Three civilians were killed in Bengaluru on Tuesday (August 11) night after the police opened fire at vandals who went on a rampage over a derogatory Facebook post targeting a religious minority community. As many as 145 people have been arrested and the post was removed later.
Though a tense environment prevailed the entire night with clashes erupting between the police and angry mob, the situation was brought under control by beefing up the police presence and imposing CrPC Section 144 (unlawful assembly) in Devara Jeevanahalli (DJ Halli) and Kadugondanahalli (KG Halli).
The irate mob went violent after the police allegedly refused to register a complaint against P Naveen, who wrote the Facebook post. He is purportedly a relative of Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy.
Angered by the Facebook post, which they claimed had hurt the sentiments of a minority community, a few people gathered at the police station around 8.30 pm to lodge a police complaint.
However, as the police didn’t register the complaint and told them to settle the matter amicably, the mob turned violent and attacked the police station. Some set fire to police and private vehicles outside and inside the police station in DJ Halli.
Even when the mob went on a rampage, religious leader Mufti Muzammil of Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind appealed to people to remain calm and that an FIR was registered around 12 pm. But, by then, the mob had turned violent and more police personnel were deployed.
Newly-appointed city police commissioner Kamal Pant, who visited the spot to check on the situation, also came under attack.
Congress MLA Srinivasa Murthy sent out a video message appealing for calm. “I request our Muslim friends, let’s not fight for the mistake of some miscreants. Whoever made a mistake, let’s teach them a lesson through police and legal means. I request our Muslim friends to please remain peaceful. We stand with you in this,” he said.
The police commissioner said they had arrested the accused, Naveen, for posting the derogatory message on social media and also arrested 145 people for arson, stone-pelting and assault on police.
During the clashes between the irate group and the police, at least three journalists were also beaten up while covering the violent clashes. Police officials claimed that nearly 60 people were attacked.
Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, who has been placed under home quarantine after getting discharged from the hospital post the COVID-19 treatment, took to Twitter to condemn the incident.
“The attack on journalists, the police and the public in the riot last night was unpredictable. The government will not tolerate such provocations and rumors. Strict action will be taken against perpetrators. I appeal to people to act with restraint without being charged,” the Chief Minister said.
Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai, who had appealed for peace, gave a free hand to the police to control the situation. He said the matter would be investigated. “However powerful the guilty are, we will take action. But people must not take the law into their hands,” he said.
On Wednesday (August 12) morning, the city police deployed City Armed Reserve (CAR), Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP) platoons in both the areas. Besides, Garuda commandos were also seen patrolling in KG Halli and DJ Halli police station jurisdiction.
According to the locals, who refused to identify themselves fearing police action, one of the persons killed by the police firing was a 21-year-old man who worked in a meat shop in the area. The other two were still unidentified.
“We were asleep but woke up after clashes erupted and we heard police vehicles patrolled the area around midnight. We saw some youth pelt stones at the police station. We did not want to step out as we feared for our safety,” one of the residents in the area said. The house of one of the boys who was killed is just adjacent to the police station.
The event turned political with the silence of Congress leaders.
The Police on Wednesday also arrested Muzamil Pasha, Bangalore district secretary of political outfit the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) saying he had instigated the attack.
However, videos accessed by The Federal show Pasha standing inside the DJ Halli police station and appealing to the crowd to maintain peace and wait for justice to take its turn.
SDPI Karnataka State President Elyas Muhammad Thumbe issued a statement calling the arrest “illegal” and said the police were trying to hide their wrongdoing by passing the buck on SDPI activists.
Meanwhile, BJP leaders targeted the Congress and accused the party of supporting the SDPI.
“Lest we forget, it was then @INCKarnataka Government led by Sri @siddaramaiah that withdrew cases filed against the Anti-National #PFI. It is the #SDPI, a part of PFI that is behind the violent attack on CONgress MLA’s house and Police Station,” Minister CT Ravi tweeted.
— C T Ravi 🇮🇳 ಸಿ ಟಿ ರವಿ (@CTRavi_BJP) August 12, 2020
Furthermore, CT Ravi, claiming that the attack was “planned”, said the state would recover all the costs of the assets destroyed and that every single rioters will be sent to jail and punished as per law.
His announcement was similar to the one issued by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who said the same after protests took place over the Citizenship Amendment Act last year.
Damages caused by the Rioters will be recovered from them on the lines of UP Government under CM Sri @myogiadityanath.
Every one of them will be sent to jail and punished as per law.
No mercy will be shown to any Rioter. It is high time some people learnt to behave like Humans. https://t.co/PZT23qOC8f
— C T Ravi 🇮🇳 ಸಿ ಟಿ ರವಿ (@CTRavi_BJP) August 12, 2020
Backing CT Ravi’s announcement, BJP MP Tejasvi Surya wrote a letter to the Chief Minister asking the government to confiscate and attach properties of the rioters and compensate the losses to public property.
RSS leader and BJP national general secretary BL Santhosh too blamed the Congress and questioned them over their silence until Wednesday morning.
Dead silence by @INCIndia @INCKarnataka even after their Dalit MLA Sri Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy was attacked , house ransacked yesterday in Bengaluru . Total support for RIGHT TO RIOT …? For them appeasement is the only official party policy .
— B L Santhosh (@blsanthosh) August 12, 2020
Even as videos emerged on social media, in which a section of people belonging to the minority community were seen making a human chain to protect a Hindu temple, Santhosh mocked it and said was it a mere advertisement attempt after engineering the violence in the city.
Senior Congress leaders including DK Shivakumar, Siddaramaiah and Dinesh Gundu Rao condemned the incident and called for action against the perpetrators.
However, Rao condemned the controversial message posted by BL Santhosh. “As usual @blsanthosh is using this terrible incident to gain political mileage. His statement is a crude attempt to communalise the issue & divide on caste lines. Pathetic & Deplorable,” Rao tweeted.
As usual @blsanthosh is using this terrible incident to gain political mileage.
His statement is a crude attempt to communalise the issue & divide on caste lines.
Pathetic & Deplorable.
— Dinesh Gundu Rao/ದಿನೇಶ್ ಗುಂಡೂರಾವ್ (@dineshgrao) August 12, 2020