Bengaluru: The Mangaluru Police’s investigation into the violence that broke out during the anti-CAA protests in the city on 19 December has pointed to the role of Muslim outfits operating in Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and other states, ThePrint has learnt.
Mangaluru Police Commissioner P. Harsha refused to name the outfits, saying the matter is being investigated.
Police sources say they have collected crucial evidence that showed provocative messages were shared by groups affiliated to outfits like the Kerala-based Popular Front of India (PFI) and its political wing, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), to incite violence in Mangaluru.
Two persons — Abubakar Siddique and Moideen Hamiz — have been arrested and notices issued to 30 others, including PFI and SDPI members, in connection with the 19 December violence.
Sources didn’t say which outfit the duo belong to, but said they have been charged under several sections of the Indian Penal Code, including Section 124A, which deals with sedition.
“Siddique and Hamiz have been spreading communal hatred on social media platforms,” a source added.
Siddique is accused in ten cases of riots, assault and attempt to murder in Karnataka. Police sources said he is an important link to the violence that erupted on 19 December.
The sources also claimed that the groups under the scanner kept circulating inflammatory messages about Syria and Afghanistan on social media, saying how Muslims should stay together to fight those trying to hurt them. They also allegedly asked people to mobilise support during the anti-CAA protests.
‘Most of the provocative messages came from Muslim outfits’
Commissioner Harsha told The Print that the cybercrime wing has been constantly scanning various websites and social media groups to identify “instigators”.
He said most of the provocative messages came from Muslim outfits, which had given the call for the anti-CAA protests.
“We have not spared anybody. We have issued notices to the admins of all these (social media) groups who circulated inflammatory messages to incite communal hatred,” Harsha said.
“Our expert cybercrime team has been constantly going through the internet and filing an hourly report to identify these instigators. We have enough photographic, video and social media evidence to prosecute those who have been found guilty,” he added.
One of the WhatsApp messages allegedly circulated by SDPI’s Riyaz Firangipete during the protests read: “In the Anti-CAA protests that are going to take place, we as Muslims must stand together just like how bricks bond with each other. If we are united, neither the Mangaluru police nor the Indian Army soldier can stop us (sic).
“We must stand against the guns and lathis like a human shield and do so with pride. It is only then we can prove that we can safeguard the cause we are fighting for. Let the protest take place at the decided place, date and time.”
On the allegation that they are targeting Muslims, Harsha said the police were not biased against any group or community. In fact, Harsha said, one of the first notices was sent to a Hindu.
He made it clear the police would utilise all legal options available to them to book the perpetrators.
Harsha also said some of those involved in the violence may have fled the country.
“Our notices will reach them in whichever part of the world they may be in. The local courts will initiate action, which includes impounding their passports and calling their visas. They may be in Dubai or anywhere, we will catch them,” he said.
So far, 10 FIRs have been filed in Manguluru and 2,530 persons booked for assault, damage to property, unlawful assembly, sedition and attempt to murder.
‘Mangaluru Police behaving like Hitler regime’
ThePrint spoke to the district heads of SDPI and PFI, and they said only Muslims are being targeted, and that the Mangaluru Police are behaving like a “Hitler regime”.
SDPI’s Dakshina Kannada president Ataulla Jokatte said the police issued notices to some of their members and uploaded them on Facebook, but they are yet to receive the notices in person.
“We believe this is a democratic country and people have the freedom to speak their mind and discuss. We condemn the violence in Mangaluru. However, if you question the police commissioner, notices are being issued. Is this a Hitler regime? They are targeting Muslims and not giving them an opportunity to protest,” Jokatte said.
PFI’s Dakshina Kannada in-charge Mohammed Haneef said the government wants to pin the blame on someone, and they have become easy targets. He, too, confirmed that a few of their members have received police notices.
“We are an organisation that is ready to help the society, and we do not stand as mute spectators. They say to hide one lie you end up telling thousand lies. That’s what the police have been doing. They are targeting us for no reason,” Haneef said.
The PFI has been blamed for the protests spiralling out of control in Mangaluru. Karnataka’s Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai had even claimed that people who had come from Kerala to participate in the protest tried to set fire to a police station and damaged public property.