First published at hindupost.in
The recent case of trespassing by Sri Ram Sena workers in a Govt. aided Christian management school, St. Thomas higher primary school, in Mangalore for teaching Arabic to students of all religions, generated some mixed news reports that the Karnataka state government has conferred special judicial rights on state Minority Commission which might enable the commission to summon Sri Ram Sena workers . This incident happened on July 30th in Bondantila, Managlore. Post the 2009 pub attack incident, Sri Ram Sena has gone through massive media trials and has been labeled a ‘Vigilantist’ organization for beating some women during this infamous pub incident in Mangalore. The confusion over the activities of Sena and its workers remains, and hence we decided to speak to Shri Ram Sena’s controversial head , Pramod Muthalik. Here is the detailed interview –
Q : Beginning with the school trespassing case, why did your workers raid the school? If there was a valid reason to inquire, shouldn’t you have gone to police?
(Pramod Muthalik) PM : There were strong reasons to enter the school when the Arabic class was going on. This area, Bondantila is almost a village on the outskirts of Mangalore. We were told by some parents on conditions of anonymity that their children are being taught Arabic every Saturday in regular school timings. The school didn’t take permission from parents of non-Muslim students and these classes were not optional as has been claimed in media reports post the incident. This is a Christian aided school, it sounds extremely fishy that they were conducting Arabic classes every Saturday morning for 6th and 7th standard students, many of whom are Hindus. These are much younger students who are not going anywhere, i.e. gulf, to work for at least the next 7 to 8 years. This was a valid reason enough and regarding going to police, they usually don’t do much on such complaints. We have approached police earlier in different kinds of complaints and cases, nothing happens unless the case has already gone to media.
Q : Tell us more about the whole incident. Do you also have pictures or videos to substantiate your claim?
PM : Let me first clarify that we invited local media channels to come along with us. So that the whole story doesn’t get twisted beyond a point. I shall ask our Karnataka state head, Anand Shetty to send you some pictures which have been published in local media here. The local media channels also made short video clips but it seems nobody has released them; we did not record anything ourselves.
So our workers entered the school premises right in the morning around 9 am, we realized that instead of a language teacher, a religious preacher comes specifically to take Arabic classes. His religious cap etc were lying on the classroom table which he hid later. There were about 90 odd children in the class, more than half were Hindus. We saw their notebooks. Words like airport, bank, restaurant were written on the board. The teacher was writing on the board. That is when we interrupted and spoke to the headmaster too. Local media was there. When a religious preacher begins taking language classes, it is easy to understand the kind of examples he would give in the class. It may be subtle brainwashing.
And within a week of our workers entering that school, they have decided to discontinue with the supposedly ‘optional’ Arabic classes. After our visit, they were compelled to do a meeting with village elders and parents, and took this decision. This only means that there were a number of parents who did not want this class. And if the school was doing nothing wrong, why did they discontinue classes on their own? The court / government hasn’t sent any order yet. 26 of our workers were arrested and charged with sections 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 506 (criminal intimidation), 341 (wrongful restraint) and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty). All have been given bail including Anand Shetty.
Q : We shall share the photographs in the published interview. We had contacted Anand Shetty and tried to get a video clip from local channels as suggested by you; in spite of repeated efforts, local media has not shared anything with me. Anyway, what can be the ramifications of state Minority Commission being given special judicial rights, on this case, or for that matter, any such case in future?
PM : As far as I and my lawyers have checked and understood, the judicial powers conferred on Karnataka Minority Commission relate only to their ability to summon people from government departments in case of any procedural or reciprocation delay from any of the government officials / departments to a minority individual or organization. They can’t conduct a ‘trial’ or suggest judgments. Anyway, Minority Commission whether central or state, has always been giving its reports on various incidents since a long time. Its unclear how this might unfold in future. Ideally, anyone should not get an edge with government departments on the basis of religion. All our workers have been provided bail. Let me point out that this particular visit to the school had nothing to do with agitation or vigilantism. There was a peaceful conversation with the headmaster that this is not right because some parents may not be wanting these Arabic classes. Imagine if a reputed English medium school in a cosmopolitan area starts taking additional mandatory Sanskrit classes for all students, will English media not take up the issue and conduct debates?
