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In the Name of Tradition

The recent attack on a birthday party in a homestay near Mangalore by members of the Hindu Jagarane Vedike and the earlier attack on women in a pub in the same city are both indicative of a battle over the meaning of tradition at a time of sociocultural change. At such times it is the women who are expected and forced to maintain tradition. How do educated and economically independent women deal with the ramifi cations of the consumer culture that offers them a range of goods which are associated with their emancipation, happiness and empowerment?

On 28 July this year a group of young people celebrating a birth­day party at a home stay in Mangalore were attacked by a group of young men claiming to belong to the Hindu Jagarane Vedike (HJV). On 24 January 2009, the Sri Ram Sene had attacked girls and boys in a pub in Mangalore. In both these cases the event was recorded and disseminated through the technological apparatus1 of the mass media. In both cases again, the responses to the attacks were also largely organised, structured and disseminated by the same technological apparatus of the mass media. However, there was a disturbing excess in these spectacles of violence that could not be recuperated (recuperation means the process by which radical or subversive ideas are appropriated by mainstream media) into the grammar of media representation.2 Does this signify the extra representational provenance of these events that could not be seamlessly accommodated by their media representations? If so we need to retrieve this excess through devising new frameworks of legibility for making sense of these events. Perhaps such new frameworks of legibility will enable us to unravel the historical intersections at which these events originated and provide us with more effective means of confronting them.

The perpetrators of the violence justified it in the name of tradition. This violence became a spectacular display of the power of tradition to rein in unruly women. In both the above-mentioned events the recording of the violence took place even as it was being perpetrated. Tradition was marked out and violently reaffirmed on the site of the women’s bodies. Of course this is not new. However, the historical juncture at which they occurred and the technologies for reproducing the real that displayed and disseminated these events inflected them in new ways.

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