Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 20, Dated May 22, 2010
FOR THE RIGHT PRICE, YOU CAN GET THE SRI RAM
SENE TO ORGANISE A RIOT ANYWHERE. AN EXPOSÉ
BY PUSHP SHARMA. WRITTEN BY SANJANA. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY K ASHISH
|MEDIEVAL MINDSET Ram Sene
chief Pramod Muthalik outside a
Mangalore court in connection
with the pub attack case
PHOTOS: RK BHAT
THERE ARE 133 videos that
show up on YouTube
when you search for
“Mangalore pub attack”.
Over 300,000 people have
viewed the first video. Put
in the same query on Google and 69,000
websites show up in a fraction of a second.
On 24 January 2009, a group of
35-40 men barged into a pub in Mangalore
and attacked young women as they
enjoyed an afternoon drink. Amongst
the attackers were members of Sri Ram
Sene — a right-wing organisation that
was relatively unknown at the time. The
Sene cadres considered women drinking
publicly as “indecent behaviour” and
more importantly “an insult to Hindu
culture and tradition”. Two days after the
attack, as India marked 60 years of the
Constitution coming into force, national
television channels looped footage of
women being slapped, beaten and chased
out of the pub. (In a telling detail, the footage of the assault was available only
because the Sene had informed journalists
and photographers in Mangalore of
their intended attack 30 minutes before
they entered the pub.) The footage
sparked outrage. News producers from
French, Russian, German television
channels despatched correspondents to
ground zero. Even producers from The
Oprah Winfrey Show called in asking
for the footage. The Sene had burst
onto the scene.
As an organisation, the Sene has
always claimed for itself a radical Hindu
identity. Its leaders position themselves
as zealous custodians of “Hindu religion”
and “culture”, its cadres as valiant foot
soldiers. In their own words, they will not
hesitate to assault people, vandalise
property, destroy artistic expressions,
separate mixed religion couples — in
general, interfere violently — to implement
their hardline Hindutva agenda.
Their professional calling card is violence justified by a puritanical, spitfire morality.
A six-week undercover investigation
by TEHELKA, however, reveals that even
this violent, spitfire morality can be a
hypocritical sham. Sri Ram Sene members
are not just committed ideologues
who are spontaneously willing to
become violent law-breakers for a
“cause”. That’s just one of their criminal
and negative faces. They are also cynical
lumpen that can be bought for a
price. “Contract rioting” — thugs being
handed out contracts or money to create
riots — no longer needs to be a matter
of mere speculation. TEHELKA’s
investigation shows it is an alarming
reality. Vandalism can be purchased;
‘cultural nationalism’ can go on sale. It’s
all kosher in the “business” of outrage.
‘I cannot get involved directly, I
have an image to maintain, I have a
certain credibility in society. People
look up to me as a man of principles,
an idealist, a Hindutvawadi’
PRAMOD MUTHALIK, National President, Sri Ram Sene
To expose this aspect of the Sri Ram
Sene, a TEHELKA journalist posing as an
artist met Pramod Muthalik, the president
of the Sri Ram Sene, with a proposal.
Using the rationale that all controversy is good publicity, he asked
Muthalik if the Sri Ram Sene would
orchestrate a pre-paid, pre-meditated
attack on his painting exhibition so that
the resulting furore would spark public
interest, catapult him to fame and help
sell his paintings both in India and abroad
by attracting higher bids at art auctions.
(Never mind that the supposed paintings
this furore might help sell evoked Hindu-
Muslim amity, particularly Hindu-Muslim
marriages — a phenomenon the Sene
abhors.) In return, Muthalik and the Sene
would regain the national stature they
had achieved during the Mangalore pub
attack, besides pocketing the agreed upon
fee. Far from rejecting this proposal with
horror and outrage, Muthalik readily
connected the TEHELKA reporter to one
Sene member after another — down a
food chain that exposed a disturbingly
entrenched criminal mindset, which is
confident of fixing the system to abet it.
Before the story of what this food
chain threw up, however, it might help
to revisit the history of the Sri Ram Sene
and its founder.
THE SRI Ram Sene was started in
2007 by Pramod Muthalik, who
continues to be its National President.