Images shared by Anand Shetty, Sri Ram Sena Karnataka :
Q : But your workers did demonstrate shoddy vigilantism during the infamous 2009 pub raid in Mangalore. I have seen the video clips, a girl was being pushed and beaten. A girl was running out of fear and fell down leading to injury. Men and women were running out of the pub hysterically. How could your workers do this? This can never be acceptable to any sane mind, at least on the face of it.
PM : There is a lot more to the whole incident. While I regret the beatings that happened and the general chaos, media always presents a very convenient picture of incidents as per their motivations. I apologized for the vigilantism and this was published by various media houses, I was in Pune when the incident happened. I have had various cases slapped on me all through my life. I was arrested post this incident in Belgaum and I spent 16 days in jail. There was no FIR against me, I was arrested suo motu by the BJP state under media pressure. For your information, this was 2009, today is 2016 and I still answer for that incident after an apology and a jail visit.
Q : So what could be the different aspects of the whole incident? Why did Sri Ram Sena workers raid the pub? Please feel free to speak, we shall not misquote you.
PM : This pub was in a residential area in Mangalore. Many people were unhappy that many young boys and girls spend afternoons in that pub and come out in various conditions which was being seen by elders and children living around. It seems that police knew that the pub had license issues but did nothing. So, our workers thought of checking it out. After they entered the pub, they asked to see the licenses and issued general statements that this shouldn’t be in a residential area, and that our mothers and daughters are being driven away from Hindu culture.
There were about a dozen of medical students sitting in there when this was happening. One of them took out her slippers and pointed it at our workers and shouted that this is our life and we’ll do what we wish to. They tried to push away the workers from the pub. That’s when the whole vigilantism started, our workers should have shown restraint but they didn’t. They gave it back and started vacating the place. The reaction was unwanted and the whole incident became a nightmare. However, please note that there were no serious injuries. The media blew up the incident so much that it is known internationally, while far bigger cases of vigilantism, rape, love jihad, illegal outlets and bars get shoved under the carpet.
Just a couple of days after the incident, I apologized, then I went to jail too. But does anyone know the name of the girl who took out her slippers first? Did the pub owners, who neither had any security for the pub visitors nor proper licenses face any media trial? I have been very strict with the workers post this incident and till today, there have been no further cases of vigilantism from Sri Ram Sena.
Renuka Chowdhary from Congress was Women & Child Minister in central government when this incident happened. A team from National Commission For Women was sent to Mangalore under the leadership of Nirmala Venkatesh (who was in Congress then) and they stayed for 5 days in the city for making their report. You will be surprised to know that not even a single girl came forward to speak to the NCW committee. It seems that the state government and the media didn’t have any single contact to give to NCW. The committee inquired about the pub and they came to speak to us in jail. Nirmala Venkatesh’s report dwelt on all aspects of the incident, it mentioned that the pub did not have the license to sell and serve liquor and that all was not well with the premises. She did recommend punishment for Sri Ram Sena members under Section 307 of IPC, which deals with attacks on women. She had also mentioned that apathy of victims towards giving statements has lead to dilution of the case.
For this comprehensive report, Renuka Chowdhary and NCW head Girija Vyas asked Nirmala Venkatesh to resign, calling her a ‘flaw’ in the system. She was accused of various things like going to media with the report, not submitting the report from only women’s point of view. After being sacked from NCW and Congress, Nirmala joined BJP. By the way, no woman was approached with the deliberate intention of sexual assault. Nobody went to the pub to specifically assault women, the situation went out of hand.
Interestingly, when I came out of jail after 16 days, the very next day I got a call from one of the girls’ mother saying that she understood our intentions were not bad. That she didn’t know her daughter was going to pub and she got to know post that incident when she saw her clothes soiled on returning home. She said she was willing to speak to media. I sent her reference to some media channels but they didn’t approach her.
Q : Is that why you were removed from Karnataka BJP in 2014 just a few hours after induction, before Lok Sabha elections? I mean, because of this incident, you were termed as the head of a vigilantist organization and hence the ouster from state BJP?
