The activities of the Bajrang Dal, the aggressive youth wing of the nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad organisation, are not limited to promoting Hindutva. In its stronghold of coastal Karnataka, it has also been displaying a vigorous spirit of entrepreneurship. And like competent businessmen, its members are intent on obeying the laws of demand and supply.
Through vigilantism and hooliganism in public places, the Hindutva outfit has managed to breed a sense of insecurity in malls, shops and residential areas. This generates a demand for security guards, which are then supplied by a company run by the Bajrang Dal’s top leader in Karnataka.
Business meets politics
Eshwari Manpower Solutions Ltd in Mangalore is neither an ordinary company nor is it run by an ordinary businessman. The company's managing director Sharan Kumar (or Sharan Pumpwell as he is commonly known in the state) is also the convener of the Bajrang Dal’s south Karnataka unit, arguably the Sangh Parivar affiliate’s most active unit.
In the coastal town, Kumar has perfectly reconciled his confrontational Hindutva politics with his business of providing security guards to terrified property owners.
“All the supervisors and most of the security guards who work for the company are Bajrang Dal workers,” Sharan told Scroll.in. “As a Bajrang Dal leader, it is my duty to secure the livelihood of karyakartas [workers].”
Sharan said his doors are open to everyone.
“I don’t send away anyone who comes to me for a job,” Sharan said. “There is enough demand for security guards in the city. Some of our guards are Muslims.”
Blurring the lines
The 40-year-old Bajrang Dal strongman has had a meteoric rise since joining the organisation in 2005. In 2011, he was appointed convener of the outfit’s Mangalore division and was last year made convener of the south Karnataka region. His hyperactive unit is poles apart from the north Karnataka wing, which is much weaker.
With Sharan’s Eshwari Manpower Solutions hungry for business opportunities, the Bajrang Dal’s aggressive politics is integral to the company’s activities in south Karnataka.
“I started this business soon after I was made the convener of the Mangalore division [in 2011],” said Sharan. “Now I have secured contracts with three malls – City Centre, Forum Fiza and Big Bazaar – apart from several shops and apartments in the city.”
City Centre on KS Rao Road and Forum Fiza at Pandeshwari are among the largest malls in the city, while Big Bazar in the Lal Bagh area is also a well-frequented shopping complex.
Most of the shops in City Centre and Forum Fiza are owned by Muslims, who are often at the receiving end of the Bajrang Dal’s actions in Mangalore and elsewhere in the country.
“We are getting a lot of business from Muslim shopkeepers are mall owners,” said Sharan. “That is primarily because they have faith in me and my company.”
While Sharan discounts the role of fear in the success of his business, one of his clients presents a clearer picture.
“Given the kind of activities they [Bajrang Dal men] indulge in, this is the best way to do your business peacefully,” said a Muslim shop owner in City Centre mall. “If you don’t give the security contract to them, you become extremely vulnerable in a city like Mangalore. It is not a bad deal either. You do not just get security guards from them but also an assurance that you would be spared from any Hindutva activity. After all, one attack is enough to bring down your business.”