MANGALORE was painted red again, after being branded as saffron zone for over a decade. The occasion was Communal Harmony and Unity rally organised by CPI(M) on February 25. It was held despite grave threats and violence by Sanghis. The rally was a culmination of a campaign extending to several weeks, against communalisation of Coastal Karnataka and to restore communal harmony. Kerala chief minister and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, Pinarayi Vijayan was scheduled to address the rally. CPI(M) Karnataka state committee had chalked out this entire campaign in November 2016. The extensive plan for the Communal Harmony campaign included workshops for Party/mass organisation activists, conventions, seminars, jathas, area meetings in three coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada. All these campaigns were to culminate in a massive rally on February 25 at Mangalore.
Janashakthi, CPI(M) Kannada weekly’s annual festival (which is normally held in Bangalore) was held in Mangalore with the same theme. A well-attended seminar on “Coastal Communal Harmony - Challenges and Solutions” which saw the participation of well-known intellectuals, was part of the festival. Janashakthi annual special issue released at the festival was also around the theme ‘Souharda Karnataka 60’ (Karnataka Harmony 60). As part of the campaign, ‘Narakada Garbha Gudiyolage’ (In the sanctum sanctorum of hell), Kannada Translation of Sudish Minni’s (ex-RSS pracharak) book about his nightmarish experiences in RSS in Malayalam, was published and released in many places. A poster exhibition of CPI(M) martyrs murdered by RSS in Kerala was also organised. A relentless social media campaign using extracts from the book and posters, as well as on traditions of communal harmony in Coastal Karnataka and communal violence in multifarious forms by Sanghis, was also conducted.
CPI(M)’s campaign on communal harmony got good response from people who are fed up with daily communal violence of Sangh Parivar, in multifarious forms with multiple themes – moral policing, love jihad, cow trafficking, beef eating/sale, riots etc. This was the first time such a long campaign on communal harmony was being taken up under the banner of the Party. Most of the earlier campaigns were taken up under the banner of socio-cultural organisations and anti-communal platforms. So Sanghis were nervous from the beginning, but publicly ignored it. But as the rally programme on February 25 and Pinarayi Vijayan’s participation in it was announced, Sanghis were unnerved and started reacting to it. Initially, feeble threats from fringes of Sangh Parivar started, declaring ‘Pinarayi will not be allowed to set foot in the district/state’. A concerted campaign accusing CPI(M) and Pinarayi Vijayan of ‘systematic murder of RSS Cadre’ and ‘goonda raj’ in media (both in TV and press) has been going on already. Every core/fringe organisation of Sangh Parivar (including BJP) organised press conference and repeated ‘Pinarayi and, Harmony Rally, will not be allowed’.
As the day of the rally neared, their campaign grew louder and more violent. Banners, flex hoardings were stolen, torn or burnt. Posters and wall writings were smeared. Comrades distributing and installing propaganda material were attacked, threatened. Sanghis were desperate when all these threats did not deter CPI(M) cadre. Finally in the early hours of February 23, ‘miscreants' broke the locks of CPI(M) Ullal zonal committee office at Thokkottu. They entered the office and burnt furniture, files, banners, flags and whatever they could lay their hands on. Who these 'miscreants' were, was obvious to everyone with the aforesaid, except to the police.
But this was met with resistance. Many writers, intellectuals, social activists condemned the Sangh Parivar's un-democratic behaviour and questioned if a CM of a state does not have a right to attend a rally anywhere in the country. Writers, intellectuals such as Devanooru Mahadeva, Prof. Purushotham Bilimale (JNU-Kannada Chair), Prof. Rajendra Chenni, Dr K Marulasiddappa, Sara Abubacker, Dinesh Aminmattu - issued statements condemning Sangh Parivar. CPI(M) district units all over the state, protested attack on the CPI(M) Ullal zonal committee office at Thokkottu. CPI(M) state committee dared the Sanghis ‘Pinarayi will come and Communal Harmony Rally will happen on February 25’, and prepared for any eventuality. Demonstrations, padayatras, bike rallies were held in Mangalore and other places. Pinarayi asserted his participation in the rally.
Sangh Parivar retaliated by calling for a protest on February 24 and a bandh on February 25 in Mangalore. Protest padayatra was held at the same venue as proposed for rally (Nehru Maidan, Mangalore). Sanghi goondas participating in the padayatra tore flexes, buntings, banners and posters on the way. Police remained mute spectators. Meanwhile public pressure was mounting on state government to act tough with Sanghis (at least for a change!), as it involved respect to and safety of neighbouring CM. Ultimately state government started acting tough. Bandh was declared illegal. Section 144 was imposed in Mangalore exempting the rally and those participating in the rally (said to be first of its kind!). Bonds were taken from organisers of ‘bandh’ (now downgraded to ‘hartal’), who were to be held responsible, charged and arrested - for any violence or violation of bond conditions.
But still in the morning on February 25, many buses were stoned and violence was resorted to enforce ‘hartal’. Due to this transport was scanty and many shops were closed. But people started pouring into Mangalore in thousands from coastal districts as well as from all over the state, right from morning.
THUNDEROUS WELCOME ON PINARAYI’S ARRIVAL
Pinarayi Vijayan came by train to a thunderous welcome. His first public engagement was inauguration of construction of a new media centre of Varta Bharathi – a Kannada Daily published from Mangalore. He spoke about the role of media. Many political and social leaders of the district participated in the meeting. U T Khader, a minister from the district lambasted Sanghis for not following credo of ‘Athithi Devo Bhava’ and objecting to visit of CM of neighbouring state.
Meanwhile people from all walks of life started gathering at Ambedkar (Jyoti) Circle. The procession led by Party state and district leaders started around 3 pm. Slogans condemning RSS and the communalism, hailing strong communal traditions of coastal districts and state rent the air. The procession slowly led to the venue of the public meeting, Nehru Maidan which was decorated and elaborate security arrangements were made. It is estimated that in the procession and public meeting, participation amounted to over ten thousands. It would have been at least double but for the bandh, affecting public transport.
Good Response to Social Media Campaign
Social Media campaign using extracts from Sudhish Minni’s book and posters exposing the murderous face of the RSS, as well as on traditions of communal harmony in Coastal Karnataka and communal violence in multifarious forms by Sanghis, was conducted.
The procession and public meeting on February 25 was carried live on CPI(M) Karnataka Facebook page and was relayed by Party’s central and some state FB pages. The response was tremendous. FB live video of Vijayan’s speech had a view of 1.1 lakhs, engagements of 51,000 with 3000 shares. FB live video of procession was double that. CPI(M) Karnataka page likes jumped by 50 percent to 30,000 in this week.
Pinarayi’s Fighting Speech against RSS
Below we publish the excerpts of the speech of the Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan at a rally for communal harmony held in Mangalore on February 25.
AT the outset let me express my happiness at being able to participate in such a rally, particularly a rally for communal harmony. Today, in our country, preserving communal harmony is of utmost importance. Several efforts are on across the country to create fissures in our communal harmony. What is especially striking is the fact that it is the RSS which is leading the government of our country that is behind these efforts. The RSS has always been open about this – since its inception, the RSS has propagated discord among religions and sought to spread communal hatred.
RSS is not an organisation that is in the mainstream of our society. Unfortunately, it is this organisation that has the right to decide the policies of our country. The leadership of our government, including the Indian prime minister functions according to the dictates of the RSS. RSS was formed in 1925, when the Indian freedom struggle was intensifying. RSS has been functioning for 22 years when the Indian freedom struggle was at its peak. But, we need to recall that the RSS played no role in the Indian freedom struggle.
RSS was never ready to see the country as one and to unite the people. Right from the beginning they have attempted to divide the people on communal lines. Thus, the RSS went on to lead communal riots in our country. We need to remember that RSS is an organisation that is against the unity of our country and our people. They have always tried to divide our people. Naturally a pertinent question comes up here. Why was Mahatma Gandhi killed? We also need to remember that when Gandhiji was killed, the RSS distributed sweets in the places where they were present.