PM : Media lobbies aggressively against Hindu activists. The media trials that a Hindu activist usually goes through is highly disproportionate to what a secular criminal goes through in spite of doing bigger crimes. Calling Sri Ram Sena merely a vigilantist organization is obfuscating narrative on Hindu issues. What had happened was, I had decided on contesting elections as an independent candidate. On hearing this, RSS and BJP leaders told me to join BJP. At 11 am, I was inducted and by 4 pm I was removed from the party. Between 11 am and 4 am, media lobbied heavily against me. Times Now continuously ran commentary against me stating how can BJP induct an anti-woman, misogynist, vigilantist goon into the party. In spite of no major problem within local BJP and a good support from local people for me, BJP took that decision under media pressure. They feared they could lose votes in other territories.
Now, this was 2014. the pub incident happened in 2009 Jan. With no other incident in 5 long years against me, they chose to pick up an old stale incident in which I was not even physically present, for which I had rendered an apology and gone to jail, and made sure that such incidents are not repeated. So many politicians utter ridiculous words on issues like rape, respect for women, have many corruption cases on them, but still happily continue in their respective capacities.
I never got married for I wanted to work for Hindutva and nation, that is my personal dedication towards the cause.
Q : Why there is a ban on you in Goa, i think its almost been 3 years of ban now?
PM: Yes, fact is that a state government cannot ban an organization on its own. It sends a request to center which has the final authority to ban any organization. And going by law, such an organization has to be anti-national to deserve the ban. Sri Ram Sene is not actually banned in Goa, it is me and some leaders of Sena who are banned. We can’t enter Goa. We have been banned under section 144, its a preventive ban that has been imposed. This ban can only be imposed for a period of 2 months at a time, so they are continuously renewing it. This section can be imposed in view of an urgency, what kind of an urgency lasts for 3 years?
Congress government in Goa under Digambar Kamat had also banned me sometime in 2008, for 60 days. The truth is that the Catholic hold and illegal mafias in Goa wouldn’t let Hindu activists live easy. Illegal wine shops, pubs, sex mafia etc contribute at least about 30% to annual income of the state. They know if we enter the state, we will speak against those mafias. Hence, they lobby for the ban in indirect ways.
Q : You were in Bajrang Dal long back, then in Shiv Sena. What made you float your own organization?
PM : I worked full-time with RSS for 12 years. Then I joined VHP and worked for Bajrang Dal for 10 years – I was South Bharat Pramukh. I was becoming very popular and my uncompromising attitude became a problem for some. I think some simply couldn’t tolerate my successful contributions. Last couple of years were tough with RSS. Then I moved to Shiv Sena and contributed immensely for 6 months, but because of its regionalism and disputes regarding border issues of Karnataka and Maharashtra, I quit Shiv Sena and floated Sri Ram Sena in 2006. We also have Rashtriya Hindustan Sena as our registered political party, but currently dormant.
Q : You said calling Sri Ram Sena merely a vigilantist organization is obfuscating core Hindu issues. What are the other activities of Sena?
PM : We are present in 26 out of 30 districts in Karnataka. We did our member census 2 years back, we were 2.7 lakhs strong then. We run 8 Goshalas (cow shelters) and 18 Vyayamshalas (gyms) in Karnataka. We have 3,700 full-time active karyakartas (members) and we also have a Womens Wing called Durga Sena, contrary to the claims that we are anti-women. We believe that women can contribute a lot to the Hindu cause.
Q : Nobody knows outside Karnataka that you run cow-shelters and gyms. Don’t you think you need to have more presence in social media and representatives in English media?
PM : Unfortunately, we still struggle for funds and more working hands. I understand the need to get active on social media. But you know, only 4% Hindus of Bharat are English speaking. It is unfortunate that an average Hindu feels very limited in expression because our own native languages are treated as second class. 99% English media is anti-Hindu in approach and this approach cannot be corrected. We at Sri Ram Sena practice no compromise with ideology so we are always cornered by media. Personally, I have given my life to this cause and nobody can raise a single case of corruption or compromise about me. But we shall try to have presence in social media.
Q : Thank you for speaking to us.
PM : Thank you for speaking to Sri Ram Sena, Hari Om.
Reading references :
- Pramod Muthalik