ahead, either way?

May 16, 2018 at 9:15 PMMay (Activism, Media, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

With the eyes of the entire nation on it, Karnataka went for elections on May 12. The much awaited results of the state’s Assembly elections are being widely held as an indicator of what lies in store in the 2019 general elections. This worked in bringing more light and focus on Karnataka. And hence, we were all made to witness a high voltage election campaign both, by the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) and the Indian National Congress.

While the Congress, specially incumbent Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, seemed quite positive about the results from the beginning, the methods of BJP and the body language of its leaders revealed a lack of confidence. The ruling party at the Centre with majority of states under it and its allies couldn’t hide the frustration of not being able to crack it in Karnataka easily. The diminished confidence of the BJP was not only because of its inability to recreate its magic in the state but also a result of the much apparent dwindling hope, masses all across the country had pinned on the party and the Prime Ministers.

Let us park aside the pan India phenomenon and the predictions for the result for a while and come to coastal Karnataka.

The door to door campaign of the BJP, in coastal Karnataka, where this writer comes from, was extremely communal in colour, this time. BJP’s campaign was centred on creating in Hindus the fear against members of the Muslim community rather than educating voters about their proposed plan of action for the wellbeing of the people.

It is also important to take note that the BJP asked the people of coastal Karnataka to vote not for their local candidate but for the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. One of the messages that was being circulated on social media by the BJP read, “There is no need to spend time wondering who the BJP candidates are in Karnataka, who is the CM candidate of BJP in Karnataka because whoever the local candidates are and whoever becomes the CM, the total control of things will be in the hands of the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.” The message even goes further saying, “We know that some of the BJP candidates are not the right ones but what we need is Modi ji’s administration. In case the local candidates do not perform their duty you can contact Modi ji directly and he will set things right,” and then requests the people to, “Vote for BJP without much thought and bring Modi ji’s administration in Karnataka.” This message and this tactics is a clear indicator of the desperation in the saffron party.

RSS exporting hate to the nation via Coastal Karnataka

In the last two and a half decades, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS), the ideological parent of BJP had made Karnataka, especially coastal Karnataka, a laboratory for its politics of hate. No matter which party ran the government in Karnataka, RSS has had its own parallel administration in coastal Karnataka and has been slowly expanding its influence to other parts of the state as well.

The tragic communal history of coastal Karnataka is important at this point to understand the deep seated fear in the people about the results of the elections. Before spelling out fear, we should have a slightly closer look at the last few years.

Nine years before India got ‘Modi-fied’, and ten years before the inhumane lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq, which went on capture the national imagination with its agenda of ‘protecting the gau mata’ the coastal town of Udupi had already had its highly condemnable Dadri moment.

On March 13, 2005 father and son, Hajabba and Hasanabba, were stopped by the Hindu Yuva Sena (HYV) members while transporting livestock. They were dragged to a nearby helipad and stripped completely before being paraded naked and assaulted. This happened hours before the sun went down and darkness settled on this part of earth. This was witnessed by hundreds of citizens in Udupi, who neither intervened nor uttered a word of disapproval. The livestock traders were also made to pose for a photograph by the HYV. This was done in order to send across a message to the Muslim community about what would happen if they were not to listen to Hindus.

It took immense efforts by activists to make police take cognizance of the offence. “Jurisdictional dispute” became the reason for the delay even after the Police took note of the crime. Huge protests by activists made the state handover the case to Corps of Detectives (CoD) . Preliminary reports held key members of Hindu Yuva Sena responsible for the stripping and assault of Hajabba and Hasanabba. One among the key members was Yashpal Suvarna who was later awarded nomination for town council by the BJP.

In the year 2009, couple of weeks after the infamous pub attack in the coastal town Mangalore, a girl, barely 15 years old, from a nearby town Moodbidri hung herself in her residence after she was taken to the police station by the self-styled vigilante groups which hailed Hindutva ideology. Her crime was that she interacted with a man who belonged to the “other” community. The boy was thrashed black and blue before the girl was taken to the Police Station where the police also summoned her father. She was then “counselled” by the police and the vigilante group. Feeling humiliated the girl ended her life the very same evening.

This was one of the many incidents of ‘immoral policing’ that have been taking place in coastal Karnataka from over a decade now. It is amidst such incidents that the concept of the non-existing ‘Love Jihad’ was first brought into circulation by the Hindutva vigilante groups, alleging Muslim boys of luring Hindu girls and getting them converted. The idea of Love Jihad slowly gained currency and travelled across India making it an urgent matter to attend to, all over.

The two incidents have been recollected here specifically to spell out how big the laboratory of Hindutva hate politics is coastal Karnataka. Issues , used to divide the people and create an anti-Hindu image of Muslims, namely “love jihad”, “cow protection” were exported to the entire nation only after having been tried and tested in coastal Karnataka first.

Troubled times ahead, either way?

With these memories still afresh, how is one to look at the vicious campaigning the BJP undertook during the Karnataka elections where they were once again seen trying to divide and create tension between Hindus and Muslims? Given that the BJP is frustrated about its fading magic all over India with their weapons of development; war on illegal money, etc becoming ineffective, it is quite evident that as a run up for the 2019 elections they will go back to their basics, communal politics. Dividing communities and inciting violence is likely to be the game plan of BJP for the 2019 election. A glimpse of this was seen in Karnataka once again.

People in Karnataka fear both, BJP winning and BJP losing the Karnataka elections. In case they win, they have all the control in the world to sharpen their weapons and get ready for 2019. If they lose, they have an entire year to do what they are good at, in order to ensure 2019 is not a repeat of 2018.

Either way, it is going to be a year of communal tension and violence, fear many people in Karnataka and the rest of India.

[Originally published in Hind Kisan on 13 May 2018]

Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »