Marriage took me to Mangalore. Living in Attavar, I saw the city as a sister/lover: a feisty woman caught in the grip of a violent, disapproving man, she’d be rid of him if she found her strength. So, when I first heard of the recent assault by Hindutva vigilantes at a resort in Padil, I was relieved that Mangalore’s everyday fate was finally gaining national attention.
Mangalore’s story has its twisted echo in Subash Padil, a right-wing criminal of the Hindu Jagaran Vedike with an astounding record: participation in the pub attacks in 2009 to real estate-related violence to masterminding the July 28 assault at Morning Mist Home Stay.
Mangalore’s story also shows how Hindutva seeks to regulate social life; how dress becomes a component of identity construction to define the Other. RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat had wanted the veils of Muslim women to be lifted so he could glimpse what they had to offer. Even ex-women and child development minister C.C. Patil, with a weakness for pornography, had exhorted women to dress decently. Here, Muslim women are blamed for covering up, Christian women are blamed for showing skin and Hindu women are blamed for aping them.
Capitalising on conservative tendencies, Hindutva has managed to turn everyone in the city into an informer. Bus conductors send SMSes to reactionary outfits when they see an inter-religious couple socialise. Mobilisation, like justice, is instant. Recruiting its rank and file from the backward castes like Billavas and Mogaweeras, Hindutva has indoctrinated them and created vigilantes. So, they break into private property to deliver justice. Under the BJP government, they have immunity from prosecution. To keep its loyalty intact, the police arrive late, chat with the assailants and question the “morality/necessity” of partying. Cases are filed against TV journalist Naveen Soorinje under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, though without his footage, this incident would have been buried in the hundreds of cultural policing episodes that hold Mangalore ransom.
Today, a friend tells me that in response to spontaneous protests by students, Kadri police station inspector Venkatesh Prasanna—infamous for inflicting violence on inter-religious couples—has vowed to make life miserable for students of St Agnes College.
The reaction of the state machinery is as much revealing as it is outrageous: Padil, July 28, is not viewed by the state machinery as sustained, majoritarian, hypermasculine Hindu terror in a multi-religious society; or as molestation, sexual harassment or non-penetrative rape enacted on the female body in order to punish and discipline it; or as a total sellout of the police to fanatical forces. Things that are normal almost everywhere else in the world—young people wearing stylish clothes, sitting next to each other in a bus, having a drink, partying—are identified as problem elements by Hindutva hooliganism that legitimises itself under the guise of protecting ‘Indian culture’.
This Indian culture is the most radical idea in recent years to have simultaneously entered the minds of Hindu fundamentalist groups and self-proclaimed feminists like National Commission for Women chairperson Mamta Sharma. In keeping with the patriotic spirit of the season, I call upon these outfits to revive the said culture by promoting the elegant style of clothing showcased by Chola bronzes. Desi Designer Wear. Since it’s always summer in south India, there’s no need to bother about a Fall/Winter collection.
Moving from apparel to food, I want to remind the right-wing outfits that Sangam-era warriors enjoyed their booze after a delicious meal cooked to such perfection that distinguishing meat from rice was like picking silt from river sand. That’s a couple of thousand years ago, but country booze can be brought back into fashion. In Tamil, there is documented evidence of toddy from the root of the fig tree, toddy from the bark of the usilam (sirisa) tree, toddy from the flowers of iluppai (mahua) tree, palmyra toddy, peepal toddy, coconut toddy and even paddy toddy. We Tamils were known to dig our drinks in its highly fermented form, so sour you would make a face just sipping it. My personal pick would be the mattu, distilled liquor from the sugarcane, a recommended aphrodisiac. Or, it would be the undaattu, an eponymous spirit that required you to drink, then dance. Ideally, I would buy it from a patuvi, a lady who sells liquor. Sorry for making references to my mother-tongue alone, but since you have Indian culture in mind, don’t forget that there are at least a thousand different languages here and 10 times as many drinks. Each of them is as Indian as the other. Dear Protector of Indian Culture, doesn’t this bubbly idea intoxicate you? Bring it back, bring it on, we’ll get drunk on this delight. Let us hit the dance floor, now.
Apropos Meena Kandasamy’s piece, Mangled Lore, the Hindutva ideology is all about imposing diktats on culture/ religion etc. Traditional Hinduism exercised control via the caste system, but with its effect fading (at least in the cities), now they’ve fallen back on other retrograde methods.
Vilasrao Kumar, Bangalore
In the south, the traditional attire for men was the dhoti, and perhaps another smaller piece of cloth used as turban/ towel etc. Nowadays, men have taken to wearing more clothes while women’s wear is getting skimpier.
R. Narasimhan, Chennai
We need more militant secularists like Meena. What Hindutva Taliban is doing is shameful.
Fundamentalism, in all Indian religions, is our curse.
V.N.K. Murti, Pattambi
What is the big deal in confronting Rama Sene with Chola bronzes?
R. Saroja, Mumbai
Who is that ‘mangled’ new crusader knocking out so courageously the ‘protectors of Indian culture’ (Mangled Lore, Aug 13)? What courage, what knowledge, what wisdom! Informed about the past and present, Meena Kandasamy unearths the mysteries of Mangalore. Indeed, a Daniel has come to judge. India needs many a Meena.
Born and brought up in Mangalore I find it sad to see a town that was the paragon of peaceful coexistence and was known for natural beauty, tasty food, cosmopolitan lifestyle, good education and polite people is now a national byword for communalism and vigilantism. it seems the town is in the clutch of extremists who want to convert their actions into political benefits.The need of the hour is for political representatives of all parties to make an effort to douse this fire which has the potential to consume this hamlet.
If any one has a reason to doubt the intentions of seemingly innocent partygoers to be illegal or indecent they should inform the law and not turn vigilantes.
The answer to this is not militant rantings such as those put forward by Meena Kandaswamy. These can only make matters worse. "An eye for an eye... ends in making everybody blind'. - MK Gandhi.
Voltaire once said "The person who says to me 'Believe as I do or God will damn you' will presently say 'Believe as I do or I will kill you' ". Vigilante groups must be neutered in no uncertain terms.
At the same time Meena is also rather provocative. While the Chola bronzes do show topless girls in self-confident poses, which itself says something about Indian society at that time, we cannot deny that all artistic efforts have a certain licence. For example, how many girls on the roads would be wearing the kind of costume an Anoushka Sharma or a Deepika Padukone can pull off? The Chola bronzes are the Anoushkas and Deepikas of the time.
In fact, considering the heat and the insects, loose light clothing which covers most of your body is perhaps the best option. Of course, Indians have a preference for bright colours - the sky is always blue, the leaves are green, hibiscus, marigold- colours everywhere.
However, the contention that the consumption of alcoholic stimulants has historical sanction is really rather too provocative. Surely science has convinced us the benefits of abstinence in this regard.
Unfortunately there is none. Smart people such as you should not waste your time trying to find any intellectual component in rituals/beliefs.
By the way how is the weather in England ?
@Everyone reading this:Don't fall for the trolling of the guy who commented before me.
This 'Eddie' is your typical troll.
In the uk these uncivilised wankers are called chavs.
Don't feed him.
Meena, I keep hearing about Indian (Hindu) culture but nobody explains what it is.
Is it about applying dots and dashes on the forehead, sprinkling coloured powder & liquid on people at Holi ( thereby polluting the streets), dragging deities on the streets (thereby polluting them) and immersing them in rivers/seas (thereby polluting them)?
Is their anything else? Is there any intellectual component?
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