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Around 40 goons of the ‘Sri Ram Sene’ entered a pub, assaulted people there, dragged women by the hair, molesting them and lifting up their blouses and skirts.

They claimed to be righteous defenders of ‘Indian morality,’ incensed by ‘women boozing’ and ‘pub culture.’ Since these scenes came to people’s notice through national TV, there was widespread outrage, and after a delay of many days, finally, some of the perpetrators were arrested.

The Chief of the Sri Ram Sene PV Muthalik, is yet to be booked for masterminding this assault – though he has been taken into custody on some other charges. The ruling BJP and even the Sangh Parivar (RSS) has tried to distance itself from the Sri Ram Sene. Today, there are many attempts to turn the story upside down. The perpetrators are being painted as ‘rescuers.’

The targets of the assault – the women – are being projected as the villains.

Their crime?

They were spreading ‘pub culture,’ says CM Yeddyurappa, and ‘pub culture’, ‘boozing’ etc are ‘against Indian culture.’ The Chief Minister is echoing the words of Muthalik, the leader of the outfit that attacked women. The ‘seer’ of the Udupi Pejawar math has also tacitly encouraged the attack, saying that if women provoke religious sensitivities by visiting pubs, it is natural for “everybody to protest.”

The State Women’s Commission, instead of being concerned over women’s rights, has recommended that the pub be closed! Even more shockingly, Nirmala Venkatesh, a representative of the National Women’s Commission, has not only recommended closure of the pub; she has said that the Sri Ram Sena member she met in jail said they were ‘provoked’ by women ‘dancing semi nude’ – and women, in order to ‘protect themselves’ ought not to wear such clothes! The Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss from the UPA Central Government, the AP CM YSR Reddy and the Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, both from the Congress, have all spoken against ‘pub culture’.

women_sorrowIs pub culture the real issue?

Is the pub incident a sudden one that happened because innocent men were ‘provoked’ by ‘semi nude dancing’ and ‘boozing’? Have saffron Sangh Parivar outfits never attacked women before? Let us recollect some facts about events in Karnataka:

On December 12, 2008, a college bus, on an official trip from Mangalore to Mysore, was stoned by the Bajrang Dal, an outfit of the sangh Parivar, a sister organization of the BJP that rules the state. Several students were injured. The Bajrang Dal defended the attack, saying that allowing Hindu girls to travel with fellow students, especially boys, who were Muslim or Christian, was ‘against Indian culture’. (See The Hindu, Dec 12, 2008)

Between July and September 2008, there were at least ten incidents recorded with the district police – of attacks on young people in Dakshina Kannada district. The Bajrang Dal claimed responsibility for seven of these incidents – which included assaults on a young woman who visited a friend (another young woman) from another community; on a group of friends including a Hindu girl with her Hindu and Muslim male friends at a hotel in Mangalore; a similar group of young friends who were “laughing and talking loudly in a public place”; a young woman with her Muslim fiancé travelling in a bus; a young Hindu man who brought medicines for his Muslim friend who had been suffering from malaria; Muslim school boys carrying school bags of their classmates who were Hindu girls etc… According to the Bajrang Dal, socializing between communities was an “immoral act.” The Bajrang Dal head of Dakshina Kannada district, Sudarshan Moodabidri, said “Sometimes it becomes necessary to use force. Fear of such action should deter such misadventures. Girls reform themselves once they are thrashed and humiliated in public, but boys are tougher to control.” (See The Hindu, Sep 07, 2008)

So, months before the pub attack, a prominent Sangh Parivar leader of Karnataka was openly defending his outfit’s actions of ‘thrashing and humiliating (women) in public.’

Mr. Yeddyurappa:

Why were Moodabidri and his goons not arrested?

When women are ‘thrashed and humiliated’ in pubs, you say you will close down pubs. When girls are thrashed in schools and colleges, it seems you will ban education for women?!

