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Hindutva Muscle Flexing in Karnataka

Laws are being readied in Karnataka targetting Christians and Muslims

by Gauri Lankesh, 25 October 2008

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Tehelka Magazine, November 01, 2008

A State Under Siege

Laws are being readied in Karnataka targetting Christians and Muslims

KARNATAKA HAS not yet become the Gujarat of 2002. And it is some way from becoming the Orissa of 2008. But that is of little comfort. Because Karnataka is all set to be the state to witness Hindutva fury in 2009.

In Karnataka, we are living in unfamiliar but discernibly dangerous times. We have a Chief Minister who has thrown all norms to the wind to please the heads of a few Hindu matts. We have a Home Minister who says the recent attacks on Christian churches were a "mere reaction to conversions" and ought not to be taken seriously since "no one has been killed so far". Our Education Minister insists that the Bhagavad Gita should be part of the school curriculum.

Meanwhile, demons are creeping in from all sides. Bit by bit, they are tearing apart the secular and progressive fabric of Karnataka, which had been woven with great care over the centuries. To give one example, a leading Kannada daily — Vijaya Karnataka — carried an article by wellknown Kannada writer SL Bhairappa, on October 16. Filling a page-and-a-half, it was nothing but pure diatribe against the Christian community.

Bhairappa, a long time fellow-traveller of the Sangh Parivar, had last year penned a novel, Aavarana, which painted Muslims as oppressors of Hindus, a fundamentalist community hell-bent on destroying Hindu temples, etc. Aavarana was a deceptive mixture of fiction and half-truths from the pages of Indian history. Though Bhairappa termed it a ’historical literary novel’, critics denounced it as neither literature nor history. The Sangh Parivar, however, eagerly promoted it.

Now — just like the Sangh Parivar and its goons — Bhairappa has trained his guns on the Christian community. Titled Could this have happened in any other country? he paints a picture of Christians as schemers out to destroy Hinduism through conversions, as plunderers of wealth, and so on. He writes: "though conversion to Christianity has been taking place over the last four centuries it has gone up alarmingly ever since Sonia Gandhi was installed on the throne of power. But the media has never bothered about it. However, now that some people have woken up to the big problem facing them and have expressed their reaction in some areas of Orissa and Karnataka, the secular publications and the leftleaning media are behaving as if India itself is being destroyed. Sonia’s followers, intellectuals, leftists, secularists and others have taken the side of the missionaries and are tarnishing Hindu organisations, religious heads and the BJP...."

Bhairappa does not have even the slightest sympathy for the thousands of Christians in Orissa who have lost their homes and lives. He has the least concern for those in Karnataka who were beaten up by both Saffronites and the police. That Vijaya Karnataka — which has long been acting as a pamphleteer of the Saffron brigade — published the piece was not surprising at all.

Bhairappa’s latest piece of ’fiction’ is a sign of things to come. Though there is not a single complaint of forced conversion in the state, the government and the Saffron brigade are orchestrating a highpitched demand for a law to ban conversions (target: Christians). Simultaneously, the government is also trying to bring in the Karnataka Organised Crime Control Act in order to “curb terrorism” (target: Muslims). Of course, there is always the handy ‘Naxalite’ tag to silence human rights activists, secularists and leftists.

It has been less than four months since the BJP came to power in the state. It has not delivered on even one of its many electoral promises. But it has succeeded in creating a state of siege. We are living in dangerous times.

(Lankesh is editor of the Kannada weekly, Lankesh)