Monday, July 30, 2012
The rise and rise of a Hindutva hitman
Subhash Padil, the Hindu Jagaran Vedike activist who led Saturday’s attack on women at Morning Mist Homestay in Mangalore, was a street-level activist of Sri Rama Sene when he was arrested in 2009 for his role in targeting women at a pub in the same Karnataka city. The ferocity he displayed during that attack — well-documented by television crew — gave him both stature and position in the Sene, which he had joined in 2006. He soon gained a reputation in Mangalore as a ruthless goon for hire, sought after by builders and land sharks. On May 25 this year, a First Information Report was slapped on him along with contractors and officials of the Mangalore Special Economic Zone for assaulting a family of farmers which opposed land acquisition for the project. Four of them, including two children, had to be hospitalised.
Two days before the attack at Homestay, around 1.30 p.m. on July 26, Padil’s followers kidnapped and assaulted a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl who were travelling in a bus from Mudipu to Mangalore. The couple were later handed over to the Bunder Police who, however, took no action against the assailants. Bajrang Dal leader Sharan Pumpwell confirms that Padil was his rival for political turf and visibility within the Sangh Parivar. They had a heated exchange around 10 days ago when Padil wanted to set up an office in Pumpwell, centre of Sharan’s power base. Padil reluctantly agreed to open the office in nearby Shivbaugh instead.
“Since that incident he wanted to prove a point. The [Saturday’s] attack was also aimed at sending out a message to rival Hindutva outfits,” claims a Parivar insider who did not want to be named. In fact, Padil was active as early as in 2008 when Sri Rama Sene tried to enforce a shutdown in Mangalore over the Ram Sethu controversy. Padil and his men tried to stab this reporter and television journalist Agnel Rodriguez with a trident when we caught them vandalising shops whose owners defied the shutdown call. Prasad Attavara, then a leader of Sri Rama Sene, slapped Padil publicly for this. To us, he said: “You are our friends. You and us need to work together.”
Padil was just 18 when, inspired by the Bajrang Dal’s role in the Gujarat riots, he joined the outfit in 2002, say his friends. “He used to worship a photograph of [Chief Minister] Narendra Modi that he had put up in his house,” remembers Sudatta Jain, who joined the Bajrang Dal one year before Padil did. Childhood friends, Jain and Padil were ardent followers of Pramod Muthalik, who inducted them into the Bajrang Dal. Muthalik fell out with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2005 and quit the Bajrang Dal. Both Padil and Jain followed Muthalik when he founded the Shiv Sena’s Karnataka unit the same year.
“At that time, we felt that the Bajrang Dal, the RSS and the BJP were too soft on the question of Hindutva. We wanted to do something big,” says Jain, who now heads a trade union (Akhil Bharatiya Karmika Sene) and keeps his distance from Hindutva groups. “I still believe in Hindutva but I don’t like violence. But Subhash was very ambitious and he was very strong physically. He wanted to be a big leader,” he says. Padil quit the Shiv Sena along with Muthalik in 2006 over the Marathi-Belgaum issue. A few months later, he joined Muthalik’s Rashtriya Hindu Sena which subsequently morphed into Sri Rama Sene.
Despite his leading role in the 2009 pub attack, Padil felt he was overshadowed by the Sene’s then leader Prasad Attavara. When Prasad Attavara was arrested in mid-2010 along with his followers for running an international extortion racket, Padil and Jain quit the Sene and laid low for a few months. While Jain started the trade union, Padil joined the Hindu Jagarana Vedike in February 2011 along with his trusted lieutenants Suresh Padil and Sharath Padavinangady. By doing so, he hoped to rebuild ties with the RSS and the BJP.