The same Sangh Parivar in BJP-ruled Gujarat raped and massacred thousands of Muslims in 2002. Babu Bajrangi, a Bajrang Dal leader of Gujarat, boasts that he has ‘rescued’ (abducted) 1000 Hindu women who had married Muslim men, persuading them – no doubt through ‘thrashing and humiliation’ – to disown their inter-community marriages. Now, the same forces, with help from an obliging BJP government, are trying to turn Karnataka into Gujarat. Can we afford to allow them?

It is a real shame that, instead of sharply challenging the communal fascist and anti-woman agenda of the Sangh Parivar and the BJP-ruled states, Congress leaders, as well as the UPA Government, and its institutions like the NCW, are busy blaming ‘pub culture’ and women’s choice of dress and lifestyle. Shame on NCW member Nirmala Venkatesh for echoing the patriarchal commandment that women are ‘responsible for their own safety’ – i.e, they are guilty even when they themselves are the victims of assaults!

Sanghi Terrorism

The Sene chief Muthalik has been giving speeches openly boasting of the Malegaon blasts and promising more of the same. There are also audio recordings, recovered by the Maharashtra ATS, of a retired Major boasting that the Mecca Masjid blasts too (for which innocent Muslim young men suffered brutal torture) were conducted by “one of us.” By now, it is clear that the Malegaon blasts were the tip of the iceberg. The Sanghi terrorists had a gameplan of subverting the Indian constitution and democracy and establishing a ‘Hindu Rashtra.’ In such a Hindu Rashtra, needless to say, Muslims, Christians and other minorities will face the fate they did in Gujarat and Kandhamal (Orissa). And women can visualize life in such a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ by seeing the events in Karnataka for the past several months.

Indian women have won their rights and freedoms – to education, to choose partners of their choice; against child marriage; against being burnt for sati; to equality in the workplace – through hard struggle: a struggle they have to fight daily. We will not surrender these rights to the diktats of the Sanghi terrorists, the saffron Taliban! Let us raise our voice loud and clear against the BJP regime in Karnataka and all other self-appointed custodians of ‘morality.’ Let us say – the only morality we uphold is one which respects women’s unfettered freedom, and rights to decide their own education, jobs, sexual preferences and partners, and lifestyle; on which abhors any attempts to poison the relationships between communities.

– Rati Rao, President, AIPWA, Karnataka

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The most irritating thing about Dasavatharam was seeing Kamal Hassan in every frame. It being his magnum opus film in no way justifies the fact that the whole film is Kamal, Kamal and nothing but Kamal.

The irritating things about the movie:

Kamal‘s ego. The scene in which social activist Vincent Poovaraghan replies, “Yes. I am a world-class actor” to the villain’s “Who do you think you are? Are you a world actor?” is too irritating for words. K S Ravikumar films have the trademark of K S Ravikumar appearing in at least one shot. But K S Ravikumar crooning about Kamal in the last song Ulaga Nayagane….”You have to be a UN member…You have to get an Oscar award…You have acted in thousands of roles….You are a world actor, world actor, ” Shucks! And K S Ravikumar trying to dance with scantily-clad girls! Too ignominious!
Missing links. Where did Kamal get his cellphone? How did the villains get the number and call Kamal in that scene when Kamal is standing in front of the police station? And containing a bio-weapon with plain NaCl or common salt is plain stupid for a movie that’s trying to be scientific (but fails nevertheless)? And how does a scientist (Govind), who spent most of his adult years creating a bio-weapon for the US so that it can kill millions of Innocent civilians, suddenly develop a conscience and want to save people in India (which he left for a well-paying job in the US)? And many people feel the US itself is a terrorist nation, so why protest the sale of the bio-weapon to a terrorist nation? As if the US is spending billions of dollars on bio-weapons for peaceful purposes.
Pathetic make-up. Kamal is a great actor and without any make-up in Michael Madana KamaRajan we were able to differentiate between the four Kamals. Here the make-up artist didn’t too a good job (Try watching Nutty Professor, you can’t recognise Eddie Murphy in any of the five characters). The faces looked artificial and kind of mummified.
Manmohan Singh, George Bush & Karunanidhi on the same stage? I don’t think so! Donning the role of George Bush and trying to outdo Sivaji Ganesan’s Navarathiri was such an immature attempt at the Oscars. I think Kamal would be better off, if he followed Aamir Khan’s non-special effects style.
Ten roles & a haywire script. Kamal had decided he’d do 10 roles. He decided he’d play a Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Muslim & atheist. He also decided he’d be a tall guy and a short, old lady. So the script is just plain confusion, with the director and script writer trying to fit in all of Kamal egomanical demands.
Too many issues. Kamal Hassan tried to talk about bio-warfare, globalisation, imperialism, terrorism, Shivites vs Vaishnavites, religion, the butterfly effect, chaos theory, discrimination against Dalits, caste feelings, lethargic functioning of the bureaucracy, sycophant government officials, corruption in the govt ranks, the tsunami, ….its just too much packed in three hours.
The Indian anthem being played when Govind lands in India with the bio-weapon. Why the national anthem? When nothing in the film has anything remotely to do with patriotism.
Hiroshima, Nagasaki vs Pearl Harbour. Its so stupid when Christian Fletcher tells Shingen Narahashi “Remember Hiroshima, Nagasaki?” and he retorts with “Remember Pearl Harbour?”. Its so stupid and doesn’t make sense.

