Mangalore has been witnessing a lot of violence since the past one year and the most prominent among them was the attack on churches by Bajrang Dal activists who claimed that the attack was carried out to protest against conversions.
The Christian community, which is dominant in Mangalore, had never witnessed such violence before and this was the first time that bad blood between the Hindus and Christians had been created in this part of the state. The Mangalore assembly constituency was bagged by the Bharatiya Janata Party in last year's elections and the party had no one but the Christian voters to thank as they voted for them in large numbers.
However, this time round, Christians in Mangalore have taken it upon themselves to defeat what they call the communal forces who are dividing society. Ivan D'souza, executive committee member of the Catholic diocese of Mangalore told rediff.com that every Christian in Mangalore is waiting eagerly for April 30, 7 am, to cast their vote and defeat the communal forces.
The thinking among the Christians in Mangalore revolves around their security. The attacks on churches had a big impact on their mindset and each one is thinking of his own security and will see to it that the BJP is not elected.
D'souza explains that there has been such an awareness drive among the Christian community that after the attack on churches, nearly 39,000 Christians from Mangalore have enrolled themselves in the voters list.
"Christians are strictly adhering to what they say are 'ten commandments' (not to be confused with the original ones) to electorally outnumber the 'communal forces'," D'Souza said.
The Ten Commandments are:
1) Ensuring that your name is on the electoral roll.
2) Help the poor, marginalised, underprivileged people to have their names on the ER.
3) Scrutinise election manifestos of various political parties.
4) Not to vote for parties/candidates that are communal, casteist, criminal, corrupt and fascist.
5) Not to accept any bribe/reward to vote for any party/candidate.
6) Cast your vote early and also get others to do so on voting day.
7) Insist on tendered vote under Rule 49-P of the Conduct of Elections Rules 1961.
8) Exercise your 'electoral right' by declining to cast your vote (under the provision of Rule 49-O of the Conduct of Elections Rules 1961) if you are not satisfied with any of the candidates.
9) Report immediately, in writing, cases of bribery (for votes) booth-capturing, bogus voting.
10) Bring serious concerns like the disenfranchisement of a whole community/village to the notice of the chief election commissioner.
"The last time Christians gave the BJP a chance, but this time it is a question of the security of Christians in Mangalore who have been a peace-loving community. Thanks to the attacks on churches, there has been a sense of insecurity among the Christians and several of them have even planned on migrating to other places. It is unfortunate to see that such a thought has cropped in among the Christians who are the dominant community in Mangalore," said D'Souza.
"I know that the BJP will continue to remain in power in the state and this is a vote against the person contesting the Lok Sabha elections. This would surely make a difference. We are not aiming to defeat the BJP, but the vote against them this time would surely demoralise them," D'Souza added.
"Our fight is against the government which failed to protect us. There is absolutely no problem with the other communities in Mangalore and the relationship especially with Hindus has been cordial. We have to ensure that Mangalore returns to what it was before since everyone is fed up of violence and this disturbance has been caused between the two communities for the first time in the history of the city," D'Souza said.
Image: Ivan D'Souza | Photograph: Reuben N V