Mangaluru: Latest data shows that the number of communal incidents, particularly moral policing, has increased in Coastal Karnataka. According to Karnataka Communal Harmony Forum, Coastal Karnataka (Udupi and DK districts), witnessed over 120 communal incidents in 2021. This is the highest in the last four years.
"This year cases of moral policing have increased notably. I feel this is a move by the saffron outfits to put pressure on the government to bring the Anti-Conversion Law in the state," said Suresh Bhat, member of Karnataka Communal Harmony Forum and PUCL Mangaluru.
Bhat’s data compilation - The ‘Chronicle of Communal incidents in the Coastal Districts of Karnataka’ - based on the communal incidents reported on media, observes that of the 120 incidents, 33 were moral policing by Hindu vigilante groups and 4 by Muslim vigilante groups. Interestingly, the number of cattle vigilantisms has decreased from 25 in 2020 to 11 in 2021.
Bhat has compiled some of the major incidents reported by the media under heads like moral policing, incidents related to allegations of religious conversion, cattle vigilantism, hate speech, desecration of places of worship and other communal incidents.
"Members of the Muslim community are being attacked alleging that they are involved in Love Jehad. Christians are targeted alleging they are involved in conversion. Saffron outfits want to make their point that there is a need for anti-conversion law through such incidents. This could be the reason for the increase (in such crimes)," he added.
One of the first moral policing incidents of 2021 was in Puttur, on January 14, where saffron outfit activists disrupted a birthday party at a café that was attended by boys and girls of different communities. Within a month, a similar incident was reported at Mudipu near Mangaluru on February 3, wherein Hindu vigilantes questioned and attacked a Muslim boy for accompanying a Hindu girl.
Of the more controversial cases reported over the last year, Mangaluru city police arrested six persons in connection to another moral policing incident at Surathkal on November 16. A female student had requested her collegemate to drop her at her house in an apartment near the college. When the boy and girl had reached the apartment, a group of about 5-6 youths waylaid them and started questioning.
Moral policing by the Muslim vigilante too has been recorded by the Forum. Bhat’s compilation mentions an incident where a group of five Muslim youths attacked two boys for allegedly talking to a woman of their faith.
Although most of the moral policing incidents happened on the lines of religion, the data also mentions that religious vigilantism, in general, has also seen a rise in the state.
One of the important incidents was reported at Karkala in September, where activists of Hindu Jagarana Vedike barged into a Christian prayer centre, alleging that religious conversion was happening at an event.
In another incident, a person allegedly distributing Christian religious literature to the public was stopped by saffron outfit members and handed over to police in Mangaluru in October.
In this context, the annual 'Trishul Deeksha' program organised by Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts had drawn flak from the public after photos of youth with saffron shawls holding trishul and taking the oath to protect the society from love jihad, terrorism made rounds on social media.