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V-Day spoiler: Muthalik, men have plan ready

He was arrested on January 31 but released on bail just 48 hours later. Soon enough, Pramod Muthalik, the firebrand chief of hardliner Hindu group Sri Ram Sene (SRS) is back to making inflammatory speeches against Western culture.

After vandalising a Mangalore pub, beating up youngsters – mostly women – and shooting into overnight notoriety and limelight, SRS has made its agenda for the coming days clear.

Muthalik has said he and his band of boys will not let youngsters celebrate Valentine's day.

While the Karnataka government seems to be paying no heed, the city's youngsters are determined not to care about one saffron group's threats.

But where does the real problem lie? Is it simply moral policing and forced adherence to culture that modern Indian is uncomfortable with? Or is law – clearly insufficient to deal with activists like Muthalik – equally to fault?

Muthalik was among the panelists on an explosive and a charged edition of Face the Nation on Wednesday. The show was moderated by CNN-IBN Senior Editor Sagarika Ghose and had women's rights activist Ranjana Kumari and Supreme Court lawyer Pinky Anand as co-panelists alongwith Muthalik.

The SRS chief kicked off the debate and said while he wasn't against love, it was the public display that was not in keeping with Indian values. "We'll request people to not observe Valentine's Day but will do it in accordance with the law. We will also meet the Governor of the state and submit a memorandum to him. It says that we don't need Western culture," he said.

Justifying his opposition to Valentine's Day he said, "Pyaar karne ke liye ek day nahi chahiye. Aaj karo, abhi karo, kabhi bhi karo (You don't need a day to celebrate love. Do it whenever. It's a feeling, why a day?)" Watch: Muthalik justifies V-Day violence

Ranjana Kumari countered Muthalik and demanded who gave him the right to behave like the moral police. She also alleged that Muthalik and his men were propagating a culture of hate "Aap kaun hote hain ladke ladkiyon ko batane waale ki prem karein ya nahi? (Who are you to tell the boys and girls whether they must love or not?)," she asked.

WHO SETS THE MORAL METER?

Pinky Anand too carried the argument and asked Muthalik if he was a fascist. "Do you live in a fascist society or a democratic society?"

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Muthalik reiterated that he was against the violation of Indian culture.

But what is the SRS? It's not an elected body and therefore what gives them or Muthalik – not an elected leader – the right to impose their opinions? When asked these questions, Muthalik was not the least bit fazed and did not think this was something of much consequence. "I actually got many SMSes from people who thought our actions were right, given the manner in which the youth of today behaves," he said.

Ranjana Kumari said she couldn't believe this. "Who in their right minds would SMS you, Mr Muthalik? Considering the manner in which your men treated women that day, no one will support you. That's why you guys resort to goondaism," she said.

Is this the ugly – or as some would argue – the real face of Hindutva? Ransack places, attack women and vulnerable target in the name of God and/or culture?

While on the one hand people like Muthalik equate women with Goddesses, on the other, they have no qualms about beating or molesting them if "need" be.

When these questions were put to Muthalik and he was asked to apologise to the women of the country, he went on a violent defensive. "Mujhe maafi maangne mein koi sharam nahi aati. Ye sab humne desh ki sanskriti ko bachane ke liye kiya (I don't have a problem apologising but we did this to preserve the Indian culture). I apologise that the means were wrong, what else do you want?" he said.

Watch: Muthalik says sorry

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He also said it was his responsibility as an Indian citizen to prevent obscenity in public. Ranjana Kumari, instead, alleged it was SRS that was obscene in its act of violence. "This is the country of Buddha and Gandhi. It's a democratic nation. These things won't work here," she said.

HOOLIGAN MORALITY?

But Muthalik put up a defence to this argument as well. He said seven rapes were reported from Mumbai and 17 from Delhi on Valentine's Day last year. "Do you want this to continue?" he asked. He also went to the extent of rejecting the allegations that his men beat up women.

Muthalik also made public his "plans" for the V-Day. He said he will submit a memorandum to the Governor and the state police to take action against youngsters who indulge in drinking, drugs and immoral activities on the day.

Watch: 'We will make sure V-Day cards don't sell'

Pinky Anand asked him if he should be doing these things considering he was on bail and any protest will amount to breaking the law. "Who do you think you are? God? Aren't you scared of the law?" she demanded.

Muthalik said gagging or muzzling him or his supporters won't serve any purpose as they would go about doing what they want in any case. "What you think about me – goonda or whatever – doesn't matter. There are thousands of people who support us in this. Samaaj hamara saath de raha hai (the society supports us)," he claimed.

At the end of the debate, Muthalik remained smug even as Pinky Anand and Ranjana Kumari insisted he, his cronies or more like them had no business setting a moral meter for a modern, progressive India and Indians.

FINAL SMS/WEB POLL: Is law insufficient to deal with the likes of Pramod Muthalik?

Yes: 62 per cent
No: 38 per cent

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