In a fresh incident of moral policing by pro-Hindutva groups in Dakshina Kannada, a state-run bus going to Bengaluru was stopped by a group of people belonging to the Hindu Jagrana Vedike, a right-wing outfit. A Muslim man and Hindu woman travelling in the bus were dragged to the police station late on Thursday, 19 August, over suspicions that they were travelling together.
The woman, who was travelling from Puttur, and the man Naushad were travelling in a government bus to Bengaluru on Thursday night. Naushad had booked a ticket from Puttur to Kumbra in Dakshina Kannada, but changed his destination to Bengaluru as he suddenly received a call for a job interview there. He was seen talking to the Hindu woman in the bus.
According to the police, the Hindu Jagrana Vedike members chased the bus in a car and stopped it, based on information that the Muslim man and Hindu woman were travelling together. "There was an argument and they were taken to the Sullia police station but there was no prior connection between the man and the woman... We checked their phones," said Sullia police inspector Naveenchandra Jogi.
It is unclear how the Hindu Jagrana Vedike members were informed about the man and the woman in the bus. Police said it could have been one of the co-passengers that informed the local Bajrang Dal unit in Puttur.
In a video that has surfaced, a large group of people are seen discussing the incident outside the Sullia police station, with tempers flaring between Naushad and the Bajrang Dal group. Eventually, the police decided to send him and the woman on their way, in the bus to Bengaluru. "The man and the woman did not want to pursue a complaint against the group that stopped them and they were sent on their way," says the inspector.
TNM had earlier reported on the rise in moral policing in Dakshina Kannada district this year. Records maintained by the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) showed that there were 51 communal incidents and 14 moral policing incidents (based on data up to July) in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi in 2021. It was found that in most cases, religious vigilante groups target interfaith friends and couples, often stopping them from travelling together or being with each other in public spaces.
(The story was first published on The News Minute and has been republished in an arrangement.)