Karnataka Opposition pulls up BJP over police excess against CAA stir

Stormy debate in Assembly follows Karnataka High Court's censuring of police and grant of bail to 22 anti-CAA protesters

Karnataka crisis vote Kumaraswamy - The Federal
Former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy. PTI Photo

Two days after the Karnataka High Court granted bail to 22 anti-CAA protesters charged with perpetuating violence during protests, the Opposition comprising the JD(S) and the Congress took up the matter in the Assembly, accusing the BJP of misusing police force to push its political agenda.

Opposition leaders also questioned the incompetence of the state police for not submitting enough evidence against those booked for violence during anti-CAA protest in Mangaluru on December 19 last year.

The High Court on February 18 granted bail to 22 people booked by Mangalore police on allegations of violence and attack on police, and said the investigation into the incident appears to be mala fide and partisan.

Demand for fresh probe panel

JD(S) leader and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy on Wednesday (February 19) demanded the government to set-up a Legislative Council Committee to probe police excess in the Mangaluru incident.

He also cautioned the BJP government against creating an atmosphere of fear among the public by booking cases against anyone critical of the government. Coming down heavily on police for interrogating students of a Bidar-based school for staging an anti-CAA play, Kumaraswamy also questioned the arrest of a poet and journalist for writing an anti-CAA poem.

Related news: Poet, scribe arrested for reciting anti-CAA poem in Karnataka

The former chief minister recited to his fellow legislators a poem titled ‘When will you show your papers’ written by Siraj Bisaralli, who along with a journalist was arrested on February 18 by the Koppal district police. He said both were arrested even though there was nothing offensive in the poem and it did not criticise the prime minister.

During the discussion, law minister JD Madhuswamy, however, informed the Assembly that the state government will appeal to the high court on the order.

BJP caught between pooja and proof

Drawing the attention of the Chair to the absence of most of the BJP legislators during the discussion on police excess, Congress’s legislative party leader Siddramaiah said even the state home minister Basavaraj Bommai, to whose department the discussion pertained to, was yet to arrive.

Bommai, who arrived later,  apologised to the Chair and the House for the delay. However, the rest of the newly-anointed ministers were busy performing “pooja’ for their newly- allocated office space, instead of participating in the debate.

While Bommai tried to justify the charges against those booked for the Mangaluru violence by showing photo proofs in the Assembly, Siddaramaiah asked why he did not submit the same in court.

“Do not talk in Assembly for the sake of publicity. If you have proof, present it in court. Since you could not do that, we are discussing the issue here in the Assembly. Otherwise, there was no need for us to discuss here,” Congress legislator Priyank Kharge said.

What the court ruled

A bench of Justice John Michael Cunha in the Karnataka High Court had observed that in the backdrop of the police’s failure to register an FIR based on complaints lodged by victims, the possibility of false and mistaken implications cannot be ruled out.

During the hearing on February 18, the court came down heavily on the police for not identifying each of the accused but merely linking them to the incident based on their affiliation to the Popular Front of India (PFI) and because they belonged to the Muslim community.

Related news: After arresting teacher, Karnataka police question school kids over anti-CAA, NRC play

“The records indicate that deliberate attempt has been made to trump up evidence and to deprive the liberties of petitioners by fabricating evidence,” the court said. There is no direct evidence to connect the petitioners with the alleged offenses, the judge noted before granting bail to the 22 accused.