Devarajeevanahalli i or DJ Halli as it is known in Bangalore is unlike its neighbouring areas. Congested, crowded and chaotic is synonymous with the area. But an uneasy calm prevailed on the morning of August 12, the night after a violent mob attempted to burn down two police stations, set aflame vehicles. When the violence ended, three people were dead and at least 60 police personnel injured.
On Tuesday, August 11, at around 6.30 pm, an angry mob reached the DJ Halli police station gates demanding that T Naveen Kumar (34), the nephew of Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy, be arrested for allegedly posting a derogatory and offensive image about Prophet Mohammed on Facebook. A group was speaking to police personnel inside the station asking for an FIR to be filed and an immediate arrest of Naveen. Within a few hours, a mob had forcibly entered the compound of DJ Halli police station, damaging parts of the building and also beat up a team of police personnel who were returning to the station. The mob also spilled out to the nearby Kadugondana halli or KG Halli police station and attacked the houses of Naveen and his uncle, Murthy. The furious mob set fire and damaged several police vehicles, burnt police buses that reached the area and vandalised houses.
BOOM spoke to several police sources and locals who recall that the mob were armed with sticks, stones and and bottles of kerosene and petrol. A police personnel from DJ Halli told BOOM, "We could hear crowds outside the station but never imagined things would turn in matter of minutes. We were trying to placate the crowd outside and explain to them that action would be taken against Naveen, but nobody was ready to listen to us. In fact they were not ready to hear or follow even when Muslim religious leaders asked them to calm down," he said.
THE EVENTS THAT LED UP TO THE VIOLENCE
At around 7.30 pm, a group led by Muzammil Pasha, leader of Social Democratic Party of India reached the police station to file an FIR. Police sources said, that they saw the posts and filed a complaint and formed teams to arrest Naveen.
But here is where the accounts diverge. Locals allege this is not true and claim the police refused to file an FIR. "I received calls from my friends who asked me to reach outside DJ Halli police station and demand an FIR and show strength in numbers," says a 56-year-old resident who runs a catering business. He adds, "the crowds gathered because they were told the police is refusing to take action against Naveen." By 9 pm, the crowd outside DJ Halli police station had swelled up to at least 200 people. Pasha then addressed the crowd from the gates of the DJ Halli police station and this video soon reached the local groups with messages appealing them to reach the police station.
The crowd outside the police station started getting agitated and soon surrounded a police van. "I was looking from my balcony window and saw them overturn a police vehicle. We could see policemen trying to come out of the station to control the crowd but then rush back inside," said Begum Bibi who stays in one of the houses opposite the station.
Violence broke out in Pulakeshinagar after an angry mob who were disrupted over a derogatory post uploaded on social media by a relative of MLA, Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy on Tuesday night.— Bangalore Mirror (@BangaloreMirror) August 11, 2020
The mob attacked the MLA's house and burnt down the vehicles parked outside his house. pic.twitter.com/9bMp7E3e5Z
When the mob barged into DJ Halli police station, SD Sharanappa, Deputy Commissioner of Police (East) and other personnel were inside. The mob broke the gates of the police station and entered the basement, burning vehicles and setting on fire, anything in sight.
The violent mob also attacked the vehicle of Bheemashankar Guled, DCP North East, injuring his staff and driver and damaging his vehicle.
Between 10.30 pm to midnight, teams from Karnataka State Reserve Police and Quick Response Teams faced a mob of about 700-800 people , who had occupied the front yard of DJ Halli police station and were on a rampage in the area. One of the KSRP personnel told BOOM, "They were hitting out vehicles with sticks and hurling bottles at it. We had received instructions to control the mob, so we first fired tear gas but the crowd seemed unfazed so we fired shots in the air so the crowd would disperse," he said on the condition of anonymity. He added that while the violence continued in DJ Halli, crowds had started to reach KG Halli police station, about 3 kilometres away from DJ Halli.
A senior Bangalore police officer said, "We received calls from our personnel at KG Halli saying a mob had surrounded them and that a mob was at the accused Naveen's house. Our teams in both places were being attacked with stones, bottles and sticks. We then started to fire at the crowd."
