Violence at multiple points; Bengaluru police suspect it was planned

Burnt down: Police and private vehicles that were torched by a mob in Bengaluru late on Tuesday.

Burnt down: Police and private vehicles that were torched by a mob in Bengaluru late on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

With prohibitory orders in place and residents staying indoors on Wednesday morning, only the heavy deployment of police personnel and the charred remains of several vehicles and structures told the story of the violence that unfolded in D.J. Halli, Kadugondana Halli and Kaval Byrasandra -– a cluster of areas in East Bengaluru — on Tuesday night.

While a derogatory Facebook post against Islam, allegedly put up by P. Naveen Kumar, the nephew of local Congress MLA R. Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy, triggered the riots, the mob, which was over 2,000 strong, turned against the police and the MLA.

Rioters set fire to several police vehicles, vandalised and torched D.J. Halli police station and tried to unsuccessfully enter the police quarters in K.G. Halli. They also torched the houses of the MLA and Naveen Kumar in Kaval Byrasandra.

Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), whose members were the complainants and also now accused of a role in the riots, have blamed lack of prompt action against Naveen Kumar for the escalation, a charge denied by the police. “Within hours of receiving the complaint, we arrested Naveen Kumar,” said a senior police official at the spot Tuesday night.

The mob demanded the accused be handed over to them and a refusal was perceived as cops trying to protect him. “If they had even sighted him, he would have been lynched,” the officer said.

Preliminary investigations have indicated attempts by some local leaders to organise a crowd at the police station. “We have accessed screenshots and social media posts on Facebook and WhatsApp asking people to gather,” a senior police official said.

What also made controlling the situation difficult was that there were at least two groups of people — one at D.J. Halli police station and another at the MLA’s house — indulging in stone pelting and rioting. “The fact that the crowds gathered at multiple locations simultaneously also indicate that the riots were not organic,” a senior police official said.

Police personnel brought in Congress MLAs from the community – B.Z. Zameer Ahmed Khan and Rizwan Arshad – and a few religious leaders to try to reason with the agitated crowd, but failed. “Emotions were running so high that the mob, mostly made of youth, were unwilling to listen to any of us,” said Muzammil Ahmed, imam of Masjid E Umar Farooq, Goripalya.

“Tension was brewing in the area from the evening itself but the police seemed unprepared. The mob was very agitated and there was not even a good public address system at the police station. While we were trying to speak to a crowd of over a thousand spread across three-four roads, we were audible only to a few people near us,” said Mr. Arshad.

He added that the lack of clear communication between the police and the rioters led to a false perception that the police were trying to protect the accused, which did not seem to be the case.

“There was also a lack of trust,” another religious leader at the spot on Tuesday said. All attempts to reason with the mob for over two hours failed, and Zameer Ahmed Khan, MLA, was even injured in the melee.

Police trapped in station

As the rioters charged at the D.J. Halli police station, nearly 70 policemen were trapped inside and in the vicinity battling a violent mob of over a thousand, that were pelting stones, glass bottles and burning down vehicles. “It was so violent that even the additional forces that were called in found it hard to get into the area as they also came under attack,” said a senior police officer. A battalion of Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP) finally made a breakthrough and entered D.J. Halli police station, and secured the premises.

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2020 4:33:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/violence-at-multiple-points-bengaluru-police-suspect-it-was-planned/article32339812.ece

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