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Former Congress mayor Sampath Raj, on the run for 40 days, arrested in Bengaluru riots case

Police refuse to state from where they arrested Raj, accused of inciting a mob that went on a rampage in the city on 11 August, but confirmed that he was in their custody.

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Bengaluru: Former Congress mayor R. Sampath Raj, an accused in the 11 August Bengaluru riots case who had been on the run for the last 40 days, was arrested by the police late Monday. He was named as an accused in the case related to mob violence and arson in the city’s DJ Halli and KG Halli limits that left four people dead.

Raj, the Congress corporator from Devara Jeevanahalli municipal ward, had escaped on 7 October from a private hospital where he was undergoing treatment for Covid-19.

Officers from the Central Crime Branch (CCB) were unable to trace him despite sending teams to Kerala and Tamil Nadu based on tip-offs on his whereabouts. 

The CCB is yet to share details of his arrest and the location they nabbed him from. Its officials, however, confirmed to ThePrint that they have him in custody and will continue investigations in the case. 

The CCB recently arrested one of Raj’s aides, Riyazuddin, who allegedly helped the former mayor and another Congress corporator, Abdul Zakir, who is also named in the Bengaluru riots FIR, to escape. 

According to sources in the CCB, Riyazuddin had provided shelter to the duo in a guest house near Nagarhole and later helped them escape to another unknown location.

Reacting to Raj’s arrest, Karnataka Pradesh Congress chief D.K. Shivakumar said whoever is found guilty should be tried in accordance with law. “The police will do their job and complete their investigation. Raj has not contacted me and I leave it to the police to investigate his role,” he told the media Tuesday.


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


Arrest after HC pulls up CCB officers

On 14 November, a Karnataka High Court Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Vishwajith Shetty pulled up CCB officers and sought details behind the delay in the arrest of Raj and his associate. The court directed the CCB to submit details of its investigation in a sealed envelope. 

A non-bailable warrant was also issued against Raj, less than 48 hours of which the police arrested the former mayor. 

Raj is accused of instigating people to indulge in violence that led to a mob going on a rampage on 11 August. Nearly 4,000 people gathered near the Devara Jeevanahalli and Kadugondanahalli police stations and torched it. They also attacked police officers with sharp weapons, forcing them to open fire. 

The mob was protesting against an alleged post put out by P. Naveen, nephew of local MLA Akhand Srinivas Murthy, which they claimed insulted Prophet Muhammad. 

The NIA was handed over the investigations in September. The agency in its report said, “On August 11, a mob of over 1,000 people had set ablaze DJ Halli police station and the house of Pulakeshinagar Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivasamurthy in Kavalbyrasandra”, at the alleged “instigation of the Secretary of Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) Muzammil Pasha.” 

A ‘fact-finding team’ headed by retired judge Justice Srikanth D. Babaladi, claimed that the Bengaluru riots were not spontaneous but “communally motivated, pre-planned and an organised conspiracy” to possibly change the demography of the area.


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


 

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