WhatsApp Groups Incite Further Anger
"I received an alert on my local WhatsApp group with the photo of Naveen and a screenshot of a Facebook post by him saying, "Naveen ne Gustak e Rasool kiya hai," says Mohammad Pasha, who stays in the same lane as DJ Halli police station.
He says the image was offensive against Prophet Mohammed and everyone was angry and residents started contacting members of local mosques to figure how to take action against Naveen. Locals WhatsApp groups then started buzzing with videos and messages about the situation comparing it to the North East riots in Delhi from February 2020.
While many police personnel remained locked inside the DJ Halli police station, the crowds were increasing by the minute. "I finished my shift and was returning home, when at around 10. 20 pm, I received a message showing me what Naveen had posted about Prophet Mohammed. I got very angry and called my friends who said people were gathering at the police station to demand action," said 29-year-old Akram. Akram shared with BOOM a screenshot of the message he received on a group called Quba United with locals as members. The message contained a screenshot of the post and image posted by Naveen with a picture of him. BOOM has decided to not include the message given the sensitive nature of the picture.
BOOM spoke to T Pavan Kumar, father of Naveen who said that around 9 pm, he noticed a crowd of about 500 people outside his house. "They were angry and one of them hurled a stone into the house. We locked ourselves inside but they entered and broke everything. I didn't even know why they were angry till the police told us," he said. He claims that a team of policemen had already taken Naveen into custody but the crowd thought he was being protected at home.
"This Is Not The First Time Naveen Has Posted Something Offensive: Locals"
Most locals BOOM spoke to said everyone in the area is familiar with Naveen and his posts on Facebook. A member from the local mosque in DJ Halli said, "Naveen regularly posts offensive material on his Facebook. Recently he posted something about the Babri Masjid and during the Coronavirus outbreak, he claimed two people from DJ Halli and KG Halli had attended the Tablighi Jamaat"
BOOM found that screenshots of Naveen's old posts were revived and shared on WhatsApp groups on the night of the violence, spurring further anger. We accessed a few such screenshots.
The committee member also added that in July, Naveen had posted instigatory posts about the demolition of Babri masjid. "After we were alerted to the post, we reached out to him over call and asked him to refrain from such posts during already tensed times. He argued with us saying it is his choice to post anything on his account but then understood and deleted the post."
We asked locals about the post by Naveen against Prophet Mohammad on the day of the violence. Siraj Sajauddin, a local leader said that he saw Naveen's comment on the Facebook account of Fairoz Pasha a local member of SDPI. On August 11, Pasha uploaded a BTV video about an incident from July, when Bharatiya Janata Party leader Murgesh Nirani made news for sharing a anti-Hindu message on a WhatsApp group. The news story by BTV, spoke about how Nirani on a group with other BJP leaders posted a message which contained derogatory remarks about Hindu gods Brahma, Rama, Krishna. Nirani later tendered an apology about the same.
Sajauddin explained that in a reply to this, "Naveen posted an image which had offensive remarks against Mohammed which called him a rapist. I immediately took a screenshot of the same," he said. BOOM was able to access this screenshot showing Naveen's reply to the post.
We checked the screenshot but have decided to not post the same given the sensitive nature of the image.
Pasha's account still reflects the post but Naveen's comment has been deleted. You can see the post here. BOOM also confirmed the same from a source in the Bangalore police who said that the complaint copies submitted to the DJ Halli police station against Naveen contain screenshots from the same post, highlighting Naveen's reply.
60 Policemen Injured, 3 Protesters Dead, 145 Arrested
The violence and the consequent police firing left four people injured, three of whom have succumbed to injuries. According to a report by The NewsMinute, Javeed Khan (19) and Yasin Pasha (22), were brought dead to Bowring Hospital around midnight and the third victim of the violence has been identified as Sheikh Sadiq aged 24.
Around 60 police personnel including an Additional Commissioner of Police injured in clashes that broke out over an alleged inciting social media post, in DJ Halli & KG Halli police station areas of Bengaluru, Karnataka: Police Commissioner Kamal Pant pic.twitter.com/WHp8WAbJct— ANI (@ANI) August 11, 2020
The police have imposed section 144 in the areas of DJ Halli and KG Halli with heavy police presence in the area. The police have also filed 10 FIRs against unidentified protesters and arrested 145 people, and are in the process of identifying other violent protestors.
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