Not only did the Bengaluru Police fail to act expeditiously on the Facebook post that led to the August 11 violence in parts of the city, but also failed to intervene in effective ways in preventing the violence from escalating, said a fact-finding report on the incident.
“The perceived delay in lodging the FIR, failure to assure firm legal action and the perception that this was due to the MLA’s intervention cannot be turned a blind eye to. The police ought to have taken more proactive measures to prevent the crowd from gathering…,” the report said.
The report titled ‘Communalising violence in DJ Halli’ was submitted by the members of civil society organisations and independent journalists in Bengaluru on September 16. It noted that even Facebook failed to act on the communal post, and disinformation and selective facts spread fast nudging people towards generalised hate towards Muslims.
The riots broke out over a Facebook post by P Naveen, a budding politician and nephew of Congress MLA Akhand Srinivasa Murthy. The mob went irate and set afire vehicles outside the Devarajeevanahalli (DJ Halli) police station after the cops refused to file a case against the accused and delayed his arrest.
In the following weeks, the police detained nearly 350 people and registered at least 64 FIRs in connection with the incident. The special investigation team invoked Goonda Act and the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act against some of the accused.
As a post-violence political fallout, the report also said while the violence was spontaneous, the incident also was taken advantage of for short-term political gains and consolidation on communal lines.
“It is also a reality that forces like RSS and Bajrang Dal, have been trying to divide the communities on religious lines, and, post the violence are trying to give the riot a communal colour and deepen the sense of victimisation among the Hindu community,” the report noted.
The report also blamed the Kannada media for trying to consolidate anti-Muslim sentiment among its readers and viewers. It said their coverage lacked objectivity and that it reported in a sensational manner to blatantly peddle a communal agenda.
“Teams from the RSS/BJP have come to the area and are apparently attempting to speak only to the Hindu households impacted to help them get legal help and compensation. The growing presence and influence of RSS in Dalit pockets of these areas is indicative of its political intent of polarising the region on communal lines…” the report said.
The fact-finding team included Nina Nayak, former chairperson, Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Cynthia Stephen, independent journalist and policy researcher, V Nagaraj, state convenor of Dalit Sangharsha Samiti (Samyojaka), Advocate Niyaz Moosa of Association for Protection of Civil Rights, Karnataka, Prof. YJ Rajendra, president of People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Karnataka, among others.
The team has further put forth suggestions to widen the scope of the investigation against Naveen’s post, conduct a socio-economic survey to assess the loss of livelihoods, nutrition, health and shelter, and also form ‘peace committees’ comprising all community members to restore peace in the areas.