Public anger rose up against the RSS after Gandhiji was killed, and the RSS was banned. At that stage, the RSS made efforts to appease some of the rulers at the centre in a big way in order to get the ban withdrawn. Even after the ban was withdrawn, the RSS has continued on the same path. We need to think what kind of ideology the RSS follows. Five years after the RSS was formed, BS Moonje, one of their founding leaders, went to meet a few international leaders of that time. He went to meet the role models of the Sangh Parivar. One of them was Mussolini. RSS fully adopted the fascist organisational structure of Mussolini’s organisation.
For Hitler, there was only one group which was a minority there – the Jews. Hitler saw the Jews and the Communists, whom he referred to as Bolsheviks, as the domestic enemies of the country. The same stand and the same policies were written down in their books by the RSS as their own policy. And they have gone on to implement it. Here they said that the major minorities in India – the Muslims and the Christians – are the domestic enemies of the country. Along with them, following up on Hitler, they depict the Communists also as the country’s domestic enemies. Thus, just as minorities and the Communists became domestic enemies for Hitler in Germany, the Muslims, Christians and Communists became the domestic enemies for the RSS in India.
This is the policy which the RSS implemented all over the country. It can be seen that it was the RSS which led the communal riots which occurred in India. Communal riots in which thousands of people were killed have happened in our country. The RSS had led all those riots. They have special kinds of training for that. How to organise a riot? How to create communal tension? Once the communal tension grows into a riot, what kind of false propaganda should be used to provoke and excite the common people? The RSS has specific training facilities for all of these. This uniformity can be seen in all the communal riots which the RSS led. It can be seen that the particular methods that they learned through their systematic training have been widely used in those riots.
It is this RSS which today has got the power to decide the destiny of the country. They are proceeding with utter intolerance. Several hours would be needed to talk about them. Such cruelties have been imposed on our country under their leadership. RSS has become the manifestation of intolerance. That intolerance has spread to our country’s rulers as well. M M Kalburgi’s killing here is still in our minds. The secular minds of our nation were very much pained at that murder. Kalburgi was a progressive writer. Why was he killed? Not just Kalburgi, Govind Pansare – he was somebody who exposed the RSS well. He exposed their false campaigns on the basis of historical facts. Intolerance, Govind Pansare was killed because of that. Narendra Dabholkar fought strongly against superstitions and evil customs. He was also murdered. None of these three people who were killed had done anything wrong. As progressive writers they were constantly engaged in debates, for our country, for our people.
There are so many people here who have been threatened by the RSS. Not just those who have been murdered, but also those who have been working for the benefit of our society, those who are well known within our country. You know of K S Bhagawan, you know about the threats against him by the Sangh Parivar. Similarly, Girish Karnad, the Jnanpith award winner, was also not spared by the Sangh Parivar. RSS has been following a policy which says that they would not tolerate anybody who is not ready to agree with the ideas of the RSS and to surrender to them. Huchangi Prasad, the young poet from Karnataka, a dalit youth, his hand was the target of their knives. Blood was shed. He was threatened that his fingers would be cut off if he writes again. Journalist and writer Chetana Thirthahalli was threatened here for not surrendering to the dictates of the RSS. Ignoring the threats, she participated in a DYFI programme, and then she was threatened further. The things that I mentioned earlier were events that happened continuously in Karnataka.
The widely respected U R Ananthamurthy was on his deathbed. That was the moment RSS chose to spew its venom against him. They sent him a flight ticket to Pakistan! Apart from many prominent persons in our state, they would also like to send famous actors like Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan to Pakistan. M T Vasudevan Nair, winner of the Jnanpith award and Padma Bhushan from Kerala, happened to talk about the difficulties faced by the people in the wake of the currency ban. The Sangh Parivar, the RSS, wanted to send him also to Pakistan immediately. They wanted to send Kamal, a famous film director from Kerala also to Pakistan. They want to send Nandita Das to Pakistan. What is this? All the distinguished persons of our country are supposed to yield to the wishes of the RSS! They are supposed to surrender to the RSS! They should not think independently, they should not express their own ideas! If they do that, if they express ideas different from that of the RSS, they will not be allowed to live in this country, says the RSS.
