BJP now a divided house in coastal Karnataka
Within hours of the installation of Jagadish Shettar as Chief Minister, the ruling party is facing a fresh wave of dissent and acrimony over the composition of the new ministry. Surprisingly the backlash is more pronounced and vocal in the coastal Karnataka, where BJP MLAs and office-bearers always stood by the diktats of the party. The outrage against denial of ministership to Haladi Srinivasa Shetty, the third-time MLA from Kundapur, has spilled on to the streets of the coastal town, with his supporters observing a bandh on Friday. Similarly voices of dissent were heard from Sullia, the home-town of the dethroned chief minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, over sidelining S. Angara, a four-time MLA. The office-bearers of the local unit have tendered resignation en masse in protest.
Even as the party leadership at the State and the district was grappled with the unexpected acrimony and protests, the BJP heavyweight from Bantwal B. Nagaraj Shetty dealt a severe blow by announcing his resignation from the party as well as from the chairmanship of the Coastal Development Authority. Although Mr. Shetty is known for somersaulting, the decision clearly brought to the fore the caste chasm within the BJP, which has always used the Hindutva plank in the coastal belt to mobilize the votes. The dominant Bunt community looks visibly upset with the shoddy treatment meted out to Halady Srinivasa Shetty, who was dumped at the last minute following interference by Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, the RSS stalwart.
With the party leadership deciding not to re-induct Krishna Palemar for his alleged involvement in the porngate, it was speculated that Mr. Angara would get a Cabinet berth. It was also thought that the highcommand would try to assuage the heartburn suffered by the people of Dakshina Kannada after the unceremonious exit of Mr. Gowda. It was also important from the political point of view to secure a representation in the cabinet to retain BJP’s stranglehold on the coastal districts. But as is customary, every major decision related to the BJP in the district has to be vetted by the Kalladka stalwart. With both Nagraj Shetty and Palemar rubbing the Kalladka leader on the wrong side, it was evident that a relative lightweight and a staunch RSS loyalist would get the nod and the lucky person this time turned out to be Kota Srnivasa Poojary, an MLC.
According to sources, the factors that went against Halady were that he had defied the diktats of the Kalladka leader couple of times in the recent past. The Kundapur MLA had vehemently opposed the appointment of Kallada leader’s handpicked man as the chairman of the managing committee of the Kollur Mookambika temple. He had also defied Kalladka during the selection of the president of the BJP local unit. Mr. Shetty has also gone on record saying he had been denied ministerial berth at the instance of Kalladka Prabahkar Bhat. This is the first time in the history of the coastal Karnataka that the RSS stalwart has faced the ire of a BJP MLA for the “unsolicited interference” in the affairs of the BJP.
The BJP in both Dakshina Kannada and Udupi now appears to be a divided house, with equations like RSS loyalty and caste factor splitting the party vertically. This bodes ill for a party which has not long ago lost the Udupi-Chikcmagalur Lok Sabha byelection to Congress’s K. Jayaprakash Hegde, who is also a Bunt. Many in the community feel that they have been dealt a blow even before overcoming the agony of Sadananda Gowda’s unceremonious exit. With Assembly elections scheduled to be held in less than a year’s time, will the unprecedented bickering within the BJP lead to a major political upheaval in the coastal districts?
Attacking the Cross: Rise in Anti Christian Violence
Julio Ribeiro is one of the best known police officers in India. Recently (March 16, 2015) he wrote in his article that he is feeling like a stranger in this country. ‘I feel threatened, not wanted, reduced to a stranger in my own country’. This pain and anguish of a distinguished citizen, an outstanding police officer has to be seen against the backdrop of the rising attacks on Churches and rape of the 71 year old nun in Kolkata. All over the country the rage amongst the Christian community is there to be seen in the form of silent marches, candle light vigils and peaceful protests.
As such during the last several months in particular the instances of attacks, and intimidation of the minority community has become more frightening. There is also a noticeable change in the pattern of violence against them. Earlier these attacks were more in the remote Adivasi areas, now one can see this taking place in urban areas also. The change in frequency of these attacks after the new Government took over is a striking phenomenon.
As such Christians are one of the very old communities in India. Right from the first century when St. Thomas visited Malabar Coast in Kerala and set up a Church there the Christian community has been here, part of the society, contributing to various aspects of social life. The missionaries, the nuns and priests, have also spent ages in the rural hinterlands setting up educational and health facilities and have also founded the most reputed educational institutions in most of the major cities of the country. Christians today are a tiny minority (2.3% as per 2001 census). It has been a community which like any other has its own internal diversity with various Christian denominations.
