All of the 26 men accused in the infamous January 2009 Mangalore pub attack case have just been acquitted due to “lack of evidence”. Nine years ago, members of the hitherto unknown Hindu extremist Sri Ram Sene dragged and beat up women outside Amnesia Pub, providing the impetus for the launch of the infamous Pink Chaddi Campaign. Ever since that first claim to fame, they have spent their time since trying to make it into the big leagues of annoying Hindu extremist groups in various ways, like pitting themselves as the mortal enemies of Valentine’s Day.
Now, despite damning visuals of the 2009 Mangalore attack, which immediately went viral in the news, it seems no one is guilty of beating up 5 women outside Amnesia Pub on 24 January 2009. Not the men actually filmed doing it, and least of all the Sri Ram Sene’s ringleader, Pramod Muthalik, who was in Pune when the assault took place and arrested when he returned to Karnataka after the attack.
While Muthalik has been telling the media it’s the triumph of truth, a closer look at the facts points in a different direction.
The investigating officer mentioned the videos of the assault that went viral in the news in his report but failed to provide these damning visuals in the material presented to the Court. The Court therefore could not examine the videos to furnish their guilt, because it simply wasn’t submitted as evidence.
The investigating officer also told the court that despite these videos and efforts by the police, the women involved could simply not be traced. This doesn’t seem factual at all—the women may have refused to come forward or be involved in the case for fear of retribution from the outfit or societal pressure, but they certainly can be traced, given that existing news reports feature anonymous quotes from some of their family members.
On the face of it, it certainly feels like the investigation into this case was heavily flawed, and the Congress government in power seems to agree. Karnataka Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy said that the “evidence was not properly furnished to the court”, and that the state’s Prosecution Director would study the judgement and advise the government on its next course of action. It’s hard to believe that this Congressional concern comes from a purely altruistic, and not political, place, but it’s good to know that this verdict will certainly be appealed.
Amusingly, advocate Asha Devi, who actually defended several of the accused, seems as perplexed by the verdict as the next person. She told The Hindu that “the eyewitnesses turned hostile, while the secondary evidence was not placed before the court,”, and to The Indian Express even said, “After the attack, not a single girl came forward and reported the incident. What prevented them from doing their duty? Now, they say these people are being acquitted. Let me tell you, if one of them was convicted, it would have been a deterrent to crimes like this.” Is it just us, or does this ambiguous-sounding statement make you feel like even the accused’s own lawyer thinks they were guilty?