Back-to-back killings of youth from two communities in Karnataka have exposed the communal fault lines in a state earlier known for its cosmopolitanism. After BJP Youth Morcha leader Praveen Nettaru was hacked to death on July 26 , angry BJP workers took to the streets against their own government. Two men with suspected links to the Popular Front of India were detained, but two days later, Fazil, a 23-year-old Muslim youth, was murdered in the volatile Dakshin Kannada district. A few days earlier Masood , a daily wage earner, was also killed. In this heated atmosphere, radical elements of both communities have silenced saner voices and the area is a tinder box waiting to explode. A state minister suggesting that the time has come for encounter killings, and Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai saying he may consider implementing the “Yogi model” of justice in Karnataka, has further stoked communal passions. A relatively new entrant to the BJP, ex-socialist Bommai needs to prove his saffron credentials and therefore may feel the need to assume a hardline stance. However, the danger is that the communal cauldron that has been left to simmer for too long in the only southern state in the BJP’s kitty may overflow and cause irreparable harm.
The Hijab controversy, the call to boycott Muslim traders, and the intermittent communally-motivated killings have left Karnataka constantly on edge. The state’s distinct identity as an IT hub, drawing investment and talent from far and wide, is in peril of being replaced with a reputation for uncertainty and intimidation. This was in fact flagged by well known faces of India Inc who pointed to the dangers of communal exclusion. The increased radicalisation of both Hindus and Muslims is only deepening the divide. Amid calls for a ban on the Popular Front of India, the state government is under increased pressure from resurgent BJP cadres to take strong action against the Islamic student outfit. However, the state must be seen to be even-handed while dispensing justice. Talk of the “Yogi model” of governance will only succeed in alienating citizens, as it is perceived to be selectively skewed against the minorities. Nothing can harm the social fabric more than the perception of bias. It is time for Karnataka to retrieve its erstwhile status as an economic powerhouse and this can be done only by recapturing its legacy of inclusive democracy.
64 squares to success
In these times of divisive politics, India successfully bidding for and hosting the 44th Chess Olympiad is like a breath of fresh air and a sign of the enormous strides the country has taken in the sporting arena. The earliest origins of chess date back to India in the sixth century but the game in its modern form as a competitive sport was dominated by the Russians, Americans and Europeans till five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand came on the scene. It is, therefore, only fitting that Anand’s home town, Chennai, is hosting the chess Olympiad from 29 July to 10 August. What is remarkable is how in less than five months, the city has successfully organised the mega sporting event consisting of over 2000 participants from 187 countries. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February this year, the international chess federation, FIDE, was forced to move the biennial chess Olympiad out of Moscow. India was among the countries that offered to host the event and it worked with lightning speed to convince FIDE of its readiness. The Central government, the Tamil Nadu government and the All India Chess Federation pulled out all the stops to ensure that it would bag the bid by arranging the necessary finances, booking hotels and the Olympiad venue virtually overnight. The coastal temple town of Mamallapuram, a UNESCO world heritage site, was chosen as the venue for the event, which is sure to catapult India into the big league as an Asian nation is hosting the chess Olympiad after 30 years. With China skipping the Olympiad and Russia banned from the event, India’s chances of bagging top honours have brightened considerably. Pakistan’s last minute pullout from the Olympiad over the torch relay passing through Jammu and Kashmir has been the only sour note so far.
Indian sport as a whole is seeing a new dawn with below-par performances of the past being replaced by an increased vigour to win. In the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, Indian athletes put up their best ever performance bagging seven medals, including a historic gold in Javelin for Neeraj Chopra. At the ongoing Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, too, Indians look set to get many medals. India is also stepping up to prove its credentials by hosting the under-17 women’s football World Cup in October 2022 and the women’s cricket World Cup in 2025. It is now up to the administrators to ensure that long-neglected sportspersons get their due and are provided world-class facilities to nurture their talent.