At a time when much concern was being expressed in the western media about attacks on Christians and their places of worship in India, there was defeaning silence about the killing of Muslims in the same media. Major western media outlets - CNN, BBC etc - deliberately refused to carry any news about attacks on Muslims. At least nine Muslims were killed, some of them stabbed to death in three days of Hindu-led violence and mayhem.
Since the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party and its fascist off-shoots, Shiv Sena and others, life has become intolerable for religious minorities in the self-proclaimed largest democracy in the world.
Just as 1998 was coming to an end, Hindu zealots in the southern Indian state of Karnataka attacked Muslims. Centred round the town of Surathkal in Mangalore district, it quickly spread to other towns after the initial flare-up on December 29 when two Muslims were killed, one in police firing.
Curfew was imposed in Surathkal the following day. Orders were issued prohibiting movement of people and goods both in the affected town as well as in Mangalore city.
The curfew did not seem to affect the Hindus much as they moved about their grisly task of attacking and killing Muslims. The latter were affected far more severely. Despite the month of Ramadan, most Muslims were too scared to venture outside their homes. Equally disconcerting was their inability to purchase food or other items of necessity in a country where people do not normally stock such items.
As is typical in Hindu-dominated India, the disturbances were not confined to Surathkal. Surrounding towns and villages, such as Haleyangadi, Kulai and Baikampady were also affected. Following news of the clashes in Surathkal, shops in other areas quickly shut down fearing similar attacks.
They were not mistaken. In various parts of the riot-hit area, vehicles were set on fire, properties looted, and innocent people dragged out of their homes and assaulted brutally.
On December 31, there was tension in Chokabettu, Katipalla and Kuthetoor, areas of high Muslim concentration. People stayed indoors fearing attacks by the Hindu chauvinists. The toll in the communal clashes at Surathkal rose to five with three more deaths on the last day of 1998. Attacks by Hindu mobs continued in the surrounding towns as well.
The superintendent of police, N S Megherik, confirmed that five people had died in clashes at Surathkal in the first three days. The bodies identified were those of Parameshwara, 32 years old, Aboobacker, 30, Mohideenbaba, 35, and Abdul Khader, 70. The last three belonged to the same family. Their bodies were kept in the hospital mortuary. Sources in the Wenlock Government Hospital said that the bodies with stab injuries were brought from Surathkal.
Journalists trying to obtain information from the police were frustrated as phones at the Surathkal police station were kept off the hook. No details were available from the police control room either. However, reports say that more than 70 persons were injured in clashes in three days. Although the police were able to contain hostilities in Surathkal, Hindu chauvinists had a free hand to disrupt peace in parts of the town including Iddya, Chitrapur, Kulai and Kulur.
One person was killed and four injured in police firing and five others were injured in Mangalore on January 1. The director general of police, T Srinivasalu, said five persons were injured in police firing in Mangalore and another five were stabbed by the Hindu zealots. Trouble spread to Mangalore after the Surathkal clashes. Mobs attacked pedestrians, shops and banks in the state bus-stand area. Police resorted to lathi-charge to bring the situation under control. Police even had to fire at the mob.
Altogether, nine Muslims were shot or stabbed to death. Injuries were in the hundreds. Many people stayed at home despite their injuries fearing attacks by the Hindus, police harassment or aware that they will get little or no justice from a system that is so loaded against them.
These killings, together with recent attacks on Christian religious symbols and their institutions, in the northern state of Gujarat, and the burning of Bibles and attacks against Churches in Kulai, a town bordering Surathkal, all point to a resurgence of Hindu chauvinism in India.
Muslims have traditionally born the brunt of such attacks. Now, the Hindu chauvinists have got official sanction in the form of control of the Central government as well as a number of state governments. With India also a nuclear power now, Hindu chauvinism has gone ballistic!
Muslimedia: January 16-31, 1999