Mangalore’s story has its twisted echo in Subash Padil, a
right-wing criminal of the Hindu Jagaran Vedike with an astounding record:
participation in the pub attacks in 2009 to real estate-related violence to
masterminding the July 28 assault at Morning Mist Home Stay.
Mangalore’s story also shows how Hindutva seeks to regulate
social life; how dress becomes a component of identity construction to define
the Other. RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat had wanted the veils of Muslim
women to be lifted so he could glimpse what they had to offer. Even ex-women
and child development minister C.C. Patil, with a weakness for pornography, had
exhorted women to dress decently. Here, Muslim women are blamed for covering
up, Christian women are blamed for showing skin and Hindu women are blamed for
Capitalising on conservative tendencies, Hindutva has
managed to turn everyone in the city into an informer. Bus conductors send
SMSes to reactionary outfits when they see an inter-religious couple socialise.
Mobilisation, like justice, is instant. Recruiting its rank and file from the
backward castes like Billavas and Mogaweeras, Hindutva has indoctrinated them
and created vigilantes. So, they break into private property to deliver
justice. Under the BJP government, they have immunity from prosecution. To keep
its loyalty intact, the police arrive late, chat with the assailants and
question the “morality/necessity” of partying. Cases are filed against TV
journalist Naveen Soorinje under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, though
without his footage, this incident would have been buried in the hundreds of
cultural policing episodes that hold Mangalore ransom.
Today, a friend tells me that in response to spontaneous
protests by students, Kadri police station inspector Venkatesh
Prasanna—infamous for inflicting violence on inter-religious couples—has vowed
to make life miserable for students of St Agnes College.
The reaction of the state machinery is as much revealing as
it is outrageous: Padil, July 28, is not viewed by the state machinery as
sustained, majoritarian, hypermasculine Hindu terror in a multi-religious
society; or as molestation, sexual harassment or non-penetrative rape enacted
on the female body in order to punish and discipline it; or as a total sellout
of the police to fanatical forces. Things that are normal almost everywhere
else in the world—young people wearing stylish clothes, sitting next to each
other in a bus, having a drink, partying—are identified as problem elements by
Hindutva hooliganism that legitimises itself under the guise of protecting
This Indian culture is the most radical idea in recent years
to have simultaneously entered the minds of Hindu fundamentalist groups and
self-proclaimed feminists like National Commission for Women chairperson Mamta
Sharma. In keeping with the patriotic spirit of the season, I call upon these
outfits to revive the said culture by promoting the elegant style of clothing
showcased by Chola bronzes. Desi Designer Wear. Since it’s always summer in
there’s no need to bother about a Fall/Winter collection.
Moving from apparel to food, I want to remind the right-wing outfits that Sangam-era warriors enjoyed their booze after a delicious meal cooked to such perfection that distinguishing meat from rice was like picking silt from river sand. That’s a couple of thousand years ago, but country booze can be brought back into fashion. In Tamil, there is documented evidence of toddy from the root of the fig tree, toddy from the bark of the usilam (sirisa) tree, toddy from the flowers of iluppai (mahua) tree, palmyra toddy, peepal toddy, coconut toddy and even paddy toddy. We Tamils were known to dig our drinks in its highly fermented form, so sour you would make a face just sipping it. My personal pick would be the mattu, distilled liquor from the sugarcane, a recommended aphrodisiac. Or, it would be the undaattu, an eponymous spirit that required you to drink, then dance. Ideally, I would buy it from a patuvi, a lady who sells liquor. Sorry for making references to my mother-tongue alone, but since you have Indian culture in mind, don’t forget that there are at least a thousand different languages here and 10 times as many drinks. Each of them is as Indian as the other. Dear Protector of Indian Culture, doesn’t this bubbly idea intoxicate you? Bring it back, bring it on, we’ll get drunk on this delight. Let us hit the dance floor, now.