In this context the rise of anti Christian violence during last few decades in Adivasi areas, Dangs (Gujarat) Jhabua (MP) Kandhamal (Orissa) has been an unnerving experience for the community as a whole and for those believing in pluralism and diversity of the country in particular. The violence which picked up from mid nineties peaked in the burning alive of Pastor Graham Stains (23rd Jan 1999) and later Kandhamal violence in 2007 and 2008. After this there was a sort of low intensity scattered violence in remote areas, till the attack on Churches in Delhi from last several months. The Churches which were attacked were scattered in five corners of Delhi, Dilshad Garden (East), Jasola (South West), Rohini (Outer Delhi), Vikaspuri (West) and Vasant kunj (South), as if by design the whole terrain of Delhi was to be covered for polarization. It was claimed by police and state that the main cause of these has been theft etc.; in the face of the fact at most of the places the donation boxes remained intact. BJP spokesperson are vociferously giving the data that during this period so many temples have also been attacked, which is a mere putting the wool in the eye, as the targeted nature of anti Christian violence is very glaring.
In the meanwhile the RSS Sarsanghachalak, the boss of the Hindu right, to which BJP owes its allegiance, states that Mother Teresa was doing the charity work with intent to conversion. Post the statement two major incidents have come to light. One is in Hisar in Harayana, where a church has been attacked, it’s Cross replaced by the idol of Lord Hanuman and the Chief Minister of Haryana, who again has RSS background, stated that the Pastor of the Church has been alleged to be part of the conversion activities. At the same time RSS progeny Vishwa Hindu Parishad stated that more such acts of attack on churches will take place if conversions are not stopped. This incident reminds one of the placing of the idols of Ram Lalla (Baby Ram) in Babri Mosque in 1949 and then claiming that it was a birth place of Lord Ram. In addition the statement of the Chief Minister gives a clear indication as to how the investigation of the incident will take place and whether the real culprits will ever be nabbed. Incidentally there are no police complaints about Pastors’ conversion activities if any, in the police records. This ‘they are doing conversions’ is a standard ploy which is propagated for anti Christian violence, which one has witnessed so far.
After Bhagwat’s comments on Mother Teresa the anti Christian violence seems to be intensifying by the day and the incidence of Haryana and Kolkata are symbols of that and VHP is openly talking of more attacks. When Prime Minister Modi broke his deliberate silence on the issues of violence against minorities, he did say that religious freedom will be respected. But one also knows that what he says and what he means are mostly not the same. Also that now the silence of last several months has given a clear message to his associates in RSS combines that they can carry on their disruptive and polarizing activities at will. A large section within the Christian community feel that Modi was voted on the agenda of development and this type of violence was not anticipated! That is a sheer naivety, Modi is a RSS trained Pracharak, for whom the divisive agenda remains at the core, to be implemented by a clever ‘division of labor’ implemented through different organizations, which are part of RSS combine popularly known as Sangh Parivar.
As such India has been the cradle of many religions, which celebrated and lived together, a far cry from the present atmosphere which is intimidating the minorities. Christian’s plight in recent times is something to which the concerned democratic rights individuals need to wake up to. This seems to be unfolding of the script, Pehle Kasai Phir Isai, (First Muslim, then Christians). It is not just a violation of their rights; it’s also a violation of very basic norm of democracy. As they say, a democracy has to be judged by the litmus test of level of security and equity its minorities enjoy!
Third anniversary note from the Chairman
Even though online journalism, which spearheads the rapid growth of new media technology, has had a very short history compared to the traditional forms of journalism, the former has overpowered the latter in modern times – both in positive and negative aspects. Sadly, online journalism has forgotten its ethics and responsibilities, multiple times faster than print and other electronic media.
When Coastaldigest.com, with its headquarter in the South Indian city of Mangalore, took a small but firm step exactly three years ago, towards becoming ‘A Voice for All’, predominantly aiming at focusing on news and issues of West Coast of India, online journalism had already lost its credibility and ethical values.
Nevertheless, swimming against the high tides, Coastaldigest.com, true to its claim, remained ‘A Voice for All’ highlighting issues and concerns of all strata of the society, with a special focus on the marginalised and weaker sections.
Our aim also includes promoting ‘harmony’, ‘unity’ and ‘brotherhood’ among the people of all communities and sections.
Our team which comprises of editorial, reporting and photography sections, besides a large network of freelancers and stringers, gives utmost priority to maintain ‘strict neutrality’ in reporting, especially in matters relating to religion and politics. Our editorial policy is based on universally accepted values of truth, fairness and justice.
We must admit that our ever-alert readers, with their speedy reactions have helped us in maintaining our professional disciplines. The lovely bond between us and our readers has been strengthening with every passing day.