Born in Bagalkot in north Karnataka,
Muthalik spent his formative
years — he joined a shakha when he was
13 years old — with the Hindu right wing
organisation, Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh (RSS). By 1996, his RSS seniors
shifted Muthalik to its paramilitary wing,
the Bajrang Dal. It took Muthalik less
than a year to be named the Dal’s south India convener. People who knew him
back then called him “ambitious, dedicated
and sharp-tongued”. In his 23-year
association with the RSS and its affiliate
organisations, Muthalik had several
brushes with the law, but despite being
charged in numerous cases for provocative
speech-making, the only significant
time he has spent in jail is two months —
a record he maintains till date.
Upset with the BJP’s failure to reward
his Hindutva zeal with any political dividends,
Muthalik severed ties with the RSS
in 2004. He claims the RSS and its affiliate
organisations are betraying the Hindu
cause by not being hardline enough, and
the BJP government in the state too is not
helping him enough. Predictably then,
extreme hardline Hindutva politics has
been the cornerstone of the Sri Ram Sene
since it was floated in 2007. Violence is
the only way forward, says Muthalik. In
2008, attempting to enter political centre
stage, Muthalik floated the Rashtriya Hindustan
Sena — the political wing of the
Sene — but failed miserably. None of the
candidates fielded made a mark. While
talking to TEHELKA, Muthalik admits on
camera that his candidates lost the state
Assembly elections because “we need
money, religion and thugs to succeed. We
didn’t know that. Today’s political situation
is a wretched one.”
|MOB FOR HIRE The attack on Mangalore’s
Amnesia Pub (above) in 2009 by Bajrang Dal,
Sri Ram Sene and others brought the SRS
to national prominence; Sene national
vice-president Prasad Attavar (below)
Resolving to return to electoral politics
after establishing himself more stridently,
Muthalik and the Sene launched a
series of plans to strengthen its “Hindu”
identity. Though the organisation is most
strongly rooted in the coastal Karnataka
region and pockets of north Karnataka, their activities have not been limited to
these regions. On August 24, 2008, in
Delhi, a few Sene members barged into
an art exhibition organised by SAHMAT an
NGO, and destroyed several MF Husain
paintings, leaving behind a clutch of pamphlets
denouncing Husain’s attempts to
hurt Hindu pride. A month later in September,
speaking at a public event in
Mangalore, Muthalik referred to the
Bengaluru bomb blasts that had taken
place a week earlier and declared 700
Sene members were being trained to
carry out suicide attacks. “We have no
more patience. Tit for tat is the only
mantra before us to save Hinduism,” he
had announced. “If centres of religious
importance for Hindus are targeted, twice
the number of religious centres of the
opposite party will be smashed. If Hindu
girls are exploited by the members of
other religions, double the number of
girls from other religions will be targeted.”
Months later, in January 2009, the
Karnataka police arrested nine people
in connection with bomb blasts that
exploded in Hubli during the state
Assembly elections. The kingpin, Nagaraj
Jambagi, was a Sene member and a close
Muthalik associate — a fact Muthalik
himself had admitted to at the time. In
July 2009, Jambagi was murdered while
serving time in Bagalokot Jail.
During the Mangalore pub attack,
minutes before he was arrested for inciting
his cadres, Muthalik had asked
newspersons gathered at the scene why
everybody was making such a big issue
of the attacks. “We took steps to protect
our Hindu culture and punished girls who were attempting to destroy that
tradition by going to pubs. We will not
tolerate anybody who steps out of this
code of decency,” he said then.
This Muthalik-prescribed code of
“decency” is still being enforced in several
ways in coastal Karnataka. In Mangalore,
Sene cadres walked into a Hindu wedding
celebration on July 15, 2009, and assaulted
a Muslim guest for attending the event.
Muslim boys, in fact, are often beaten up
across the region merely for talking to
Hindu girls. And they have whipped up
anxiety and anger about a derisive concept
called “Love Jihad”— a conspiracy
allegedly evolved by Muslim boys to convert
Hindu girls to Islam through proposals
of marriage — through vicious
attacks and propaganda.
