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Thursday, March 12, 2009



(Women’s Day 2009 is being celebrated all over the world as the
centenary year of International Women’s Day. It marks about a hundred
years since the working women of several cities in the US sparked off
a remarkable struggle for their wages, the 8-hour working day and
other working conditions – and also for the right to vote.

In India, Women’s Day will be an occasion to reflect on the remarkable
strides that the women’s movement has made – in the world and in India
too. But recent events – like the assaults on women in Karnataka;
women being drawn into the workforce in large numbers, but in
ruthlessly casualised, contractualised, insecure and exploitative work
conditions; the denial of equal rights and minimum and equal wages in
the workplace (even in ‘flagship’ schemes like NREGA); and the
betrayal by the ruling UPA Government of the Bill for 33% reservation
for women in Parliament and Assemblies – will also remind us that
those achievements of the women’s movement are under a concerted
attack – by the communal fascists as well as by neoliberal economic
policies being pursued by the Government. Ed/-)

Gendered Violence by Communal Fascists

(Rati Rao, Vice President of AIPWA, has for several decades been a
leading figure in the women’s movement in Karnataka and the country,
associated with the Mysore-based Samata Vedike. Rati Rao comments on
the pub attacks in Mangalore and its implications for the women’s

Mangalore is a port city known for its cosmopolitanism, where speakers
of many languages (Tulu, Kannada, Konkani, Beary etc), as well as many
communities including Hindu Billavas, Mogaveeras, Bunts & Saraswats,
the Muslim Bearys, Catholics, Jains and others have coexisted. Today,
however, Mangalore is at the center of a communal fascist tsunami that
threatens this heritage – and gendered assaults on women are a key
element in this fascist offensive.

A spate of incidents:

On 24 January 2009, Sangh Parivar goons styling themselves as the Sri
Rama Sene (SRS) entered a pub in Mangalore, brutally assaulted women
guests, dragging them by hair, tearing their clothes, slapping and
molesting them. The few onlookers (like one Pavan Shetty) who came
forward to help were also not spared. On the same day in the Balmatta
area of Mangalore, SRS goons attacked a house where women from non-
Hindu communities were invited for a party. On 06 February 2009,
Shruti a 2nd year Pre-University student of St Aloysius College,
Mangalore (and daughter of C.K. Kunhambu, CPI(M) MLA from Kerala),
along with a Muslim friend Shabeeb, were dragged out of a private bus
at Pumpwell and forced into an auto rickshaw by Hindutva goons, who
warned Shruti not to talk to non-Hindus as they are ‘inhuman’.

On 11 February 2009, 16-year-old Ashwini, daughter of Mr Jayamoolya
Elinge of Mulky (near Mangalore) committed suicide following public
humiliation by the Hindutva forces for walking on a street with a
Muslim boy. Ashwini and her classmate Madhavi, students of a PU
college at Aikala village, boarded a bus on 10 February. Rafique, the
helper of the bus, said they got off at Moodibidri with Abdul Salim,
the bus conductor, whose father was the owner of the bus. The three
walked towards Venoor where Hindutva vigilantes accosted them. The
girls were beaten up and humiliated for being friendly with someone
from another religion. Later in the police station at Moodibidri,
Ashwini’s father was asked to lodge a complaint against Abdul Salim by
the police, but he refused. Then Ashwini’s family too was publicly
humiliated by the mob at the police station – and she committed
suicide the next morning.

There is a long record of such incidents in the past several months in
the same region (see The Hindu, 2 September 2009). In December 2008, a
college bus on an official trip was stoned at Mangalore by Bajrang Dal
activists. Classmates, both boys and girls, were beaten up – the
pretext was that Hindu girls should not interact with Muslim or
Christian classmates. On 24 August 2008, a bus was intercepted at a
prominent junction in Mangalore; a Hindu girl and her Muslim fiancée
were dragged off the bus and assaulted. In another incident on 8
August 2008, Bajrang Dal activists stopped a bus in the city, and
assaulted Syed, Zulfikar and Ameen, because these young boys helped a
few girls with their bags, as the latter did not get seats in the bus.
Bajrang dal leader Sudarshan Moodbidri had claimed responsibility for
both the August incidents (Hindu 9.02.09), declaring that “girls
reform themselves once they are thrashed and humiliated in public, but
boys are tougher to control.” Clearly, months before pub attack, a
Sangh Parivar leader in Karnataka was openly recommending ‘thrashing
and humiliating’ women, including school girls and college going
women) in public as a measure of moral policing. He and his ilk were
allowed a free rein; and at least one schoolgirl – Ashwini – lost her
life as a result of such ‘thrashing and humiliation.’

