Mangalore: Bondel Hosts Election Secrets...

By John B. Monteiro

Mangalore, April 19:

The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.

-Lord Acton, English Catholic historian, politician and writer (1834-1902).
Much water has flowed down the Thames River from the time of Lord Acton, specially in terms of universal franchise, including voting rights for women. Only Representation of People Act of 1928 made women’s voting possible with no property restrictions, the voting age then being 21 years – which was reduced to 18 years in 1969. (We had our universal franchise, with voting age of 18 years under the Constitution – much before British adopted 18 years as the threshold.)

But, election malpractices were rampant in England and not uncommon in India with booth capturing making news in some eastern states. Over the years, under an effective Central and State Election Commissions, there is disciplined voting and security to the votes, earlier in paper format and now electronic. Under this dispensation, security of election results till the counting is critical. This year Bondel is the venue of storing ballot recording equipment. St. Lawrence School, with its tiled roof, past its century mark, continued to be host to polling booths on April 17. There is a local saying that the horns that come after the ears with which an animal is born are stronger than the ears. Accordingly, the role of hosting the ballot boxes this year, for the first time, fell on the Convent-run MGC composite PUC complex.

During elections in Mangalore, be it for Corporation, State Assembly or Central Parliament, Bondel has played host to polling booths from as long as local people can remember. Now Bondel is hosting the election recording machines. It is interesting to trace the birth and growth of these two educational institutions because of their new election-related focus.

Bondel, a scenic plateau, half-way on the city-airport road, has emerged as an important academic centre in Mangalore. Bondel offers children quality education from primary to post-graduate level. While the last to come on the scene with MBA offering is Besant PG College, the root of all this goes back to over one hundred years and to a thatched hut in a coconut grove in the valley. Then came the convent-run Mahatma Gandhi Centenary (MGC) High School (1970) which now also offers PUC. These schools offer a   choice of English and Kannada mediums.  

Going back to the roots of education in Bondel, it is interesting to note how the place got its name. In 1865, Fr. Alexander Dubois, a Frenchman, was the parish priest at Milagres,  Hampankatta, whose jurisdiction included Vamanjoor, Bondel, Kelarai, Cordel and Angelore. He was so taken up by the scenic beauty of Bondel area that he called it Bon Dale (happy / good/ beautiful valley) from which was derived Bondel. Such valleys still exist going under the names of Achukodi, Pachanadi and Kirem – slowly losing out to creeping urbanisation.

 In one such valley called Bangera Seeme, in a place named Thota, apparently a coconut grove, near the  present-day railway underpass at Pachanady, close to the then St. Lawrence Chapel, under Milagres parish, Pascal Mascarehnas imparted primary education to about 25 children. The heads of three local households, Zachi Michael Shet ( Alvares ) of Thota House, Salvadore Prabhu ( Souza ) of Laat Kumer House and Anthon Prabhu (also Souza)  of Haalu Thota House supported the nascent school. It received recognition from the then Madras Government in 1908.

The next landmark in the school’s history is linked to the transfer of the chapel to the present location of Bondel Church by the then Milagres parish priest, Fr. Frank Pereira, in 1913. The school shifted to the vicinity of Anthon Prabhu’s Haalu Thota House. The teacher, Pascal Mascarehnas, was residing in Halu Thota and one of his chores was to fetch and reach the children, from their homes and back, negotiating fast-flowing streams in the rainy season. After six months in Haalu Thota, the school shifted to its present location in the church compound where a modest structure, called small school, was constructed by Fr. Frank. This tiled structure now dwarfed by modern concrete block continues to host election booths.Later, in 1923, Fr. Frank came to Bondel as the first parish priest and completed the church and school buildings..

 Thus, what started with 25 students and a teacher in a thatched hut 100 years ago, today hosts over 1,100 students, boys and girls of all communities and dozens of teachers.

 MGC High School

Bondel’s most noted educational institution is MGC High School, now also offering PUC. Even as its impressive building was being erected, on May 31, 1970, MGC classes were started in the rooms offered by St. Lawrence School – till April 30 1970 when the ground floor of the school building got ready for occupation. Thus, this higher primary school acted as incubator for MGC High School. Since their arrival in Bondel on May 4, 1969, Mary Immaculate Heart Ursuline nuns, who launched MGC, the campus has expanded to host 14,00 students, mostly of marginalized background. The current hosting of ballot boxes in its brightly painted new block on the campus is yet another landmark for MGC and Bondel itself. Bondel has never seen such large security force camping on the MGC campus or anywhere in the region


 It was noted at the start that women in Britain got limited voting rights in 1928. Before that women, called Suffragettes, used to demonstrate on Sundays, for instance in Hyde Park of London, with speaker after speaker declaring:“We will not be dictated by men”. On Mondays they went to their offices, and  their male bosses, with pen and pad in hand, to takes dictation as stenographers!


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Comment on this article

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Sun, Apr 20 2014

    So far, paper-based votes and later electronically recorded voting machines (EVMs) were stored and counted at Karnataka Polytechnic (KPT)campus at the junction of National Highway 17 and Airport Road at Kadri Hill. It is for the first time the storage and counting of votes has moved from Government premises to private premises - in this case Convent-owned MGC campus at Bondel. 1766 EVMs have been shifted from polling booths to MGC campus on April 17 and sealed in eight strongrooms and to be opened on May 16.The tight security provided has swarmed Bondel with men in uniform restlessly lazing around. KPT campus has no residences around it. MGC is surrounded by residences and locals are apprehensive and hoping that on counting day party supporters would be restricted outside the dwara of the MGC campus.
    There is an impression the the Elction machinery has unbridled powers to commandeer men and resources like buses and premises for polling purposes. It is interesting to note that the Allahabad High Court has ruled on April 18 that the Election Commission is not empowered to take possession of any premises for purposes other than setting up poll booths and storing ballot boxes after polls.It allowed a petition of a owner of a guest house requisitioned to house paramilitary forces on election duty.

    DisAgree Agree [3] Reply Report Abuse

  • Raj, BON DEL

    Sat, Apr 19 2014

    I am residing in Bondel since 31 years, but never knew how it got its name...
    Thanks for the info

    DisAgree Agree [8] Reply Report Abuse

  • GILBERT JOHN PINTO, Bangalore/Bejai

    Sat, Apr 19 2014

    Dear John,
    Your article on Bondel School took me down my memory lane to the early fifties when I went to Bondel parish school which was only up to 5th class then and was called –St. Lawrence Elementary School. Even to this day, I remember the names of all the male and female teachers, who taught there those days. They were simple men & women, but were truly committed. Rev. Fr. Daniel D’Sa was the parish priest then. The school was nothing but two large rooms/halls with a tiled roof over them and cow dung coated floors. The classes were formed by a cluster of simple benches without back rest and desks, a blackboard, and chair and table for the teacher. Thank you for all the history behind my beloved Bondel St. Lawrence School.
    Gilbert John Pinto

    DisAgree Agree [5] Reply Report Abuse

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