As part of the investigation then, the
TEHELKA journalist posing as an artist
declared his forthcoming exhibition
would be on positive images of “Love
Jihad”. But it did not seem to bother
Muthalik — or any of the Sene members TEHELKA met — that their help was
being sought to boost sales of paintings
on a theme they claimed to ideologically
oppose. For a man who frequently talks
of how he does not have a single bank
account in his name and depends
entirely on public contributions, Muthalik’s
easy acceptance of the proposal is a
telling comment in many ways.
‘Sri Ram Sene has a very good team
in place, whatever you want we
will deliver. We have a setting for
everything. There is only one
problem — money problem’
KUMAR, Sri Ram Sene member, Mangalore
Here is how the story unfurled once
TEHELKA met with Muthalik.
TEHELKA FIRST met with Muthalik
at the Sene office in Hubli. Before
laying out the proposal of a preengineered
attack on the art exhibition,
a cash donation of Rs 10,000 is offered to
Muthalik — “Hindutva ke liye hum bhi
kuch karen (We want to do our bit for
Hindutva).” Muthalik immediately
reaches for the money and puts it in his
pocket, without even a token refusal.
Over the course of the conversation, a
detailed proposal is suggested that could
potentially be a mutually beneficial proposition. Muthalik betrays no surprise
or shock — not even when the
reporter suggests that the art exhibition
should be organised in a Muslim-dominated
area in Bengaluru for the impact
of the attack to be maximised. Muthalik’s
only response to the suggestion is —
“Yes, we can do it. In Mangalore as well.”
The acceptance and the suggestion of
Mangalore, another city where the
attack can be staged, are instantaneous.
Within the next five minutes, Muthalik
offers to depute the task of coordination
and suggests taking the discussion forward
to two Sene leaders — Vasantkumar
Bhavani, the President of the
Bengaluru city unit, and Prasad Attavar,
the Sene vice-president, who is based
out of Mangalore.
(Though the conversations are in
Hindi, the transcripts have been translated
into English here for the purpose
of the story.)
TEHELKA: I’ll take leave sir, what I
want is to gain popularity and if I get
popularity my business will improve.
If you say then I…just tell me a time
limit… these many boys will be
there…this much for advo…meaning
that of lawyers…we will not
even complain… because that is our
understanding… but sir, it is that
whatever you say that amount of
advance I will leave with you, then I
say to you that now it has all come
to you, and sir now do the job…
MUTHALIK: Can do it in Mangalore,
TEHELKA: I can get more popularity in the Shivaji Nagar area of Bangalore…
because that whole area is
theirs…the Muslims. If you give one
statement in the press and 10 of
your workers reach there…we will
shut it down…what is it to us? But at
least we will get popularity.
MUTHALIK: Yes, that can be done...
TEHELKA: So sir, just tell me
straight up…or tell me to come
after two or four days….tell me for
certain that ‘This is my expense…
you do this much…’ so sir, I’ll complete
it and plan it all out…
MUTHALIK: What I’m telling you,
our president there…
TEHELKA: of Bangalore?
MUTHALIK: Of Bangalore…he is
also very strong…on speaking to
him…all three of us — you, me and
him — will sit and plan out what is
to be done…then we will do
it…definitely do it
The hour long conversation is peppered
with choice abuses and a vitriolic
diatribe against Muslims and their “plans
to divide the country”. Love jihad, Muthalik
tells TEHELKA, is the Muslims’ way of
conquering over Hindus, by increasing
their own population. Muslims, he continues,
pursue Hindu Brahmin or Jain girls
so that their children can inherit their
brains and be intellectually sharp to help
them in their mission.
According to him, this calculated strategy
by Muslims was taking place across
the country with increasing frequency.
When TEHELKA asks him why Hindu boys
were not engaging in a similar counteractivity,
Muthalik said the Sri Ram Sene
was now inspiring Hindu boys to pursue
‘I worked in the RSS first in 1996, then
the Bajrang Dal. I was in the main team
that attacked the Mangalore pub. But
my name is not there in the police case,
I was never arrested’
SUDHIR PUJARI, Sri Ram Sene member, Mangalore
Over this conversation, TEHELKA
repeated its proposal several times —
opportunities were given to Muthalik to
decline the offer of money. But Muthalik offers to brief other Sene associates, who
will play definitive roles in the execution
of the plan, and connect them with
TEHELKA. The date for the next meeting
is fixed and personal phone numbers are
exchanged. Muthalik asks TEHELKA to
return a week later.
