A series of marches and human chains were organised Feb 12th across the city, protesting the attacks on women in Mangalore and the subsequent statements of Sri Rama Sene’s Pramod Muthalik.
Bengaluru Unites, a protest campaign mooted by Professor Rajeev Gowda of IIMB, saw attendance of thousands as students and professionals took off from classes and work to join hands against moral policing for about an hour on Thursday afternoon.
People congregated in more than a dozen locations across the city, from Mount Carmel College, Vasant Nagar to Garden City College, KR Puram, from Manyata Tech Park, Nagavara to Embassy Golf Links, Indira Nagar.
“Jobless Vulture, Don’t tell us about Indian Culture” screamed a placard, referring to Muthalik; “Culture Okay, Vulture Yaake?” pointed another. The peace protests, spanning various colleges across the city as well as technology company campuses, was a symbol of Bangaloreans coming out to signify their disapproval at the atrocious incident at Mangalore.
The NMKRV protest witnessed a large turnout of girls from the college. They were joined by members of Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled. These protests seemed to be a confluence of causes. Many organisations of different agendas used this opportunity to voice their antagonism for the radicals. “The act is completely outrageous. That is what made us attend the protest” said Anil, Harshal and Ashish, students of a nearby engineering college. Although political inclinations differed, the views were unanimously against the methods of the Sene “I don’t support pub-culture but manhandling women is unacceptable” said Sushmita, a science undergrad. The gathering group shouted slogans as bystanders watched amusedly. Many even joined in support.
Commuters driving past Jyothi Nivas College smiled as teachers, students and IT professionals held hands and sang the song Hum honge kamiyaab. This human chain stretched from Globus mall to Jyothi Nivas College in Koramangala, a distance of almost 1 km. John Pinto, a senior citizen and part of the Save Koramangala Initiative was there with his wife, Mira Pinto. He also supports the Pink Chaddi campaign and felt, “We should put Pink Chaddis all over the locality.” Mira voiced,“The Sene is taking us back to the dark age.” Another supporter from the chain jumped in the conversation and added, “Who has made him (Muthalik) the moral brigade, he has no authority. He simply wants to come into limelight.
Job Neroth, who joined the human chain from his workplace at Raheja Arcade, opined, “Some so-called moral brigades are taking people for granted and they need to understand that their aggressive behavior will not be taken quietly.”
The protests across the city were held simultaneously during lunch time, taking care to not disrupt traffic. Later, a congregation of NGOs and activists marched up from Hudson Circle to Town Hall. This rally was a “coalition” of organizations campaigning for human rights, and women’s liberty. Sangam, an organization of sexual minorities too joined the march as did the Alternative Law Forum. As policemen cautiously eyed the marching crowd, passionate chants against the Home Minister were heard. He was implored to “go home”.
The single most notable feature was the show of solidarity of citizens. Strangers shouted in unison and activists started conversation with other citizens about their own causes. A group of PhD students were busy discussing the farcical, popular Pink Chaddi Campaign.
We questioned some students on what exactly motivated them to participate. Veena, an engineering student believed that it was their duty to defend their liberties. “Isn’t it obvious?” said Anil pointing out that things had gotten too far. The turnout had seasoned activists and first timers in equal measure. Many agreed that they joined this protest as it impinged on their personal space. I heard someone remark loudly “Duddu, saarai thogondu matha kodtiddre, namige Saamajika Nyaya sigodilla.” (We won’t get Social Justice as long as Liquor and Money rule votes.) The candid opinion came from Devraj, an activist from the Farmers’ Union. His protest, he said, was against radicalism used as a political pawn. A journalist from a reputed weekly was representing a human rights NGO. The mosaic of backgrounds, although not new in the Bangalorean activist scene, is unfailingly interesting to observe.
Taking off from Thursday’s success a similar march has been organized by various NGOs on Saturday, 14th February at MG Road. “Valentine’s Day is a joke for most of us, no one gives it two hoots” says B N Jagadeesh a lawyer with ALF. “But this time round, we will celebrate it anyway” he says with a sneer. The general sentiment was that the Sri Rama Sene were receiving undue attention in excess. Jagadeesh confirms that this protest although in defiance of the Rama Sene, would give them no mileage by way of publicity. “We’re displaying our love for humanity” adds Jagdeesh, tongue nearly in cheek. Young people in the city are in sync with that sentiment. Many were gearing up to attend the “Defend the right to Love” march, in pink/red clothes on 14th February on MG Road.
"People have finally understood that it is possible for individual citizens to stand up and take on the "moral police" in innovative ways" observes Rajeev Gowda, when asked about the ‘take-aways’ from the protest. He explains that they did not deviate from the key issues of the campaign— Freedom and Equal Rights.
In all, the mood and sentiments of citizens can be fittingly described by faceless activists greeting each other with enquiries about the colour of their underclothes. “Pink, of course” someone said to a burst of defiant laughter.