‘Rent-a-riot’ Muthalik pays for his fanaticism (Letter from Bangalore)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

BANGALORE - Pramod Muthalik, the self-appointed Hindutva protector, has been thriving on controversies - from making inflammatory statements to being involved in attacks. But now he is battling an expose showing him willing to organise violent protests for a few lakhs of rupees.

While he garners huge space in the media by making provocative statements, the 47-year-old Hindu fanatic has little support, either in his home state Karnataka or other parts of the country.

Over the years, Muthalik has traversed from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to his own outfit Sri Rama Sene, via stints in the Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena.

But following the expose by Tehelka magazine and Headlines Today TV channel last week, RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav and several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders have again asserted that Muthalik has no connection with their organisations.

A day after the channel telecast the sting operation ‘Rent-a-riot’, Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa claimed: “I don’t know anything about Muthalik. I read about him in the newspaper.”

He said: “Police will take the appropriate decision at the appropriate time. We don’t interfere in such matters. Police are there, and they will proceed according to law and will take action.”

Muthalik has filed a police complaint against the magazine and the channel reporters and sought a probe into the incident. He has denied organising riots for money, though the sting operation claims he agreed to vandalise an art show for Rs.60 lakh.

Bangalore Police say they will take action after studying the video footage. In the footage telecast, Muthalik is heard as saying: “I can’t get directly involved. I have an image in society - that of being a man of principles and a Hindutva supporter. I don’t want one incident to spoil that.”

He is in for a long haul and legal battle to retain the image he claims to have while trying to portray himself as a victim of the forces opposed to his brand of Hindutva.

The notoriety of 1963-born Muthalik reached its peak when his men attacked young girls at a pub in Karnataka’s coastal town of Mangalore, about 350 km from here, in January 2009. Muthalik sought to justify the shocking incident of young women being pulled by hair, thrashed and pushed around by saying women going to pubs was against Hindu culture.

Apparently egged by the publicity the pub attack got him, he threatened to marry off men and women publicly displaying their love on Valentine’s Day in February 2009.

He meekly withdrew the threat following nationwide condemnation, a cheeky ‘Send Pink Chaddi’ (innerwear) campaign on the net and unprecedented support from various organisations, including farmers, in Karnataka for those wanting to celebrate the day.

Born into a Marathi family in Hukkeri in Belgaum, bordering Maharashtra, Muthalik joined the RSS in 1975 at the age of 13.

Nine years later, he became the south India convener of the Bajrang Dal in 2004 and also worked for the BJP in the assembly polls that year. The Bajrang Dal found his hardline views tough to swallow and threw him out just a year later.

With fanfare, Muthalik joined the Shiv Sena in August 2005 only to leave a year later as the party again raised the demand for merger of Marathi-speaking areas of Belgaum with Maharashtra.

Finding himself not wanted in the many pro-Hindu outfits, Muthalik floated the Rashtriya Hindu Sena as a political platform. Sri Rama Sene is an offshoot of the Rashtriya Hindu Sena.

What followed has been there for all to see.

Filed under: Politics

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