On April 4, 2023, a 22-year-old Muslim youth in Karnataka was dragged out of a moving bus by a group of men and assaulted, all because he travelled with a Hindu woman. Shahil was travelling to Ujire after the woman alighted the bus at Belthangady, when a group of men allegedly linked to the Bajrang Dal intercepted the vehicle and assaulted him. A video of the incident was widely circulated on social media and four suspects were booked. The case is just one of the 20 instances of moral policing that took place in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi in 2023, as per a report curated by Suresh Bhat Bakrabail, member of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Mangaluru.

According to the list, 84 instances of communal discord occurred in Karnataka’s coastal districts last year, with the major contributor being hate speech in 44 cases. Eight cases of cattle vigilantism, two allegations of forced religious conversion, and 10 other communal incidents were reported.

Among the hate speech cases is one by Pramod Muthalik, leader of Hindu extremist outfit Rashtriya Hindu Sena, directing Hindu men to “get 10 Muslim girls for losing one Hindu girl” in February. The speech came a month after the outfit’s offshoot Sri Ram Sene joined the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)’s boycott of Muslim vendors during the Panchalingeshwara temple fair in Vittal town. They had also evicted a Muslim shop owner at the time.

A major share of the 44 speeches were made by Hindutva outfits, while three were by Muslim fundamentalists. In Udupi, an FIR was filed against a Muslim youth for an inflammatory comment on social media stating that an opportunity was lost to “finish off” the Hindu killer of a Muslim family. The accused, Hafeez Muhammed, was talking about the chance to lynch a Hindu man, Praveen Chogale, while being taken by the police for questioning. Praveen was arrested on charges of killing four people, including three women, allegedly after a failed romantic relationship. In Dakshina Kannada, 21 cases were registered against those posting and circulating communally sensitive messages on social media platforms.

Suresh has been compiling this data since 2010. As per the list, the most violent year was 2015 when Congress was in power. Up to 228 instances of communal violence took place in the state that year. This includes 35 instances of moral policing by Hindu vigilantes, 11 moral policing incidents by Muslim vigilantes, and 143 cases of other communal incidents such as desecration and attacks. In 2022, 174 cases were reported, closely followed by 173 in 2014.

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