Even as the Muslims of undivided Dakshina Kannada district broke out of the “spiral of silence” and made history by leading an unprecedented protest against CAA, NPR and NRC as well as the categorial mistreatment of non-saffronites at the hands of the police across the country, mainstream media turned a blind eye to the spectacle at the Shah Garden Maidan in Mangaluru’s Adyar where about two lakh patriots with tricolor in their hands converged to assert themselves on January 15th, 2020, a date which will be remembered by the people of coastal Karnataka forever.
The largest gathering in the history of Mangaluru was absolutely peaceful, law-abiding and respectful. While the slogans of ‘Azaadi’ were reverberating in the atmosphere, the protesters were seen making way for vehicles and passersby, taking care of women and helping elderly citizens on the highway adjacent to the ground. Though the organisers and most of the participants were Muslims, they collectively identified themselves as “We, the people of India”.
The district administration and the police department hadn’t imagined or even dreamt of such a mammoth gathering after blocking the highway and banning public transport from 9 am to 9 pm. Many opine that this action was taken only to discourage the concerned from participating in the protest and to create fear in the hearts of the people who are yet to process the unjustifiable deaths of two innocent citizens in an unwarranted police firing a few weeks ago.
What has since surprised the protesters most is the mainstream media’s blatant attempt to downplay the significance of this largest ever gathering. Shockingly, it could not make it to the front pages of any of the state-level Kannada daily newspapers except city-based Vaartha Bharathi. In the absence of The Hindu, which had announced a holiday on account of Makar Sankranti, most of the English newspapers too pitilessly buried the historic event in their inner pagers. National TV channels too were evidently reluctant to cover the event until NDTV started telecasting the news of the protest.
This uneasy relationship between the media and minorities in coastal Karnataka has long existed, but the non-coverage of the huge protest of Jan 15 marks a quantum leap beyond the media’s traditional pro-Sangh Parivar stance and biases –– which in the past had often demonised non-saffronites –– to now completely ignore and suppress the people’s voice. This media bias has naturally evoked a sharp response from netizens, who took to social media to issue clarion calls to boycott the mainstream media forever.
Most major protest meets and rallies –– both religious and political –– leave behind tonnes of garbage, especially water bottles, placards and buntings. However, the organisers of the Jan 15 protest meet led by example by launching a cleanliness drive in the area soon after the protesters left the venue peacefully. The drive continued on Jan 16 too. (Ironically, amidst this ongoing cleanliness drive, a local news portal captured photos of a few plastic bottles scattered along the road at Adyar and published a report accusing the event organisers and participants of polluting the area!)