‘Inaction of the State emboldening vigilante elements’

While incidents like the attack on a pub in 2009 and the ‘Homestay attack’ in July earlier this year may have hit national headlines, a report by nongovernmental organisations said there were up to 300 “communal-related attacks” in the district in the years preceding them.

Compiling media reports, the fact-finding committee of the Forum Against Atrocities on Women constituted after the assault on college students in Padil on July 28, said between 1998 and the Padil attack, the media recorded 145 attacks pertained to boy-girl interactions, 44 for transportation of cattle and sale of beef, 45 attacks on churches, nine riot situations and 37 other assaults. Drawing from this, the report says: “The only conclusion one can draw is that the inaction of the State has emboldened vigilante elements in the State to continue to enforce their version of morality on the public.”

Releasing the report on Sunday here, Hemalata Mahishi, senior advocate, said it would ask why and how Mangalore changed from being a city of peace to being one of communal violence. “We all watched the visuals of the assault on July 28, and we hanged our heads in shame. Who gave them the moral right to attack women? Where did they get the courage to do this? Is there political motivation for this?” she asked.

Commenting about the police case against the perpetrators of the crime, she said: “The case looks strong, and need to take it to the logical end. The charge-sheet against them is a step in the right direction. However, we need to see how many eye-witnesses come forward, and how many girls, who have key evidences, will testify. How the case is handled will set a trend and be an example for similar actions in the future.”

Ms. Mahishi lambasted the filing of cases against reporter Naveen Soorinje who filmed the incident. “They have made a key eye-witness an accused… It is through the efforts of media persons there that the incident became nationwide news… Naveen’s case is strong,” she said.

Similarly, Vardesh Hiregange, Director, Manipal Institute of Communication, stood by Mr. Soorinje, calling the cases against him “blatantly unjust”. “He fulfilled his role as a journalist. As the crackdown on Tehelka a decade ago shows, the government machinery can resort to complete harassment of those it finds a hindrance,” he said.

Making a case for the hundreds of incidents of vigilante attacks to be looked through a larger, grimmer prism, Arvind Narrain of Alternative Law Forum, said these represented an assault on the preamble and the Constitution: the violence was against people who were well within the morality as given by the law; the violence destroyed the freedom to an intimate life; and against B.R. Ambedkar’s vision of a country where people interacted freely.

Keywords: mob attacks

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