Mangalore: Women in Mangalore have decided to put newly-elected legislators on probation. If the MLAs don’t measure up, women activists say, they will attempt to fire them.
Elections will be held in Karnataka next Sunday and activists in this coastal city say irrespective of which party forms the government, the MLAs in this region will be handed a charter of duties, primary among them to rid the city of a self-appointed moral brigade – a group of men who swoop down on youngsters at bars or public places and humiliate them, even roughing them up. These men claim to be associated with Hindutva and say they are protecting morality and “Indian culture.”
Activits Vidya Dinker calls these mobs “goonda elements.” She says the women will tell the legislator, “We have hired you and this is your job description.” They plan regular performance assessments and are even studying how an elected representative who fails to ensure security for women can be sacked. At the very least, promises Ms Dinkar, there will be protests.
In July last year, Sushant (name changed) threw a birthday party for 11 friends at a home stay outside Mangalore. Just before the party began, nearly 40 men from the Hindu Jagrane Vedike gatecrashed, pulled Sushant by his hair and threw him on the floor. Six men wearing boots then kicked him. They also tore the clothes of the girls present.
His attackers are now in jail, but Sushant says the fear will not go. He says students are attacked in buses and even on their way to college and many are just choosing to leave Mangalore. The city, which once attracted more than a 1000 students from India and overseas at its education institutes every year, now reports a fraction of that footfall.
Pamela, a student, says she seldom steps out of home after 7 pm. Being seen with boys or wearing a certain kind of clothes could invite an attack from these groups. She recounts how her friend, out wearing a pair of shorts, was confronted by a man who told her, “if you wear such clothes again, I’ll slap you and send you back home.”
The BJP government has been criticised for being soft on these groups. But such incidents of brute violence have happened irrespective of who is in power in Karnataka, though the so-called moral police has been very active in the last five of BJP rule.