He is categorical that, as the National
President of the Sene, he is conscious of the trouble he will be in if he is caught
planning details of the operation, so he
says he will talk over specifics with his
associates Prasad Attavar, Vasanthkumar
Bhavani and Jeetesh and then put them
on to TEHELKA. Throughout there is no
ambiguity that Muthalik heads the chain
of command and that the final decisionmaking
power rests with him.
DESPITE MUTHALIK’S intervention,
connecting with Prasad Attavar,
the National Vice-President of Sri
Ram Sene, was no easy task. He treats
almost everyone with suspicion and consequently
never answers any of his mobile
phones. Therefore, it took TEHELKA several
days to catch up with him. Considered
to be a close associate of Muthalik, Attavar is credited with leading the Sene
to notoriety in Mangalore. Having been
with the Sri Ram Sene since its inception
in 2007, Attavar exercises tremendous
control over the Sene cadres. In Mangalore,
Attavar runs a security agency in
partnership with another Sene member.
Unlike several others, he is not dependent
on the Sene for financial stability. In January 2009, Attavar openly claimed
responsibility for the Mangalore pub
attack. When another TEHELKA reporter
had contacted him for a story at the time,
Attavar had even claimed responsibility
for planning the attack. He had called the
media to the spot himself, he said. Days
later, Attavar and 27 others, including
Muthalik, were arrested for their role in
the pub attack. A week later, when a
Mangalore city magistrate granted them
bail, Attavar and the others were accorded
a hero’s welcome.
a bus vandalised
arrest in the wake of
the pub attack
Muthalik and other
When contact was finally made with
Attavar, a Sene cadre called Jeetesh was
sent to take TEHELKA to a nondescript
hotel in Mangalore for the meeting. A few
minutes into the conversation, it became
evident that Attavar was evading arrest —
a warrant had been issued against him.
The police had charged him with executing
the orders of an underworld don, Ravi
Pujari. Pujari is rumoured to have worked
with Mumbai gangster Chhota Rajan, and
later with Dawood Ibrahim, before establishing
his own empire. Besides having
interests in the tourism and hospitality
sector, Pujari allegedly also has interests in
Karnataka’s real estate industry. As Pujari’s
associate, Attavar has been accused of
threatening businessmen and builders in
Karnataka’s coastal region as part of an
extortion racket that is controlled from
Having been briefed by Muthalik,
Attavar is completely aware of the TEHELKA reporter’s proposal from the
first moment of conversation. His suggestions
therefore are concrete and to the
point. He offers a choice of organising the
exhibition (and the attack) outside Karnataka
as well. “We can do it in Mumbai,
Kolkata or Orissa as well,” he says.
When TEHELKA suggests the impact
of the planned attack against the artist
would be enhanced considerably if an
engineered threat could be issued by his
associate, Ravi Pujari, Attavar agrees it is
doable — thereby confirming his proximity
with the don.
A minute later, he talks how the police
need to be taken into confidence: they
have to be “set”. Additionally, the boys who
will participate in the attack have to be
from outside Mangalore, he says.
TEHELKA: We don’t have to go to
the police, neither do we have to do
a case… so if a case is filed it won’t
stand because there is no party in
front… we people will not identify…
ATTAVAR: That setting with the department
‘I will tell you how much money is
needed. It will be like the Mangalore
pub attack, even better. You will get
full national media coverage, I assure
you. I’ll do all the setting for you’
PRASAD ATTAVAR, National Vice-President, Sri Ram Sene
Six days after this meeting with TEHELKA,
Attavar was arrested by the Mangalore
police, taken to Mangalore Jail and then
remanded to judicial custody. He was
placed in Bellary Jail — considered to be
one of Karnataka’s high-security prisons.
Throughout, however, Attavar continued
to maintain contact with TEHELKA and
TEHELKA managed to meet with Attavar
both in the Mangalore and Bellary jails.
