This writer usually takes up for Bangalore and its citizens. For their determination, grit and perseverance. A city which is now on the itinerary of just about every head of state. And of course anyone to do with information technology.

Yet, its the same city where thousands of youth, among others have taken to the streets following actor Raj Kumar's demise. Pictures of mob violence are streaming in. The contrast between the engineers working in glass towers on cutting edge technology projects and the mayhem on the streets couldn't be starker. At last count, four people including a policeman were dead. The policeman was killed by mob.

The 77-year-old Rajkumar gave up acting almost a decade ago. Its tough to believe that the youth pelting stones at policemen across the city today watched too many of his films, if any. None of the television images showed them to be grieving. Instead their faces showed the thrill one usually associates with the satisfaction of inflicting damage on the establishment. Many were performing for the cameras,leaping with joy.

Shut Down Or Else..

Major IT companies including Microsoft, Infosys and Wipro have shut down their offices. Not really out of choice, considering that the option would be to see their beautiful campuses wrecked or the glass facades shattered. That happened anyway. The government is leading with a two-day state holiday that began yesterday.

Rajkumar was a giant in Kannada cinema. His career spanned almost five decades. He was a receipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke and Padma Bhushan awards and the Karnataka Ratna, the state's highest civilian award. He also won 10 Filmfare awards and recorded his loyalty to the Kannada language by not acting in films made in other languages.

His stature does not explain the burning of buses, cars and tires though. Or the beating up and killing of policemen. Mobs went on a similar rampage six years ago when the actor was kidnapped by sandalwood smuggler Veerappan. There is nothing wrong with mourning. Except that it must be voluntary and not forced. To that extent, Bangalore's mobs have proved to be no different from Shiv Sena in Bombay or the communist party cadre in West Bengal.

Poor Showing

Two points emerge. One is that the the city of Bangalore was not sufficiently prepared for the fury. As was evident by the small groups of policemen cornered by the mobs. Nor was it prepared for the sheer frustration that boils beneath. And explodes on ocassions like this. The (mostly) young men running about on the streets don't look like they work for BPO companies. Or IT firms. Many may not have jobs at all. And this is an outlet for venting their frustration. And getting away with it. Mob fury in India can achieve almost anything, without facing the consequences. Recent history has amply demonstrated this.

The second (related) point is to do with the country's image. Bangalore is India to most of the world. And rightly so. This story has already been splashed across world media. Few will note the death of Rajkumar. Most would remember that India's IT capital has been held hostage for two days. In a flat world era with processes being outsourced real time, this is not a healthy proposition. This is not a natural calamity.

Cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai, among others, will have to be better prepared to deal with such contingencies in future. Because the knowledge industry depends on people moving, not machine parts. This cannot be an Infosys, TCS or a Wipro problem. State governments must work doubly hard to understand and contain their citizens.


Ashok Karanth said…
Shame I agree. However, while I am not condoning the Government or anything, the fact is that a sizeable number of Karnataka policement were temporarily positioned in TN and Kerala for the elections, AND to cater for Mr. Advani's rath yatra! This severely depleted the police force. Also, when lakhs of frustrated youngsters take to the streets sensing an opportunity to even out things in their own way, what can a grossly outnumbered police force do? Lastly, please don't believe everything NDTV says - they showed the same damn clip a million times - you would think the whole of Blore is burning. Well, it isin't - there were some stray incidents, which subsided. I would like to think whatever happened is substantially lesser than the mayhem that would have occured in most other cities in the country!
SN said…
Firstly i remember you as an alum of SCMHRD.
About this post, you seem to talk more about how the IT, BPO firms are forced to shut down for today. That in itself does not bring shame to Bangalore. The mob violence sure does. But some unruly elements cause this.

There is such thing as respecting the local sentiment and there is nothing wrong in declaring holiday in mourning. No Infosys or TCS or the IT industry is bigger than the local sentiment. And the local sentiment today calls for silent mourning.
Anand Gadiyar said…
Well sn,

There is also such a thing as the right to run your business, and the right to go out on the street and not be beaten up by an unruly mob. Local sentiment is not half as important as the fundamental right of a person to live peaceably. And local sentiment does not justify breaking the law, or burning buses.
Anonymous said…
Well written & well said. Its high time state govt have action plan ready for this kind of situations and not leting the situations out of control and having firms shutdown.

Its a Flat world and it doesnt take time to come from Top to bottom.
Anonymous said…
hmmm! come out of IT, BPO, local sentiment. Think of normal people. I happened to roam in a small area, the shops were closed. Vegetable vendors (in carts) were hiding and selling. Yes. They need money their daily food.
I enquired one such vendor who was selling Tomato and Carrot. His reply was, "Enu yaapara illa swamy" (No or less business sir). His Tomatoes doesn't seem to survive another 2 days. I hope and pray, he has strength to survive the loss.

Bangalore has lots of bachelors staying away from home in search of jobs, who depend on hotels/food mess for food. What about their survival ? I heard instances of not getting food.

