Catholics, Karnataka and BJP
What is now happening in my home state Karnataka is quite disturbing. It was unthinkable before mid 90s. People like me who went to schools and colleges in the 1980s and 90s never imagined that one day our state would be divided on communal lines.
BJP's PM in waiting L K Advani's Rath Yatra of 1990-91 first sowed the seeds of communal politics in Karnataka. It was a socialist state and socialism was an integral part of the public life till early 90s. Old socialists who always opposed the Congress died and many others went to BJP or retired from politics after the decimation of Janata Parivar. The BJP occupied that space and filled political vaccum with its politics of divide and hate. BJP, once a pariah became a favourite in Karnataka politics overnight.
As our renowned writer and thinker Prof. U R Ananthamurthy says, "The Christians in the past had made contribution to the development of modern Kannada. Rev Kittel who composed the first Kannada dictionary was one of our revered ancestors. The Christians continue to run hospital and schools. Most of the gentle and caring nurses in hospitals are Christians."
It is not just that. Many people from my grand father and father's generation always practised communal harmony and held Catholic missionaries in high esteem. Thyanandur Puttannaiah, a religious Hindu and a remarkable man from my home district Shimoga had dedicated his book (a definitive account on Malnad - hilly region of Karnataka) to Christian missionaries!
It was not a surprising gesture during those days. He had a great respect for them because of their social service. He truly believed that caring and loving Catholic nuns and priests had introduced modern civilisation to the remote, inaccessible Malnad, which was known as a den of cholera and malaria during the British raj.
Even my grand father believed that the entire generation of Kannadigas in the Malnad and Coastal Karnataka survived the dreaded diseases of cholera and malaria only because of the selfless service of Catholics in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The first Kannada newspaper Mangalooru Samachara was started by a missionary from Germany FatherHerman Mogling in 1843. The Basel Mission Church published first books in Kannada. Reverend Uttangi Channappa was a renowned Kannada folklorist, historian and reseracher of the 20th century.
The great English teachers like J C Ralo and Armando Menezes shaped Mysore and Karnataka university at Dharwad during their formative years. The same Hindu majority coastal Karnataka had sent Christian leaders like Oscar Fernades, Margarate Alva, the late Jockim Alva and the late Lobo Prabhu to Parliament, several times in the past.
Let's not forget that one time fire brand leader of Indian politics George Fernandes is also a Mangalorean. He is still a Mangalorean at heart.
A Cricketing legend of the 1980s Roger Binny proudly wore Karnataka cap as its captain in dozens of Ranji Trophy matches and made us happy.
These are just a few examples of thousands of other great Christians, who have immensely contributed to the Kannada culture and public life.
The Bajrang Dal and other radical Hindu organisations either don't know anything about our history or they don't want majority Hindus to acknowledge the importance of Christianity in Karnataka.
The Sangh parivar feels empowered after BJP captured power in Karnataka in the last May elections. With or without the knowledge or consent of the government, radical organisations like Bajrang Dal and Sri Rama Sena have unleashed a reign of terror in some parts of the state. There are enough reasons to believe that a section in the ruling BJP is stoking the fires of inter-religious animosity in Karnataka for political reasons. Anti - Christian sentiment is travelling from the coast to the capital under a benign and benevolent government which seems to think it was sworn into office to protect and promote only one community.
It is a fact that the neo radical protestant evangelists like ' The New Life Church ' are coercing innocent, poor Hindus from the lower strata of the society and converting them in some parts of the state. There are serious allegations of money playing a big role in the conversions. But, the single largest and the oldest Christian community in the state Roman Catholics are being attacked by the right wing zealots. Perhaps, the semi literate zealots don't know the difference between Catholics and other neo radical evangelists. Catholics are the most visible Christians because of their magnificent Churches, convents, colleges, seminaries, Cathedrals, Basilicas and hospitals. They are made to pay the price for the alleged anti Hindu activities of other sects.
Even if the new sects are involved in a large scale conversion activities, Bajrang Dal or any other radical organisation has no right to take law unto its own hands and punish the guilty. The visibly shaken, inexperienced chief minister B S Yeddyurappa should also realise that he is chief minister of Karnataka and it is his Constitutional obligation to protect all religions and castes irrespective of the their political affiliations and leanings.
Another sad development is the complete politicisation of the entire issue. When Karnataka is looking for a statesman to douse the raging communal flames, The Congress led central government, state government and the idle, frustrated, JDS are all busy making political calculations. The selective invoking of the Article 355 by the centre only against the BJP or NDA ruled Karnataka and Orissa has not gone down well even with the non- BJP people from the state.
They feel that the centre has no moral right to warn Karnataka and turn a blind eye to states like West Bengal or Tamil Nadu or even Maharashtra. The BJP is cleverly using it to consolidate votes and communalise the entire state. The wily old fox H D Deve Gowda also shouldn't forget that nearly a dozen people were killed in communal clashes when his son H D Kumaraswamy was the chief minister. "Secularists ", Congress, JD(S) etc can easily fool the benevolent media, but not the people.
Actually they are aiding the BJP and other communal forces in their eagerness to prove their 'secular' credentials. Falling over each other for votes and 15 minute fame will finally end in their fall and the raise of communal elements.Gujarat is a shining example of it. What media thinks negative publicity is actually positive for communal elements. It helps them to grow stronger.
Lets also admit that Karnataka has not always been a tolerant state. But the core values of Kannada and Karnataka have always been live and let live.
Let us admit, as a distinguished Kannada author, Prof V Sitaramiah, has pointed out, that we have had our pettiness and feuds; our limitations of outlook and failures in achievement; our bloodbaths given and taken. Our chieftains have carried off brides from marriage pavilions; our warriors have destroyed men and lands when fiendish fits were on. In their turn, they have been invaded and their capital cities have been razed to the ground or burnt to ashes.
The history of all peoples has been much the same and littered with episodes good and not so good. But the long range value preference, the pride and grateful memory of Kannada poets has been, by and large, for tolerance and the arts of peace; for conservation. This is true not of poets alone but the Kannada people as a whole...
"Allied with this distrust of fanaticism and flamboyance is a certain unsparing insistence of self-discipline and style. It is expressed in the numerous stories about Visvesvaraya, in the fastidiousness of Generals Cariappa and Thimmayya, in the philosophical volumes of Professor Hiriyanna and in the dance of Shanta Rao. In its gentler form it can be detected in the lines and brush strokes of K.K. Hebbar, in the glances and drives of G R Vishwanath, in the meditative aalaap of Mallikarjun Mansoor and in the prose of R K Narayan."
As an obsessed Kannadiga, I am hurt and sad. Because, the carefully built image of my state has severely been dented. As one of my favourite journalists from Mysore says, "Oh God forgive them, they know what they are doing."
More about D P SatishD P Satish has been a journalist for the past 14 years. Born at the picturesque Jog Falls in Shimoga district of Karnataka, Satish did his graduation in English Literature. He is a post-graduate in Journalism from the prestigious Asian College of Journalism, Bangalore (now in Chennai). After a brief stint with the Indian Express Group, he shifted to TV. He also worked for an American news magazine called ' Image '. He has widely travelled and covered some of the biggest events from South of Vindhyas in the first decade of the 21st century. He is passionate about English literature, classical music, cinema, history, photography, jazz and Cricket. A self-proclaimed centrist, Satish keenly follows major political developments from across the World. He blogs regularly and spends hours searching for readable material from the Internet! He belives that journalism is a calling and a person meant to be a journalist, can't escape from it. A hillman at heart and by birth, Satish lives and works in New Delhi. But, loves Bangalore more than Delhi!
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