What I did like about the movie despite all this, was the subtle criticism he dared make about the present system:

  • He says that both God and science betrayed human beings during the tsunami. In his own words in the last scene, “I didn’t say I don’t believe in God. I only said it will be nice if there was one” (Meaning that God is not there. Why quibble about it?). And that the stone (Vishnu statue) is just powerless. As it didn’t save Vishnu followers (including, the skeletal Ranagaraja Nambi) and got cast up on the beach due to the tsunami not its own powers.
  • He says that people have always killed and got killed in the name of the God in India. Even before Christianity or Islam made its entry to India, people were killing each over communal riots.in this case Shivites vs Vaishnavites.
  • When he’s protesting the sale of “bio-weapons to venture capitalists,” his boss tells him not act like a unionist. I liked how he showed that industrialists try to buy off people with unionist tendencies; when his boss tells Govind he will be paid hundred thousand dollars to go with the tide; and when Vincent’s men are bought off by the sand-mining industrialists here.
  • When he hugs the sanitary workers (most probably Dalits with no offense, but only empathy for that community) and the sanitary workers are surprised that he’s touching a person, who works in the drains.
  • When the old, mad woman hugs the dead Vincent and they tell her not to touch him because he’s from another caste. But the old woman rejects what he says, leaving us with the question who is really mad? The old woman who embraces a stranger as her son or the Hindu fundamentalist, who thinks touching someone from another caste is sinful?
  • when he shows the rampant sand mining taking place on the Palar river bed. He has imitated real-life activists in portraying the anti-sand mining group
  • when he shows the blind faith and prejudices people have due to religion
  • when he makes a hit at Vaiko and Vijaykanth. In the interrogation scene, Balram Naidu questions Govind’s loyalty towards promoting the Tamil language, to which Kamal replies “Telegu people (Vaiko/Vijaykanath) like you will promote the language for their own benefit.”
  • when he criticises Jayendra Saraswathi. When Balram Naidu wants to interrogate people in the Hindu religious mutt, he asks “Are there not criminals in mutt?” (A hit at the recent murder case in which the acharya was arrested and many brahmins protested the move)
  • when Kalif’s dad tells the govt officers not to think “every Muslim is a terrorist”. Kamal of course phrases it in his roundabout way as “don’t think everyone who prays to Mecca is a terrorist.” I feel there’s too much of branding going on. Just because the US govt, UK and other European countries didn’t like Communists; Communists were bad and terrorists. Now the new villains are Muslims. Because the US would love to occupy the oil-rich lands of the Middle-East, the natives or Muslims become evil and terrorists. Even the BJP and RSS get votes using the same platform that “Hindu Rajaya must be born, after killing all the Muslim terrorists in India.” In Gujarat, I guess the Modi govt was partially successful, but it was interesting to note the subtle criticism the film makes of the Gujarat riots and the more than 2,000 Muslims killed in the riots.

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