In My Own Backyard

Father Richie heads the Mass Communication department at the St. Aloysius College. Although his University restricts the electronic media syllabus to just a few classes of theory, Father Richie has set up five basic camera and edit set ups in his department, so that interested students can make short films. He has a doctorate in film studies, having done a thesis titled Themes, Concerns and Values in the Films of Girish Kasaravalli.

Father Richie is usually mild natured and soft-spoken. But these days, like many in his community, he is an angry man. His community and his faith have been attacked. He hails from Mangalore, the strife-ridden city of coastal Karnataka.


Miscreants vandalise some churches and cause mayhem. A protest rally is arranged, where the mood turns violent. Among the people injured in the resulting laathi charge are peacefully demonstrating women, including nuns. Allegations of stones pelting are made from both the protestors as well as the police!

The attackers, belonging to a different faith, accuse a section of the attacked community of ridiculing their gods and indulging in forceful and induced religious conversions. But why attack the whole community for the actions of a few, ask a few. Why attack at all and take law into your own hands, ask a few more. Proof of forced conversions is sought for. The constitution is invoked; fundamental rights are referred to.

The attackers openly declare their intentions. Translations of a fifteen-year-old inflammatory pamphlet are quoted. The group that is supposed to have circulated it denies any knowledge of it. An enquiry from the Central Bureau of Investigation is demanded. Violence spreads to other areas in the district, in the state and elsewhere in the country. Evangelism is decried, so are re-conversions.

It is the Gujarat pattern, people shout. The state government is accused of tactically supporting the aggressor. Politicians of all hues drop into the city. This is fishing done troubled waters. It is all for the next elections, it is murmured. The central government issues a strong advisory against the state government. The National Women’s Commission exerts pressure. The police announce an internal enquiry and the state government, a judicial enquiry.

Meanwhile on ground zero, fear looms large in anticipation of future attacks.


The human development indices of the entire belt of coastal Karnataka, I believe, compare well with that of some developed countries. Today, education and health care facilities are accessible to a vast majority the people in the area. It would be difficult to detach this scenario from the pioneering efforts put in by the Christian missionaries of the 19th century to make modern education and medical facilities accessible to as many as possible.


If someone’s is increasing his fold, should I be threatened or am I threatened so much that I need to increase my fold?

If I am convinced that it means ‘This’ and you are confident that it means ‘That’, then in such a polarised world, what does it really take to bring about an agreement?

All this, in my own backyard.

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