The secular forces of this country have one thing to say, unitedly, to the RSS – this country belongs to all of us. RSS has no special rights here. Everyone who resides here has the right to live here, to express their opinions freely and to write what they want to. The secular forces must unitedly take a strong position against the intolerance of the RSS.
RSS has tried to do away with the minorities. It even came down to the RSS attempting to decide what one should eat. This is what led to Akhlaq being beaten up and murdered, in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh. “You” are against “us” since you belong to a minority, according to the Sangh Parivar. An innocent man was killed because of that. Even as minorities were being targeted, in Una, Gujarat, this country and the world saw four dalit boys being stripped naked, tied to a car and beaten up. Dalits are supposed to skin dead cows and clean others’ toilets; they are supposed to do only certain kinds of jobs. The methods of the same old chatur-varnya (four-varna) caste system were being used against dalits by the RSS.
You all know about Kerala, about the reform movement led by Sree Narayana Guru and what happened in Kerala in continuation to it. Some comrades told me earlier about the Guru having come here and spoken here as well. The result of the continuation of the renaissance movement led by him was that Kerala developed into a strongly secular society. It is in such a place that the RSS set off to establish themselves. The strongest force in Kerala, the Communist movement, the CPI(M) in particular, is their primary enemy. They think that by destroying the Communist movement, they can establish the influence of communalism over Kerala’s society. That is how attacks by the RSS were initiated there. If you examine the history of Kerala, around 600 comrades have been martyred in the state. 205 of those comrades were killed by the RSS. They had not done anything wrong. The RSS is trying to weaken the movement of the comrades who are ready to fight and sacrifice their lives to protect secularism, by murdering them. This is what the RSS has been doing continuously in Kerala.
Sreerama Reddy invited me several months back to participate in this Communal Harmony rally that you have organised. It became possible for me to come only now. When I decided to participate in this rally and the news became public, the intolerance of the Sangh Parivar came out in the open. Leaders of the RSS and the BJP said that they will not let me set foot here. Some even bragged that they will not let me set foot anywhere outside Kerala.
This is what I have to say to the RSS. Quite naturally, in my journeys after I became chief minister, I have the protection of the police force which has the responsibility to protect me. It is something that is a customary part of our governance system.
But this is what I have to say to RSS and to those who challenged me. I, Pinarayi Vijayan, did not drop down from the heavens one fine day into the chair of the chief minister. I am not someone who doesn't know you, the RSS, directly either. My political activism all along has proceeded by seeing and knowing you.
Now I travel in the midst of the protection of the weapons of the police. But there was a time without it, when I had come to public life after completing my studies at Brennen College, Thalassery. If the new RSS men do not know about those times, they should ask the old RSS men. Then, I had walked amidst the knives you had drawn out and amidst the swords you held up.
When you couldn't do anything to me during those times, what do you think you are going to do to me now? You have been talking about having managed to stop my journey to Madhya Pradesh. As a serving chief minister, when I go to another state, it is basic courtesy that I accept certain things that the government of that state tells me. That government asked me not to go there, and I accepted it. But had it been the Pinarayi Vijayan who was not a chief minister, not even Indra (the king of gods) or Chandra (moon) would have been able to stop me.
So, your threats are not going to intimidate me. Then why make such unnecessary statements?
Our country has always responded firmly to such forces. All the progressive people here spoke up against the arrogant stand that somebody would be prevented from coming and speaking here. I thank all those progressive people, and the media which came out against the RSS stand in this regard.
I declare this programme inaugurated. I conclude. My greetings to you all.
Translated from Malayalam by Samuel Philip Mathew and Subin Dennis.