The Sri Ram Sene which has been in the news for all the wrong reasons off late was exposed following a sting operation conducted by the television channel Headlines Today and Tehelka.
Ram Sene chief Pramod Muthalik, who shot to the limelight following the infamous assault on girls at a pub in Mangalore, was caught on camera demanding money from an undercover reporter who posed as an artist. After allegedly accepting a token contribution of Rs 10,000 for his contribution to the Hindutva cause, the reporter discussed a proposal with Muthalik, wherein Muthalik would arrange for a mob to attack the reporter's painting exhibhition. The reporter told Muthalik that he was a painter who aspired to be as famous as M F Hussain.
The investigation, which lasted six weeks, also exposed how Muthalik and his aides were willing to incite a riot for a price. As per the proposal discussed first with Muthalik who in turn put the reporter in touch with his aides, the Sene would help vandalise the 'artist's' exhibition, at a sensitive locality, dominated by Muslims.
Excerpts of Muthalik's conversation with the reporter:
Reporter: Main chahta hun sir mujhe popularity mile or popularity milegi to mera business bhi badh jayega..agar aap kahen to main ..aap mujhe ek dayera bata de ..ki itna kharcha aa jayega ..itne ladke honge ..itna advo..matlab vakilon ka..hum log to complaint hi nahin karenge ..kyunki wo to hamari understanding hai...to sir lekin ye hai ki aap mujhe jo batayenge main advance aapke yahan chod kar ke jaunga uske baad aapko kahunga ki ye sir pura aa gaya hai aub sir kaam kar do (I want to gain popularity, so that my business does well, If you could tell me how much? That there will be so many men so many lawyers We won't complain Because of our understanding. But what you term as the advance will be paid to you fully and only then will I tell you to go ahead and do the job)
Muthalik's response, "Mangalore main kar sakte hain.( It can be done in Mangalore.)"
Muthalik then said that to fix a price for such an operation, he needed to contact Prasad Attavar and Vasanth Bhavani -- the head of the Sene's Bengaluru unit.
The reporter then managed to get access to Attavar, who is currently in jail. The reporter met Attavar twice in Mangalore jail and once at the high security jail in Bellary.
Prasad Attavar's conversation with the reporter:
Reporter: 15 lakh dega hum aapko ( I will give you 15 lakhs)
Prasad: Haan? (huh!)
Reporter: 15 lakh dega (Will give 15 lakhs)
Prasad: Nahin wo main calculate karke kal main aapko batata hun kitna paisa chahiye (I will calculate the amount and tell you by tomorrow)
Reporter: Ladka kitna hoga? ( how many men will you have)
Prasad: Pachas (50)
Reporter: 50 ladka hoga jo tod fod danga type karega? (50 men who will indulge in a riot?)
Prasad: Haan bilkul wo ye sub kiya na pub ka same aisa hi ( Yes it will be similar to what happened at the Mangalore pub)
The next person whom the reporter met was Vasant Bhavani who told them that it would be good if they invited Mumtaz Ali Khan as the chief guest for the event. Khan is a minister in the B S Yeddyurappa government.
Vasanth's conversation with the reporter:
Vasant: Mumtaj Ali ko hi bulayie na ( you could call Mumtaz Ali)
Reporter: Kisko (who?)
Vasanth: Mumtaj Ali Khan
Reporter: Ye kaun hain (who is he)
Vasanth: Waqf board ka minister hai (The minister for Waqf boards)
While discussing the aftermath of the attacks, when the 'artist' offered to not file cases against the Sene, Bhavani turned the suggestion down. If cases weren't filed against the attackers, people would suspect that the attack had been engineered, was Bhavani's rationale.
Muthalik's reaction: A visibly upset Pramod Muthalik has threatened to sue all those involved in this operation. "I never took money and only a proper investigation will reveal the truth. I want the voice and the video that is being shown to be scrutinised. I am not guilty and I will take legal action against this operation," Muthalik said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Karnataka has not reacted so far to this incident. Sources close to the ministers in the government said that it is too early to comment and it would be unfair to jump to any conclusion without verifying the details.
The police department on the other hand made it clear that action can be taken only if a complaint is filed. "We will look into the matter and see what needs to be done," a senior police official in Bangalore said.