At the meeting in Mangalore Jail, when
TEHELKA asked if Rs 50 lakh would be
enough to organise the riots in two
different cities, Attavar’s answer is
inconclusive. He asks for more time to
return with a final figure. “I will calculate
the final amount and let you know,” is
all he will finally agree to. The discussion
revolves around the final amount —
there is no opposition to the proposal
PRASAD: What all is to be
done…does arrangement for hotel
need to be done?
TEHELKA: No that I’ll do…your input
will only be the team and the rest…
TEHELKA: We need to create a
riot…we have to have violence…50
lakh is being spent on two cities..
PRASAD: In Mangalore …
TEHELKA: Yes about 200 workers
should be there…at the time of the
At Bellary Jail, a mere payment of Rs
2,500 to some wardens and SN Hullur,
the Superintendent at Bellary Jail is sufficient
to set up a meeting with Attavar in
a separate discussion room. (So much for
the norms of a high-security jail). At this
meeting, Attavar says he has no money
and asks the TEHELKA reporter for some
money to tide him over. The reporter
gives him Rs 3,000. After this meeting
in the jail, Attavar frequently texted
TEHELKA asking the reporter to call back.
Alarmingly, both accessibility and mobile connectivity within a high security prison
seemed easy for Attavar. His advocate,
Sanjay Solanki later told TEHELKA that
Attavar’s access to mobile phones was
possible as Superintendent SN Hullur had
been handsomely paid. (TEHELKA has not
corroborated this independently.)
AFEW DAYS after the meeting with
Muthalik, TEHELKA also connected
with Vasantkumar Bhavani,
the Bengaluru city unit head of the
Sri Ram Sene. Bhavani is the Sene’s de
facto public relations man. He is fluent in
English and Hindi and lives in Bengaluru.
Immediately after the pub attacks in
Mangalore, Bhavani had travelled
from one television studio to another,
staunchly defending the Sene’s action and
its ideology. In one memorable live interview,
when a women’s rights activist challenged
the Sene’s ideology by saying
alcohol had long been a part of Hindu
traditions, Bhavani’s specious rebuttal
silenced her completely: “Go ask your
grandmother to drink alcohol. I will buy her a drink myself.” The sheer ridiculousness
of Bhavani’s arguments coupled with
his vehemence made him a hot favourite
with most media channels at the time.
A realtor by profession, Bhavani is
considerably wealthy and, like Attavar,
does not depend on the Sene to back
him financially. Ask him for the numerical
strength of Sene cadres in Bengaluru
and there are no answers forthcoming.
“Even Pramod [Muthalik] does not ask
me that question. Dealing with numbers
is unnecessary. My boys will be in
trouble if the police realises our true
strength,” he says. (In February this year,
when the Sene announced its usual
opposition to Valentine’s Day celebrations,
the police rounded up 400 men as
part of its preventive arrests.)
|RECALL FACTOR Sri Ram Sene members
deface posters and paintings of MF Husain
at an exhibition organised by SAHMAT in
Delhi in 2008
Photo: SHAILENDRA PANDEY
A fortnight before TEHELKA met with
Bhavani, he had led a Sene protest in
Bengaluru against Muthalik’s humiliation.
(In an unfortunate incident that
mirrored their own intolerant politics,
Muthalik’s face had been blackened by
members of the Karnataka State Youth
Congress during a television debate on
Valentine’s Day celebrations. Bhavani
and several others had been arrested
during the Sene’s counter-protests.)
In his conversation with TEHELKA, the
talk revolves cynically around the
specifics of the planned attack in
Bengaluru and how its impact can best
be maximised. Here’s what Bhavani
BHAVANI: You know Ravindra
TEHELKA: Yes, Yes...
BHAVANI: Behind it is an open
TEHELKA: How many people can
BHAVANI: Two thousand...
TEHELKA: Two thousand... but is that
BHAVANI: It is also communally
sensitive... the market is also close
by from there…
TEHELKA: City market?
BHAVANI: City market...
‘I was charged under IPC Section 307,
half murder, for the Kasargod clash.