As a result, within a short period of three years, Coastaldigest.com has emerged as a trusted news portal of the country. Yes, the biggest achievement of our lovely caravan of three years, is earning the ‘Trust’ of the readers across diverse sections. With this, we feel worthy to change our slogan from ‘A Voice for All’ to ‘The Trusted News Portal of India’.
In the last three years, many of our exclusive and special reports have created a great impact in the society, which has brought us tremendous satisfaction of doing our bit to the society.
Without exaggeration, whichever country they may live in, a large number of Non-Resident Indians, especially from coastal districts of Karnataka and Kerala today begin their day with Coastaldigest.com. We will continue to be with Indian expatriates in Middle East in all their concerns and problems.
At the threshold of the fourth year, let me also reiterate our commitment to continue our silent movement against all the bad practices currently prevailed across world of media, through remaining a truly plural, multi-ethnic and democratic media outlet, committed to value-based journalism and ethos of social justice.
Probably, a glance into our new layout, which includes new sections like ‘Editorspeak’, ‘Matrimony’, ‘Education & Career’ and so on would drive you home our enhanced commitments. In the days ahead, we hope to reach out to more people and achieve higher goals.
At this moment Coastaldigest.com is proud to announce its new Editor-in-Chief, Naeem Siddeeq, who has been a part of the news portal since the day of its formal launch in Mangalore in 2010.
We are also grateful to each of our present and former staff in India and abroad, contributors, columnists, readers, advertisers and well-wishers across the globe. We also expect guidance, suggestions and support from you all to continue our journey in a meaningful way. Wish you all a happy New Year and happy third anniversary of Coastaldigest.com.
Kannada Press Day: Let us resolve to uphold the values of journalism
Reams of newsprint and hours of broadcast time has been spent debating if it was proper on the part of a section of the Kannada media for subjecting the controversial godman Nityananda to a witch-hunt following revelations in the wake of his alleged sexual misdemeanor with his women disciples. Some media critics consider the attack as a classic case of trial by media and journalistic overreach. The newspapers and television channels should have, they argue, just placed the facts before the public and allowed the law to take its own course. A leading Kannada news channel has also been accused of dictating the course of justice and whipping up a mass hysteria against the controversial godman.
At a time when there is a raging debate about regulating the media, the actions of some media groups in the backdrop Nityananda episode has given a shot in the arm for people favouring an independent ombudsman to rein in the ‘wayward’ fourth estate. But, quite significantly, Mangalora Samachara, the first Kannada newspaper, in its very first issue (July 1, 1843) had spelt out the rules and regulations of the paper, which could even today be a model for the contemporary media. Hermann Mogling, the publisher of the newspaper, which was printed using stone slabs, has spelt out the reason behind its publication in a very interesting way. “If a man in Bunder or near the Office area (today’s DC office?) speaks to someone in a loud voice about some news, which is just a figment of his imagination, there are chances that a third person overhearing it would spread the same news to some more people. By evening, the entire town will be filled with this false news. By the time people realize that yesterday’s news is false, a fresh rumour would have started doing the rounds,” reads the opening line of the first edition of the Samachara.
“Therefore, in order to give the correct information to the people, it has been decided to bring out a paper on a fortnightly basis,” declares the first ‘editorial’ of the newspaper.
It is also interesting to note that the content of the first newspaper was far ahead of its time. It contained seven sections with ‘Voora Varthamana’ being the first one. Here Mogling explains the reason behind publishing the newspaper. “If the government or its head undertakes a good deed, it has to be communicated to the people. If any illegal activity has taken place, it has to be informed to the people in such a way that it should deter them from committing a similar act,” the edit adds. It also has separate columns for publishing government’s order/directive, national-level news, strange-but-true stories, international news. It is also quite amazing to find a separate section for ‘thought for the day’ and fables and stories similar to ‘speaking tree’ and other such columns being published in today’s leading newspapers.
Unfortunately, the media today has also forgotten the principle of upholding the truth and making sure that falsehood did not creep into the newspaper pages. The first issue of ‘Mangalora Samachara’ also comes through as an exemplary model for today’s media when it comes to verifying facts before publishing any report. In the eighth section (read page) it provides space for people to send in reports that they think need to be published in the interest of the people. But Mogling has clearly stated that any news would be published only after verifying its truthfulness. At a time when the media as a whole, including the Kannada press, presents a picture of despair and gloom, it would be apt for all of us in the media to revisit the maiden ‘editorial’ of the ‘Mangalora Samachara’, which was priced at one duddu (equivalent of 4 pai), to renew our commitment to the profession.