The pub attack was of a piece with these communal fascist attacks. The
mischievous attempts to whip up a debate on ‘pub culture’ deliberately
deflect attention from the fact that the real target is not pubs, but
women’s freedom and communal harmony.

Subsequently, the SRS declared they would oppose Valentine’s Day all
over Karnataka and India; if they found any couple or girl and boy
together, they would force them to opt for either “rakhi or

Waves of protests: The pub attack became a national issue because the
electronic media showed live footage of the incident. The
unprecedented coalition of civic groups all over Karnataka and in the
other parts of India to protest the attacks on women by SRS, Bajrang
Dal and their other outfits has been heartening. On 30 January 2009,
progressive organizations in Mysore held a sit-in dharna at Gandhi
Square in the heart of the city. Women’s organizations including
Samata Vedike and AIPWA, PUCL, drama groups, peasant groups, dalit
organizations, and intellectuals spoke on the occasion. More than 100
people participated. On the same day at Bangalore a huge rally was
organized to condemn the incident, and various women’s groups and
democratic organizations took part, raising slogans, “Ban SRS,” “Home
Minister should resign”, “Who gave the SRS the contract to save Hindu
culture”? It was pointed out 42 cases pending against Muthalik, State
President, SRS, were withdrawn. Thus the State has helped these self-
proclaimed vigilantes to indulge in their criminal activities.
Karnataka Komusauharda Vedike has been organizing public protests
against Sangh Parivar at Davanagere, Gadag etc .

On 31 January 2009, people from all walks of life (numbering around
300) assembled at Kadri park at Mangalore. They lauded Pavan Shetty
for his courage and conscience in accosting the perpetrators, and
filing a case against the SRS goons even after being beaten up by
them! Many prominent citizens of Mangalore condemned the pub attack.

Protests against the Valentine’s Day threats have been pouring in.
Many civic groups all over Karnataka and India protested against
these. At Mysore on 14 February, more than 100 people belonging to
various progressive groups formed a Human Chain at K R Circle. A huge
public protest was organized at Mangalore on the 20 February at the
DC's office against “Goondagiri in the name of protecting culture.”

Deflecting the Debate:

The National Commission of Women Chairperson Ms Girija Vyas refused to
accept the report of its member Nirmala Venkatesh who was sent on fact-
finding mission to Mangalore on the pub issue. She rejected the report
on the ground that it had not followed the norm that requires a three-
member team inclusive of a social activist; and also because none of
the attack victims were contacted and because undue emphasis was
placed on the nature of license issued to the pub which was not a part
of the mandate. However, Girija Vyas was silent on the worst
patriarchal sentiments uttered publicly by Ms. Venkatesh: declaring
that the ‘poor boys’ (perpetrators of crime) who met her in jail told
her they were disturbed by women in ‘naked dress’ (a mystifying
concept; after all, we know ‘naked’ and ‘dress’ – but what is ‘naked
dress’ we wonder), and that ‘after all ‘women have to be responsible
for their own safety.’ Later, the statement of the SRS backing this
woman did not surprise us. The SRS has no objection to ‘sadhus’ going
naked, nor to nakedness in temple sculpture – the only objection is to
women exercising choice and control over their bodies and
relationships. In any case, it was obvious in the live footage of the
assault, that the women were far from naked: it was only the SRS cadre
who were tearing off their clothes!

The Ministry of Women & Child Welfare also sent a team to investigate.
The Mayor of Mangalore has filed a case against Minister Renuka
Chaudhry for talking of ‘Talibanisation.’ The Mayor, so proactive when
it came to the charge of Talibanisation, did nothing to protect the
city’s women from goons.

There have also been some protests by SHG and Stree Shakti groups
obviously sponsored by saffron brigade against ‘pub culture’. These
got a fillip from the pronouncements of many – including Rajasthan CM
from the Congress Ashok Gehlot and Union Health Minister Anbumani
Ramadoss against ‘pub culture’. The simple question is: how come there
was no debate on men going to pubs? Why were women singled out for
attack in the pub? Pravin Valke, founder of the SRS’s statement
reveals that it not pubs, but women’s freedom and unconventional roles
that are the target. He said, “Pubs should be for men only. Women
should be at home by 7 pm. Why should they go to pubs: are they
learning to serve their husbands alcohol? They should learn to make
chapattis instead.”

