Bengaluru: On 5 August, the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi performed the bhoomi pujan for Ram Temple in Ayodhya, the father of P. Naveen Kumar, the man whose alleged Facebook post triggered riots in Bengaluru Tuesday, was extremely perturbed by what his son was doing.
Naveen had been seen bursting crackers with his friends on the day to celebrate the moment.
Local residents of the Kaval Byrasandra neighbourhood told ThePrint that Naveen also distributed sweets among Hindu residents of the area, and even went to a few Muslim homes. “It was as if he was provoking people,” said a resident, who did not want to be named.
Naveen’s father T. Pavan Kumar told ThePrint that since 5 August, he had been having a feeling that his son would land in trouble. Kumar, a retired government health official, said he was very upset with his son who paid no heed to his advice.
“I warned him against this, but he did not listen to me,” Kumar told ThePrint. “Many did not like what he did. We have been here for several generations and have been living in harmony.”
Kumar added, “He (Naveen) got married just two months ago, and now he is in jail. I don’t know what kind of problem he has got himself into.”
Naveen’s ‘derogatory’ Facebook post on Prophet Muhammad sparked riots late Tuesday night in the Kaval Byrasandra area, which left three persons dead after the Bengaluru Police opened fire to contain the mob. He was arrested soon after the violence.
An aspiring politician
Naveen’s Facebook page, which has now been deactivated by the police, painted a picture of an ambitious young man with political aspirations. The 34-year-old B.Com graduate has business dealings in the real estate sector and he described himself as a politician and public servant on the page.
His Facebook posts were also a contradiction of each other.
There was a tribute to fiery Urdu poet Rahat Indori, while another post showed a burqa-clad woman walking with three children dressed as Krishna on the occasion of Janmashtami.
Apart from the post that sparked the riots, there is also one attacking “fake secular people”. “For a few fake secular people of Pulakeshinagar pls remove your fake secular masks when you don’t know its meaning,” it read.
Another post was addressed to his “Muslim and Christian friends”. “To all my Muslim and Christian friends, how does praising my religion and worshipping my god make me communal. Am I insulting any of your religions here?”
Naveen also posted a picture of Lord Ram on 5 August.
“Posts of Hindu Gods are seen but he also makes an effort to make himself look secular,” said a police officer privy to the investigation.
What stands out is that Naveen had more Muslim followers on his Facebook page. He was followed by 3,450 people.
Currently in police custody, Naveen is said to have claimed that he didn’t post the “derogatory” post on Prophet Muhammad, and that his Facebook account had been hacked.
Another police officer said there was unusual activity on Naveen’s Facebook page. “There is a post on Wednesday at 1.52 pm, 12 hours after he was arrested,” the officer said. “This could be a ploy to validate his claim of his account being hacked. But we are in the process of investigation.”
Had been upset with Congress MLA uncle
While Naveen has been identified as the nephew of Pulakeshinagar Congress MLA Akhand Srinivas Murthy, with rioters even torching the legislator’s home, the two had not been getting along for a while.
A local Congress leader from DJ Halli in Bengaluru said Naveen’s grouse is that he believes that his uncle did not give him the political push he deserved.
“His dreams failed to take off as he was unable to dedicate himself to one particular political party,” the Congress leader said. “Though his family is primarily with the Congress, Naveen has been found to be present on several BJP WhatsApp groups as well.”
“Apart from Akhand Srinivas Murthy, who is an MLA from the Congress, one of Naveen’s aunts was a councillor representing the Janata Dal (S),” said a local corporator.
Of late Naveen had been trying hard to earn his uncle Srinivas Murthy’s favour, but remained largely unsuccessful.
“I don’t know why my house was targeted. I hope the miscreants are booked,” Srinivas Murthy told ThePrint. “I have represented this area for years and all my Muslim brothers and sisters have always supported me. I don’t know about Naveen’s life as my sister does not live with me.”
Murthy, who moved from the JD(S) to the Congress, won the Pulakeshinagar seat by a huge margin of 80,000 votes in the 2018 assembly elections. Pulakeshinagar is largely a Muslim-dominated constituency.