I killed two or three people with a
sword. They attacked two of our men,
so we got two of theirs’
JEETESH, Udupi unit head, Sri Ram Sene
TEHELKA: Yes, there’s a Muslim area
BHAVANI: That is why that place is
very good for you... the scope there
is much better than in Shivaji
Nagar because in the close by areas
the Muslim population is very high.
TEHELKA: Yes, in city market it is...
but the area there is mostly commercial?
BHAVANI: It suits to what you have
TEHELKA: It suits the profile that we
BHAVANI: It suits that better than
Shivaji Nagar... Shivaji Nagar is a
remote area whereas this is more
suitable it suits your purpose.
TEHELKA: If it is done in Shivaji
Nagar it will look like there is not
much educated class there so why do
it there... if it is done in city market.
BHAVANI: This is matching your
idea and your concept... because
illiterates will not come and watch
your gallery... who will watch it are
your upper class... middle class.
TEHELKA: Elite class...
BHAVANI: It will mostly be the
upper class... so upper class... if you
keep it in Shivaji Nagar, who will
come and watch it... it will look preplanned
BHAVANI: If done in Shivaji Nagar...
if looked at from a different direction
it seems right... but it will not
get much publicity...
TEHELKA: Yes people might think...
that it is an under-table alliance
BHAVANI: Could look like that….
Having secured an agreement on the
venue, a discussion on dates follows.
Referring to the calendar on his phone,
Bhavani politely asks us for our preference
— weekdays or weekends? — before
suggesting weekends himself. More people
are likely to attend art exhibitions on
weekends, he says. Venue and dates out
of the way, Bhavani methodically moves
on to plan the protest itself. When
TEHELKA asks if inaugurating the exhibition
by a Muslim community leader or
politician will raise the octane of the
event and attack, Bhavani not only
approves, he has suggestions of his own:
TEHELKA: In this programme, Vasant,
I need public beating for sure,
because as your trademark is and I
want to call a Muslim leader for the
inauguration, so some people from
the Muslim community will be
there... there is Prof Hujra at IIM.
BHAVANI: Why don’t you call
BHAVANI: Mumtaj Ali Khan...
TEHELKA: Who is he?
BHAVANI: The minister of Waqf
TEHELKA: From Karnataka?
TEHELKA: He will come... How old
would Mumtaj Ali be?
TEHELKA: Above 50...
TEHELKA: 50-plus... Is he an MLC
BHAVANI: Being an MLC... he is a
backdoor entry... he is a minister...
Huj committee or Waqf Board...
TEHELKA: Apart from him, wasn’t
there another one who became Rail
BHAVANI: CK Jaffar...
TEHELKA: Jaffar Sharief...
BHAVANI: He is too old now...
Bhavani also asserts that other preparations
are necessary as well. Ominously,
for instance, an ambulance at the venue:
BHAVANI: Like if you keep Husain’s
name itself it will be good... will
make it popular.
TEHELKA: No, if we keep Husain, I
will not get the ‘mileage’, instead he
will get the ‘mileage’...
‘If we can agree on an amount, then
I will talk to my boss, Muthalik. He
gives us the green signal for action
but the screen script is all ready
with him. You think about your offer’
VASANTKUMAR BHAVANI, Ram Sene head, Bengaluru
BHAVANI: Mileage will go to him... I
cannot give assurance for this... how
much damage you will bear... there
will be damage... but how much that
I cannot guarantee... because our
boys are very ferocious boys... they
don’t look left or right...
TEHELKA: If it is to be done, it is to
BHAVANI: Done... I cannot avoid
them also because they will get annoyed with me then... if the leader
is ferocious, the followers will also
be ferocious... this much I want to
tell you... there will be damage, but
how mach I cannot say...
TEHELKA: Can there be public beatings...
VASANT: Can be done... whoever
they find there... because our boys
do all this also...
TEHELKA: If there is a crowd, they
cannot control themselves, right?
BHAVANI: No, usually they can’t...
TEHELKA: Will we have to keep an
BHAVANI: Absolutely... that can also
happen... after all, they are my boys...
if they take any task in hand... then...
you have to tell them... you have to
make them understand... more cases
will add on... already there are lots of
pending cases... try and control... only
target whatever is on display...
TEHELKA: Do damage...