Government Patronage:

All along the State Government, and especially the BJP government, has
been soft on the Sangh Parivar. In fact the Home Minister even said he
was considering appointing a media ‘ombudsman’ to screen media reports
that ‘lack objectivity’ and pronounce 'judgment' on issues. No doubt
he has no objection to media pronouncing judgement on innocent Muslims
branded by the police as terrorists – his concern is to muzzle the
media which exposes the Sangh’s own violent, communal, and anti-women

The State Human Rights Commission Chairperson SR Nayak has pulled up
the State for its inaction on the issue of moral policing in the wake
of the suicide of 16-year-old college girl.

Understanding the roots: The Dakshina Kannada (DK) district has been
known for the highest literacy rate in the state and for a modern
cosmopolitan society. The syncretism had a material basis in the
coastal communities. Fishing is the occupation of Mogaveera men,
wholesale purchase, that of Beari (Muslims), and retail that of
Mogaveera women. The famous Mangalore lily, is grown by Christians,
wholesale purchase done by Bearis and retail sale by Hindus, who also
wear it. The coconut, mangoes, tamarind grown by Hindus, is purchased
wholesale by Bearis.

The soil of DK has witnessed powerful social movements since the 1980s
– some of the prominent ones being against the MRPL, against the deal
with the US power MNC Cogentrix, against coal-fired thermal power
plants, against the Nagarjuna steel plant and on environmental issues.
There is a powerful local legacy of communal harmony: the Bappa temple
built by Bappa Beari near Mulky in Bappanadu; the figures of Chamundi
and Babbaria; the cult of Madeena Durga of Ullala and Saida Bee Durga
of Mangalore (important Sufi cultural figures). The growth of the
Sangh Parivar in this region has been marked by the systematic
destruction of this culture, replacing it by one of communal hatred –
a project nurtured in the Sangh ‘laboratory’.

Women’s Movement Gains Under Fascist Attack

The idea that the pub attack reflected some sort of real resentment or
moral outrage against a certain elite lifestyle is not looking beyond
the surface. The women’s movement fought for decades for democratizing
their private sphere and the public space. All along the conservatives
tried to push us back to smothering spaces inside the homes and even
at the workplace. The women’s movement aspires for freedom, space and
decision-making power for women. But, all along we are pulled up on
the issue of dress codes, behaviour, mobility and personal life
choices (as to whom to choose as life partner etc). Why are women
alone made to bear the burden of ‘culture’- thereby forcing them to
tolerate the ‘culture’ of female foeticide, female infanticide, denial
of education for women, dowry murders, and drunken husbands’ daily

This is the real question posed by the Mangalore attack – with which
the women’s movement is grappling.


Protests in Karnataka

On 31 January 2009 CPIML and RYA jointly organized a protest rally at
Gangavati against the attack on women in a Mangalore pub. The 200-
strong rally of youth demanded a ban on SRS, booking Pramod Muthalik
and other culprits under Goonda’s Act, and resignation of Home
Minister VS Acharya and Chief Minister Yeddyurappa. They held that the
government is diverting the real issue of women’s freedom and secular
democracy and fanning feudal culture through communal fascist outfits
by invoking the bogey of ‘pub culture’. The BJP government is actually
promoting such outfits will links with terrorist organisations like
the ‘Abhinav Bharat’, and others alleged to have links with the
Malegaon blasts. At the culmination of the rally the young rallyists
burnt the effigy of Pramod Muthalik. The rally was led by Comrade J
Bharadwaj, State President of AIALA and the dharna was presided over
by Rafeeq, RYA convener.

Dr Lakshminarayana, State Convener of Indian Institute of Marxist
Studies (IIMS) and V Shankar, CCM, addressed the gathering.

AIPWA joined the protest rally on 30 January at Mysore, jointly
organized by various women’s and progressive organizations, including
PUCL and Samata Vedike. Comrade Rati Rao, National Vice-President of
AIPWA, Dr Lakshminarayana, State General Secretary of PUCL and Meera
Nayak of Samata Vedike addressed the gathering at Mysore apart from
many leaders representing various other organizations. Comrade
Gandhimathi, NCM joined the protest rally at Bangalore on the same
day. Comrade Rati Rao participated in the protest rally at Mangalore
also on 31 January 2009.

