Bengaluru: Karnataka minister and BJP leader C.T. Ravi Wednesday blamed the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), the political arm of the radical Popular Front of India (PFI), for the riots in Bengaluru that left three people dead.
The riots in the Pulakeshinagar assembly constituency, which also saw rioters vandalise and indulge in arson at the DJ Halli and KG Halli police stations, followed an offensive Facebook post by an MLA’s nephew about Prophet Mohammed.
Sources in the Bengaluru Police told ThePrint that the alleged role of the SDPI was under the scanner on the basis of “some evidence”.
The SDPI, which has a strong presence in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, has denied all allegations.
There are also allegations that the riots may not have been spontaneous but pre-planned, with former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy backing this theory on Twitter.
Speaking to ThePrint, Ravi said the SDPI should be “banned and all organisations with such intentions nipped in the bud”.
“Circumstantial evidence shows this act was pre-planned. We don’t have time to keep a tab on our Facebook posts, why were they following the posts of this person? Obviously they were tracking him,” Ravi added. “It’s quite clear that, under the leadership of some people, this could be pre-planned.
“All those who are involved should be booked under the Goonda Act, and the (costs of the) loss to property should be recovered from them,” he said.
Top police officers close to the investigation said several leaders from the SDPI were present at the DJ Halli police station Tuesday night to file a complaint against the alleged blasphemous social media post. They were subsequently joined by several other members, they added.
The violence is believed to have begun at this police station.
“There is evidence pointing towards the SDPI. We are looking at all angles, including their possible role in these riots,” a senior police officer said. “But we need to thoroughly investigate it before coming to a conclusion.”
Police sources say “several” of the 140 people arrested so far for the violence are affiliated to the organisation. Those arrested include SDPI leader Muzammil Pasha, who was among the complainants who first arrived at the DJ Halli police station.
SDPI spokesperson Wasim Ahmed, however, told ThePrint that the allegations were baseless and defended Muzammil Pasha.
“Pasha was waiting for the officers to lodge a police complaint against the defamatory post. We are unable to understand how a person who was in the station to file a complaint is now being framed and called a kingpin in this incident,” he said.
Different theories take root
With the investigation yet underway, several theories have taken root with respect to the exact trigger. One of them is that it was the result of a family feud, while another suggests it was pre-planned.
Former CM H.D. Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular) expressed support for the latter in a Twitter thread Wednesday.
No religion or community is above the law. Anyone who doesn’t respect the law of the land should be punished. The government must take tough action against vandals. Must ensure that such incidents don’t recur in future.
— H D Kumaraswamy (@hd_kumaraswamy) August 12, 2020
Bengaluru Police Commissioner Kamal Pant refused to comment on the allegations, saying they are investigating all angles even “though initial investigations show that the mob claimed they felt insulted by the ‘blasphemous post’ by a local MLA’s nephew”.
“As of now 140 have been arrested and three have died, some others are serious. The investigation has been handed over to the Central Crime Branch of the City police,” he said.
Off the record, however, several policemen said there are “enough indications” to suggest the violence was pre-planned.
“The manner in which the mob swelled in the police station when the complainants arrived to submit their complaint was the first indication that there was something ‘fishy’ happening,” said a junior police officer who was present at the site of violence.
The attack at the DJ Halli police station was followed by one on the residence of Pulakeshinagar MLA Akhand Srinivas Murthy, a Congress leader, and another on the police station at KG Halli nearby.
At DJ Halli, a police inspector was heard telling a colleague about the “sudden emergence” of people holding iron rods and attacking the gates. Eyewitnesses told ThePrint that police at DJ Halli were “quickly outnumbered as the mob “got more violent”.