Pramod Muthalik
Pramod MuthalikCreative Commons

'Moral policing' is no new word in our vocabularies. It is a blanket term used to describe vigilante groups in India.

Pooja Prasanna, Republic TV's bureau chief for South India, carried out stings with an effort to expose the mindset of the Hindu right groups that include Sri Ram Sene, the Bajrang Dal and the Vishva Hindu Parishad. Reports say that the series was framed within Pooja's narrative of reporting on the misogynistic group, where she was told to support their cause as a Hindu woman.

In the first series, she talks to a Bajrang Dal leader in Karnataka, Sharan Pumpwell. He had joined the organisation back in 2005 and has been linked to various vigilante attacks and is known in the city as someone who provides private security to real estate tycoons. He was also accused of collecting protection money and extortion.

Sharan's comments on the operations of Bajrang Dal explains of his confidence with which the brigade continues to emphasise their presence.

"When we get a tip-off, our boys go there. There is usually a crowd and we can't differentiate who is what. There are times when violence takes place and our boys also indulge in violence a few times. Usually, they educate the boy and take the couple to the police station. Sometimes, even after all these measures, if injustice is being meted out to a girl and in response to that if there is violence we will always justify it. We don't blame someone for using violence to save a girl because his intention is right," said Pumpwell.

Various incidents of attacks on the youth belonging to different communities for daring to interact with one another is not a thing of the past in Mangaluru. In April 2017, a mobile shop owner was assaulted by a Hindu rights group for allegedly sending a WhatsApp message to a Hindu girl, in spite of him screaming that he does not have the application. But the attackers failed to quit.

Similar attacks have become a part of their daily routines and are seen by these leaders of the Hindu rights groups as an ally to achieve their intent of keeping Hindu girls "safe" from Muslim boys.

Love Jihad is another term that gained currency after such attacks and is being used by the Hindu outfits to describe an alleged trick by Muslim men to lure Hindu girls to marry them and then convert them to Islam as well.

Pramod Muthalik, head of the Sri Ram Sene and the principle instigator behind the 2009 pub attack, takes pride in the system that he has established for keeping track of any interactions between Hindu and Muslims girls and boys. He claims that he has "informers" in all schools and colleges in the city. He says he has all dating information from these educational institutions.

"We have a boy and a girl classroom wise in every college to tell us which boy is talking to which girl to see if they are going on bikes for movies and to parks. They observe and inform our organisation leaders. Their job ends there and our activists then meet the girls' parents and inform them. If they don't pay heed then they speak to the girl and warn the boy saying that if we see you with this girl again then we will break your hands and legs," Muthalik says.

Back in 2010, Tehelka magazine through their undercover investigation caught Muthalik on their camera agreeing to vandalise an art exhibition in return for money. Muthalik and his associates were banned from going to Goa in 2014 and the ban was extended later in January this year. As many as thirteen cases of hate speech have been registered against the Sri Ram Sene chief.

Jagdish, a lawyer and Vishwa Hindu Parishad's district president said that the outfit aims to install fear into the hearts of young men and women and adds that the education for women is the problem. He goes on to say that problems crop up when these women start demanding their individual choices and adds that putting fear in the mind of those who think freely is his motive.

"To make sure that Hindus don't have to live in fear of Muslim boys. You can call us terrorists or moral police. We don't mind. Now people are scared of us. The love they show is not real or targeted. Now that they are scared. Police officers will tell you that if it were not for the Bajrang Dal it would be hard to control Muslims."

The series ends with demands for the immediate arrest of Pramod Muthalik, Sharan Pumpwell and Jagdish Shenava.