AISA and AIPWA Defy the Morality Police

To challenge the Sangh Parivar's Valentine's Day threats, hundreds of
students of Delhi University, together with teachers from DU and JNU,
writers and literary figures, including Rajendra Yadav (editor, Hans),
Arundhati Roy (writer) and Rameshwar Rai (Reader, Hindu College)
gathered at the DU Arts Faculty to celebrate 'Love in our Times.' The
event was organized by AISA and AIPWA. The event was preceded by an
intensive two-week-long campaign amongst DU students.

Students and teachers from DU read out passages on the theme of
freedom of expression, women's rights, from Periyar, Engels, Canadian
writer Margaret Atwood, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Habib Jalib, and gay and
lesbian writings to an enthusiastic audience. One student read out a
poem by Akka Mahadevi – woman poet-saint of Karnataka several
centuries ago, whom the BJP wanted to ban from the textbooks. One
teacher read out a poem on the suicide of the Mangalore schoolgirl and
one on the nude protest of the Manipuri women after the army jawans
raped Thangjam Manorama. The area outside the Arts Faculty was
decorated with poetry-posters. One poster asked, "Daughters killed for
'honour', Rizwanur Rehman, Nitish Katara – why does love in caste
society carry the price of death?"

Rameshwar Rai, Reader, Hindu, spoke about love as a form of rebellion.
Ridiculing the Sangh plan to force couples to choose between rakhi and
sindur, he said that love, friendship, relationships were a personal
matter and no one should be allowed to impose their own views on
others in such matters.

Rajendra Yadav, editor, Hans, said that we in India cannot face the
future if we burden ourselves with the weight of the past 'culture.'
The Sangh Parivar and BJP in the name of 'Indian culture,' are
imposing a patriarchal norm, he said, and seeking to suppress women's
freedom. He said their opposition to 'western culture' is hypocritical
– and it is impossible to separate 'Indian' culture from 'Western'

Arundhati Roy read out the passage from 'The God of Small Things' –
which speak of breaking the "Love Laws" which lay down "who could be
loved, and how, and how much." She said that we are indeed in the
midst of 'love wars' – on the one hand, she said, we love freedom, and
democracy and they love repression, they love celebrating rapes of
Muslim women in Gujarat. She said that for her, 'love and azaadi
(freedom) were inextricably linked, and she spoke of the linkages
between the struggle against the Sangh Parivar and other people's
struggles against displacement and democracy. She said that for all
those gathered there, 'Valentine's Day' as such had no meaning; it
meant nothing but 'Styrofoam hearts'. But what was important was to
challenge and celebrate, daily, the struggle for freedom and
democracy. It was because the Sangh Parivar was attacking Valentine's
Day that this day has been chosen for this celebration.

On Valentine’s Day itself, AISA and AIPWA held a march in and around
the DU North Campus. Cultural teams of Sangwari and Awaam comprising
of Jamia Millia Islamia students sang creative and defiant songs
celebrating the "right to live and love in freedom" and performed
street plays on this theme. The students marched to various colleges
in the DU campus and also to the Kamla Nagar market area where, in the
past, the Sangh Parivar has indulged in vandalism on Valentine's Day.
In the crowded Kamla Nagar market they raised slogans, "Love is not a
crime, so why fear the Sanghi terrorists?"



  1. Recent attacks on women is an all India phenomena,singling Mangalore or Karnataka is just narrowing the basic problem.when women start earning, one should understand that, she is exposed to a new freedom(financial) which
    the menfolk are not ready to give into.
    Added to this these women are not godfearing
    and are pure opportunists(esp hindus).Today women find it stylish to say that"I do not know to cook".(please do not underestimate, this means that the man is now exposed to work outside, cook, clean,wash whereas the women have found a new alibi in working outside.What is required is social engineering ,wherein both genders from childhood are exposed to cook,wash and clean the house irrespective of the sex and a healthy atmosphere is created at HOME.One has to understand that it requires a statesman and not a politician to adress this problem and if necessary include in the cirricullam from grade 1.

    rajaram shastri

  2. what is required is a healthy respect for women and the education of both men AND women. women should understand that they are capable of achieving the same success that men do and the men should learn that women are equal to them...that they ought to be grateful to them for enduring pain and suffering to bring them into this world, and that inspite of 9 months of discomfort, they are loved unconditionally. if men start respecting women and seeing them as equal, then many societal ills will have been solved. in fact, india could be even more advanced than the u.s. if men and women understand that they are equal.


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always want to defend peace, justice, peoples' right to love each other and live with dignity,struggles against parochial visions and hatred;instinctively a defender of socialist and democratic values