BHAVANI: Do damage... do not
touch the people...
TEHELKA: But they usually don’t listen
BHAVANI: I’ll make them understand
this much, but I can’t ensure...
there is someone or the other... who
damage whatever comes in front...
such lunatics they are...
TEHELKA: That means I need to
keep an ambulance ready in advance...
should keep that in mind...
There is further evidence of the Sene’s
preparedness and calculated approach to
protests and destructive violence. While
discussing the aftermath of the attacks,
when TEHELKA offers to not file cases against the Sene, Bhavani turns down
the suggestion. If cases aren’t filed
against the attackers, people will suspect
that the attack has been pre-engineered,
he says. It doesn’t matter if they are
hauled to court, Bhavani reassures. They
are prepared to deal with such conditions
and TEHELKA would be handed
instructions by them on how to deal
with the legalities and fallout once the
attack has proven successful.
TEHELKA: From our side in this
gallery programme... whatever riot
happens inside the art gallery, we
are not going to register a case...
when there is no rival party...
VASANT: You will have to register a
(A discussion follows this assertion on
how Attavar, Bhavani’s counterpart in
the group, suggests a different approach)
TEHELKA: So a case needs to be
VASANT: You will have to file it… if
there is a wrongdoing, a case has to
TEHELKA: Don’t you think it’s going
to be very complicated then?
VASANT: It has to be complicated
then only the purpose will be
solved... once inside the water, whats
the point of fearing the depth...
TEHELKA: Ok, whatever you say...
but coming to court regularly, standing
there... for any man it will be a
very difficult task to come 3,000 km
to attend the court cases...
VASANT: We will give you a way out of that... once this turns out to be a
success, I will sit and explain it to
you... what is to done, how it needs
to be done...
TEHELKA: Set any of the local
lawyers who gets the date extended...
will keep on happening…
VASANT: I will tell you... I will explain
it to you... I will explain to you
what has to be done and how it has
to be done...
VASANT: But you have to be mentally
Minutes later, Bhavani proceeds to discuss
the “fees” with TEHELKA.
“Give me a figure so I can take the discussion forward with sir [Muthalik],”
Bhavani says. The TEHELKA reporter
writes Rs 70 lakh on a sheet of paper and
pushes it towards Bhavani. His immediate
response is to ask how much has
been offered to Attavar, the Sene
National vice-president and the pointperson
in Mangalore. (Though the figure
written by the reporter on paper is
not visible on camera, the offer is
corroborated on camera in a later conversation
with Muthalik.) When he is
informed that the same amount was
offered to Attavar too, Bhavani dismisses
it saying, “Attavar will never settle for
this amount.” Bhavani then insists that
TEHELKA should also set aside money to pay off the police:
TEHELKA: They told me two lines...
separate for organisation (SRS)... separate
for the workers... so I said five
lakh for the organisation... so they
said they will see... on the level of the
workers, if there is a case then fair
enough, we will give Rs 50,000 to
each worker... some will go to him
and some can be used in the case... if
10 boys come then five lakh... what
he suggested... what your dealings
are with the organisation, you discuss
with Muthalikji himself... as for
the boys... that I will give you... the
arrangement with the police... that
also I will do... will have to be done...
BHAVANI: The police will also be
managed... without that, it cannot be
TEHELKA: I agree, so the money is
going in three phases... separately
for the organisation... separately
for the workers... and separately
for the police?
BHAVANI: Separately for the police...
Yet another discussion follows on the
modes of payment. The TEHELKA reporter
asks if the fee for the riot can be paid by
cheque instead of cash. Bhavani refuses
categorically. The business of outrage
obviously cannot be transacted through
legal financial instruments.
THE METHODICAL approach with
which these Sri Ram Sene functionaries
proposal could be an indication of the
organisation’s engagement with similar
activities in the past. At the very least, it
exposes the Sene’s adroitness in dealing
with the law and the police — and the
loopholes it slips through whenever it
engages in violence.
