“Our activists will go around with a priest, a turmeric stub and a mangalsutra on February 14. If we come across couples being together in public and expressing their love, we will take them to the nearest temple and conduct their marriage.”
– Pramod Muthalik
On the twenty-sixth of January 1950, the day of enactment of the Indian Constitution, We, the people of India were promised justice, equality, liberty and fraternity. While the years have seen India change and evolve, there is so much that still needs to be done post 64 years of supposedly being free. I use the word supposed to indicate that India and the Indian society will never be completely free until men like Pramod Muthalik are eradicated from the society.
Pramod Muthalik, to give a brief introduction is the chief of Sri Rama Sene, the Hindu extremist group that is often classified under the group of the Hindu Taliban organizations. Muthalik joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1975, at the age of thirteen. In 2004, he was appointed as the Chief of Bajrang Dal for South India, and moved on to become part of the Shiv Sena the very next year, citing wanting to gain a greater political platform for the propagation of Hindutva as the reason. He was also the prime individual responsible for the establishment of the Shiv Sena in Karnataka. In 2006, he quit the Shiv Sena as the organization was demanding the amalgamation of the Marathi-speaking regions of Karnataka with Maharashtra. He then founded the Rashtriya Hindu Sena, the parent organization of the Sri Rama Sene.
Muthalik, although for long has been wanted by the police for making inflammatory and anti-Muslim speeches, inciting religious intolerance, threatening violence and in many other matters for which he has never been arrested (more than 40 in number), came to the limelight only in 2008, when he made a substantial amount of claims about the organization he heads.
The first was that he was convening the Rashtra Raksha Sene, the Hindu answer to Islamic terrorist groups. He further added that more than 700 individuals were being trained to carry out suicide attacks, and that the Indian Government itself was taking his help in eradicating terror. He is also said to have distributed flyers which read that all Muslims are terrorists. This extremist approach and the incitement of Hindus against Muslims by making suchÂ generalizedÂ communal statement defeats the whole concept of brotherhood, and the whole purpose of equality. Islamic militants are responsible for terror across the world, yes, but accusing all Muslims of the same is nothing but a gross misstatement. Blaming all Muslims for the act of the few is just as fair as blaming all Hindus for the acts done by people like Muthalik.
Secondly, he made few of the most controversial statements after the Mangalore Pub Attack where unsuspecting girls were beaten up because they were indulging in pub culture. The Sri Rama Sene is said to be the force behind this attack.
After the incident, Muthalik spoke to the press, saying that Indian women should not be going to pubs as it is against our culture. Apparently, he has never heard of the word Globalisation. With the amount of cultural exchange that India indulges in with other countries, pub culture and the concept of partying is now accepted by the Indian society to a reasonable extent. Indian culture is undefined per se, mainly because it involves so many elements from various religions and other cultures as well. Deciding what is Indian culture and what is not is not the task of men like Muthalik who will be contented only if women are suffocated within the prison-like walls of an orthodox home. It is extremely demeaning and a vulgar violation of human rights that such extremists beat up women and justify their acts. How can there be a justification for abuse? And how can a few men decide what the Indian women must or mustn’t do?
The third incident occurred in 2010 when he said in a public statement that any couple’s seen strolling on Valentine’s Day will be whisked off to a temple to be wed. Here again, his utterly irrational nature is blatantly visible. He said that Valentine’s Day is a western concept, and not Indian; therefore, couples will be lifted off roads and taken to the nearest temple and that their marriage would be conducted.
As the citizens of India, and more importantly, as human beings, each one of us has the right to celebrate or reject various days that have been dedicated to specific occasions such as mother’s day, Valentine’s day, etc.; to accept or decline various practices and faiths. It is a purely personal matter of choice and must remain as such. What one celebrates in nobody’s business but their own. How can a group of men decide for so many others?
As mentioned earlier, he is wanted for many offences, but it is the above three that strike a chord the most. Who is this man, claiming to be the protector of the Hindu Dharma? Who has given him the right to decide what is right or wrong, moral or immoral? There is probably no answer to this because people like Pramod Muthalik never need a reason to do what they think is right.
Hindutva- Muthalik uses the term with alarming frequency. Hinduism, as has been widely accepted, is not meant to be the basis for religious fundamentalism because it is not a religion in itself. It is a way of life and/or a state of mind, according to the Supreme Court of India. Veer Savarkar used the term Hindutva to describe Hindu characteristics. I believe Hinduism has been ascribed the status of a religion, but remains to be what it was originally- a conglomeration of practices, beliefs and traditions. No consensus can be arrived at to define Hinduism because it is so complex in its nature and being, as well as vast and all-inclusive, and this expansive ambit puts forth various challenges every time an attempt is made to give Hinduism a more comprehensive summary. Most fanatics like Muthalik believe that they are the messengers out to spread the word about Hindutva, when in reality, they are the least qualified to do so. Hinduism speaks of Dharma, the righteous path of life, and Muthalik is by no means righteous.
Religion is a mere tool in the hands of men like Pramod Muthalik, and nothing more than a pawn in the larger game of politics. They use and discard terms like religion and terror like tissues and have no respect for an individual’s right to freedom and dignity. The magazine Tehelka also conducted a sting operation, and Muthalik was caught on camera saying that he could organize riots for various sums of rupees.
Is it fair for such a man to be let loose on the society? Pramod Muthalik is a threat to the society, to the dignity of the common man, to the morality of the human race. He is a prime example of what religious fanaticism can do to a person.
The Police must be proactive, must open their eyes and see what more men like him can do to India. The country will be ruined if people like him continue to instigate the masses, and most imperatively the youth. And as he claims, if the Government is indeed taking his assistance in combating various militant groups, they will probably regret it the day Muthalik’s group will turn out to be the most oppressive of them all. The Government must certainly act in preventing the outbreak of such extremist groups, perhaps by imposing bans on such openly discriminatory and violent behaviour. The Karnataka Government, as always, remains in a state of continued turmoil and will probably sideline these acts of Muthalik because the officials in power are so busy trying to retain their posts for more than just a couple of months.
We need people to raise their voices higher and over the din that such people make. Because as William Faulkner said, ‘Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.’