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Bengaluru has seen 8 major riots since 1986 — including two over Prophet Muhammad

From violence over an actor’s death to a longstanding water-sharing issue, Bengaluru has been witness to several riots over the years.

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Bengaluru: Bengaluru saw riots this week over a social media post allegedly insulting Prophet Muhammad. The communal nature of the incident and the killing of three in police fire brought some undesirable headlines for the tech city.

But this was not unprecedented in nature. The Karnataka capital has seen several incidents of violence over the years. Here’s a list of seven major riots that have rocked the city in the last three decades.

2016 — Cauvery riots

Nearly four years ago, riots broke out in Bengaluru over the Cauvery water-sharing issue. This was the second time that the issue had caused clashes in the city.

Violence erupted after the Supreme Court ordered Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs to Tamil Nadu until 20 September 2016. The local police in riot gear tried to control miscreants resorting to arson.

But the arsonists set ablaze 35 buses at a depot, blocked roads leading to Tamil Nadu, forcibly shut down shops and establishments belonging to Tamil speaking people. Many protestors took to the streets with Karnataka flags and shouted slogans. One person died in police firing and close 20 policemen were injured.

Also read: ‘We live as brothers, sisters’ — Muslims form human chain to save temple amid Bengaluru riots

2012 — The exodus to Northeast

In August 2012, ethnic clashes in Kokrajhar in Assam led to tensions in Bengaluru. The tech city has a large migrant population from the Northeast. As fears grew over an alleged plan to attack migrants, thousands of them fled the city. While the BJP-led Karnataka government tried to convince the migrants that no harm would be caused to them, the Indian Railways data showed that around 10,000 tickets were sold in a single night for a return to the Northeast.

2007 — How Saddam Hussein caused riots in Bengaluru

In January 2007, former Union minister Jaffer Sharief broke away from the Congress party and planned a massive rally to launch his new party, the Peoples Front. He chose the execution of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein as the anti-US rally’s agenda.

Sharief decided to hold the rally on 19 January, two days before the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s celebrations of the birth anniversary of M.S. Golwalkar. However, Sharief’s supporters went on a rampage and tore down the RSS posters ahead of the rally. RSS supporters retaliated. This quickly turned into a riot.

The Sangh Parivar took out processions across the city and allegedly attacked homes, shops and vehicles in Muslim-dominated areas. Official records say one person was killed in these riots.

Also read: BJP blames radical PFI’s political arm for Bengaluru riots, police say investigation on

2006 — The death of Kannada superstar Rajkumar

When Rajkumar, one of the most revered actors in Karnataka and a strong proponent of the Kannada language and culture, died on 12 April 2006, there was a “spontaneous burst” of emotions in the state, said a report.

What was said to be a show of grief by Rajkumar’s fans turned into riots. The rioters claimed they could not enter the Bengaluru venue where the actor’s remains were kept. In protest, they pelted stones, torched vehicles, attacked shops and business establishments and even set a few cinema theatres on fire.

Police records show 1,000 vehicles were torched and four petrol pumps and cinema halls were set on fire. Eight people died and a police constable, Manjunath Malladi, was lynched.

1994 — A 10-minute Urdu bulletin

On Gandhi Jayanti in 1994, the Karnataka government aired a 10-minute Urdu news bulletin immediately after the Kannada news. At the time, the DD broadcast was reserved exclusively for Kannada language programme.

The Urdu bulletin was alleged to be a political gimmick to woo Muslim voters by then chief minister Veerappa Moily in the run-up to the assembly elections.

A protest against the broadcast turned into full-fledged communal riots. Upset mobs attacked several Muslim-dominated areas in Bengaluru and 25 people were killed.

Also read: Opposing Ram in 1990s was easy. Yadavs’ secularism will be tested with Krishna in 2020

1991 — First riots over Cauvery water-sharing

The Cauvery riots of 1991 are remembered in the water-sharing history of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu as the first incident of violence over the issue.

On 11 December 1991, an interim order by the Central government-appointed Cauvery Water Tribunal asked Karnataka to share 205 tmcft of water with its neighbouring state. The Congress-led state government called for a statewide strike. Massive protests broke out on 12 December against the court order.

The anti-Tamil sentiment resulted in attacks on vehicles bearing Tamil Nadu registration plates, Tamil language movie theatres, newspaper offices and even Tamil-run businesses. Many were attacked with rocks, sticks, iron rods and cycle chains.

According to government sources close to 50,000 Tamilians fled Karnataka within 48 hours. Records show 20 people were killed in the riots.

1986 — A short story in Deccan Herald

In December 1986, Deccan Herald, a Karnataka newspaper published a fictional story by Malayalam author P.K.N. Namboodiri. The story was about a mentally unstable boy who commits suicide. While the story had nothing to do with Prophet Muhammad, Muslim leaders took exception to the use of the prophet’s name in its title.

Large-scale demonstrations over the alleged inflammatory nature of the title turned into violent protests. The daily’s headquarters in Bengaluru was attacked and protesters resorted to arson. Police opened fire to quell the violence. The violence killed 16 people and injured over 50.

Also read: Art 370, CAA, triple talaq, Ram Mandir are just one cycle of Modi’s ‘permanent revolution’


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  1. Adding to previos * I was there in the midst of few more. 1996, when a story appeared in DH on a Sunday, fiction in Sunday supplement, where one of the characters was called …

  2. Does not list all riots in Bagalore. I was there in the midst of two more. One when a story appeared in DH on a Sunday where one of the characters was called Mohammed and since he does something bad in the story people rioted! I went from college to a friends house near Bul temple road and got stuck for a few minutes on way home around 5pm, had to ride bike zig zag over tired burning on road!
    2004-2006 when Rajkumar was kidnapped, remember being stuck in ofc till 11pm, as crowds went on rampage. So much money and time lost. Hope we become smarter
    In 1980s also remember riots near Jayamahal extn, police were outside my house too though no violence there. It was around Munri reddy palya 2 km away. Newspaper said elders spoke later and calmed crowds down. Gave some hope. but guess not long term.

  3. Ask real questions

    1) Why is a community identified as “secular votes ” by congrass and it’s “rent a journalist ” not asking the right questions

    2) Why is the same community fighting every known religion including their own continually.

    3) All human beings are same it’s the religious brainwashing which turns some into rioters par excellence.

    4) Only less religion and more scientific education will help this community. Or else they would be a permanent nuisance.

    5) There are billions of stars and trillions of planets. And no non believers will not burn in hell.

    6) Only congrass journalists will go on defending the indefensible and justify riots by ” secular votes “.

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