TEHELKA’s conversations with Sri Ram
Sene cadres in Udupi and Mangalore reaffirmed this very strongly. After TEHELKA
spoke with Attavar, Jeetesh — the head of
the Sene’s Udupi unit — agreed to introduce
TEHELKA to Sene cadres who would
ultimately execute the attack. Kumar and
Sudhir Poojari, two such cadres, spoke
freely of their involvement in earlier Sene
attacks, including the infamous pub attack
on January 24, 2009. All three — Jeetesh,
Poojari and Kumar — had evaded police
arrest despite having been part of the pub
attack. All three had also spent several
years with the RSS and Bajrang Dal before
joining the Sri Ram Sene.
A minute into the conversation,
Kumar and Poojari brag about how they
gave the police the slip. Kumar also talks
of his involvement in a previous incident
that left eight Muslims injured. “They
had to be admitted in the hospital,” he
says, “after we attacked them.”
|SAFFRON GETS PINK Sri Ram Sene members
check out the pink undergarments
gifted to them as a mark of protest
against their attack on women at a
Jeetesh has several similar stories. A
day earlier, in his meeting with TEHELKA,
Jeetesh talked openly of an incident in
2007 when he and two others had
attacked a church where they believed
coerced conversions were taking place.
According to him, three or four pastors
were hospitalised after the attack, while
Jeetesh and his cohorts were handed jail
terms. A few minutes later, he recounts
an even more gruesome incident.
Jeetesh, then a resident of Kasargod in
Kerala and a member of the Bajrang Dal,
was involved in an attack on a mosque.
In a calm voice, he tells TEHELKA about
how he attacked a maulvi with a sword.
The maulvi died and Jeetesh was
charged with murder. After four months
in jail, he was bailed out, he says. Throughout that period, he says he was
supported by the Bajrang Dal with
lawyers at hand to handle his bail applications.
Once he was released, Jeetesh
moved to Udupi. A few years later, when
Muthalik started the Sri Ram Sene, he
joined him. The conversation constantly
hovers around a hatred for Muslims and
Christians and their plans to take over
As his comfort level increased,
Jeetesh also shared another important
piece of information. In 2006, along with
100 others, Jeetesh says he participated
in an arms training camp organised by
the Sri Ram Sene. The firearms they
used at the camp were largely unlicensed,
he said, but refused to volunteer
any further details.
A day later, he accompanied TEHELKA
to meet with Attavar, the Sene vice president,
and plan the specifics of the proposed
attack in Mangalore.
AFTER THE meetings with Attavar
and Bhavani, where they agree to
organise attacks in Bengaluru,
Mangalore or Mysore, TEHELKA met with
Muthalik again. The only issue left to
clinch was the amount. While discussions
with Attavar (inside Mangalore Jail) had
pegged the cost between Rs 50 to 60 lakh,
the negotiation with Bhavani had been for
Rs 70 lakh. TEHELKA asks Muthalik if these
sums are agreeable to him.
TEHELKA: Sir, is it ok if we remain in
touch over the phone with Prasadji?
Because, sir, I refrain from calling
over the phone...
MUTHALIK: Yes ...yes...
TEHELKA: Well with... Prasadji...
fine... but I just wanted to confirm
with you, maybe Sharmaji won’t
appreciate it, but I wanted to have
clarity about money... because I was
told Rs 60 lakh for three locations.
TEHELKA: Rs 60 lakh... it’s ok from
MUTHALIK: Who told you about it?
TEHELKA: Vasantji had told...
MUTHALIK: Yes... yes.
TEHELKA: So I decided to confirm
MUTHALIK: Yes... yes... I can’t tell
about the money... it’s their job only
they can do it...
As the story goes to press, Attavar and
his advocate Sanjay Solanki have continued
to be in touch about the modalities
and fees for planning the attack. In the
last conversation, Solanki told TEHELKA
that Attavar’s bail application pending
with the Karnataka High Court would be
accepted. Solanki categorically mentions
that they will try and manage the judicial
process and have already committed Rs
1.5 lakh to that process (TEHELKA has not
corroborated this independently — this
could be a wild claim for all we know).
Advocate Solanki also assured TEHELKA
that a conversation with Attavar —
which would clinch the deal and close on
the final terms of payment — would be
possible very soon.
Needless to say, TEHELKA did not pursue
With additional reporting
by K Ashish