Vigilante attacks continue unabated even as Mangalore struggles retain its cultural diversity

It was a day the city would liked to forget. For the second time in three years, Mangalore city was dragged into national and international infamy when ‘Mangalore’ and ‘moral policing’ were said in the same breath, the same headline space.

July 28. Around 7 p.m. A large group of men, from a fringe Hindutva outfit, saw fit their “moral” duty to barge into an innocuous birthday party in a boarding home in Padil on the outskirts of the city.

Captured by television channel cameramen, 10 minutes was all around 50 men needed to assault, cuss, molest, and denigrate the hapless women and men.

Who can forget the resounding sound of the slap delivered by an assaulter, after one of the girls asked “what was going on” in an oft-repeated visual?

A few beer bottles were shown as if trophies of triumph; while one of the two men in the house was stripped and forced to share a bed, while the girls, also dragged into the room, cowered at the head of the bed in fear. The immediate aftermath included protests, clamping of Section 144 in the city, questions of police involvement, attempts by certain groups and even statements by the Karnataka State Women’s Commission directly or indirectly blaming the culture of “immoral activities, alcohol and drugs” among college students, and persecution of the media for filming the assault.

The incident still reverberates in the city, in the form of Naveen Soorinje, a reporter who filmed the incident, being arrested on November 7. Branded under the same sections as the assaulters – dacoity, outraging the modesty of women among others – Mr. Soorinje and Sharan, Sahaya TV cameraman who was also charge-sheeted, have the additional charges of indecent representation of women against them. After having his bail petition rejected twice by the lower courts and once by the High Court, Mr. Soorinje is planning his next course of action while Mr. Sharan remains “absconding”.

No end

However, while the incident reached national spotlight, Dakshina Kannada district has numerous such blots in 2012.

On July 28, around 50 men from a fringe Hindutva organisation, assaulted college girls and two men event organisers at a birthday party in Padil.

Out of 44 persons named in the chargesheet, 31 persons, including a journalist, have been arrested in connection with the incident.

Naveen Soorinje, whose reporting saw the visuals being telecast nationwide, has now been behind bars for 50 days.

Smaller instances of moral policing continue in the district with an eerie frequency, with Hindu and Muslim right-wing groups being responsible for violence against men and women.

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