There will be more such impacts ... Lets hope we respect others and their livelihood.
mrs. A said…
On Sankey Road alone, within a 2-minute walk of the Chief Minister's house, I know of two homes that were pelted with rocks. The cars parked inside the driveways of these two homes were also destroyed (one motorbike was even turned over and set ablaze).

This is the type of attention India does NOT need. Thank you SN for highlighting this on your blog.
Lubna said…
I was really horrified yesterday. I began work early and hoped that sanity would prevail. But at around noon, our HR guys told us to pack up and leave immediately. The mob fury was uncontrollable. I think, it is something else other than just Rajkumar's demise. Something to do with unemployment and the growing divide between the techies (and allied industries) and the non techies. The police did it's best, tried to control the mob without firing. In the end it was the police that suffered. It was a horrible experience reaching home.
Bombay Addict said…
Govind - nice to-the-point blog.

I agree with Lubu. This looked more like a war of the haves versus the have-nots. Something tells me that we are going to see more of this in the metros as well as Tier 2/3 cities.
Anonymous said…
I was in India recently and went to Bangalore to look at some of the offshore operations. I too don't think Bangalore is the right place for these Western companies to be, especially in the light of these recent riots. Delhi or Mumbai strike me as more Westernised and better able to cope and control such riots. I mean Bangalore has some really odd ideas already... For example, I was there with other Westerners on a business trip and the bars all shut at 11pm - there was some kind of curfew in place. Apparently the state government doesn't "approve" of people drinking. Well that is not the best place for a load of Western companies to set up oprations in my view. The party capital of Mumbai is a better option. Also the traffic jams were appalling and the roads terrible and yet all the Government seemed to be concentrating its energies on was whether to change its name to Bengaluru. And whilst I was there a call centre girl was raped and killed by a taxi driver. I am convinced that the infrastructure of Delhi and Mumbai are far more suited to offshore operations than Bangalore. The roads right outside the call centre I was visiting were falling to pieces, noone seemed to be sharing in the success of the BPO industry other than the people in them, Bangalore struck me as a bizarre place.
Sheraton said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sheraton said…
Rajkumar may be a great actor in his own right - but accept it, he is worshipped only in parts of Karnataka.

Go beyond Hubli north or go west - anywhere along the coast, go north east beyond bellary and you will know people dont give a damn - they are more concerned about their livelihood selling fishes or vegetables.

In those places, people understand, people even may mourn - but they dont make gods out of human beings so easily - ( no matter how popular they are ) - so much so you shut down a city and unleash your murderous frenzy so easily. The 4 lives lost are lost in vain for no fault of theirs.

Few states in India take their film stars so seriously. Its only we in the south who have lost some perspective.

anand gadiyar, well said. few others here can do with some perspective.
Anonymous said…
Mumbai should dread the day the old tiger dies....
Daysleeper said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daysleeper said…
at last count, there were 8 dead. and that's only the official figure. and the police have apparently arrested some 700 odd people for agitating on the two days. What's the point in all the delayed action?
Well written Govind. I had a torrid time getting out of Bangalore. I was booked on a 3 AM flight to Singapore after Mr. Raj's death and I took a reluctant cab driver from Mysore who mentioned that at the first sign of trouble, he'd head back. We left Mysore at 10 PM and managed without incident (incidents had been reported along the Mysore-Bangalore road by other cabbies)to reach Bangalore outskirts. Around 1 AM, parts of Bangalore was still tense with stone throwing youth near the town hall area still active. We had to dodge burnt out vehicles, lots of glass on the roads and the rampaging mob and managed to get to the Airport. I was glad that I was getting out in one piece. I heard that a lot of the youth doing the damage were not Bangaloreans or even Kannadigas for that matter. For whatever vested reasons, some elements from outside had been brought in to do all this, one TV station reported. I don't know the truth but whatever happened was condemnable. I hang my head in shame at the way my countrymen acted and while a lot of things we do makes us feel proud, there are still very many reasons that make us disgusted to be Indians, on a particular day.
megha said…
I cannot agree more with you on this post...Raising heros to Demi-God status is a disease that infected us Indians long ago..But such violence in the name of mourning for a person's death is not excusable at all..
Anonymous said…
Mr BritishView ,
There is no need in particular to blame bangalore , almost all indian cities are really not upto Developed Countries' standards .
Riots , Bomb blasts etc have been happening at places. Places like Bombay which you are praising has seen the worst bomb blast . And you have similar set of unruly people namely Shiv Sainiks.
Anonymous said…
jeri said
it is damn hell to have all this truble for an old cranky old amn dead of natural reasons,what would have hapened if somme one wud hav taken his fkn life like sprm out of dick ,he was lookin dck but even aftert his death he created monkey life for people
Anonymous said…
jeri said
kannadigas acted like cunts on hormones on streets ,they showed their real chooth character ,they tried to hit me motherchoudh kannadiga wale
Anonymous said…
saalaudda rajkumar margaya behanchoudh uskeliye sari duniya ko tabah kardoge ky behan choudh kannadiga waalon>>>>?
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Anonymous said…
It is time for more sefty in Bangalore.
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