The Sunday Story A series of audacious attacks on minorities and their institutions in Dakshina Kannada indicate police patronage for the perpetrators

There is a significant body of evidence to show that the rampant acts of vigilantism witnessed in coastal Karnataka enjoy police patronage.

Take, for instance, the July 28 Mangalore Homestay attack. While seeking bail from the High Court for journalist Naveen Soorinje, who was listed as an accused by the police, his lawyers played footage of the incident. The footage showed that police were present during the attack but did not act. Instead of arresting the attackers, the Inspector is seen pleading with attackers to leave the spot. Police records show that the men were arrested only 24 hours after the incident. Mr. Soorinje’s lawyer argued that the police acted against the vigilantes only after the media highlighted the outrage.

Although human rights and secular organisations present evidence on saffron groups in coastal Karnataka enjoying some degree of police patronage even in the 1980s and 1990s, the slant became more pronounced after the BJP came to power in May 2008.

A series of audacious attacks on minorities and their institutions in Dakshina Kannada have been recorded after the BJP’s ascent. These included 10 by saffron groups on Hindu-Muslim/Hindu-Christian couples between July and October 2008. In each of these, victims were dragged to the police station by attackers. There, instead of acting against the self-appointed enforcers of societal mores, the police filed cases against the victims under sections of the Karnataka Police Act, like 99 (O) relating to “indecency” and “public nuisance.”

After international condemnation of the September 2008 church attacks and the January 2009 pub attack, the then Chief Minister, B.S. Yeddyurappa, appointed Gopal B. Hosur as Inspector-General of Police (Western Range) and A.S. Rao as Superintendent of Police for Dakshina Kannada.

Mr. Hosur was given a free hand in the selection of officers down to the Sub-Inspector level. Several officers were replaced. The turnaround was remarkable and the few who dared to breach the peace were dealt with strongly. But when the top officers were transferred in 2011, the old order made a comeback. Suresh Bhat Bakrabail, a 67-year-old PUCL activist who has documented communal violence since 2006, has recorded 41 incidents in 2012 alone, including the infamous July 28 attack on the Homestay.


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