Fact-Finding Report Holds Police, Facebook Responsible for Bengaluru Violence of August 11

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Police stand next to the charred remains of a vehicle vandalised by a mob over a social media post by a relative of a MLA, in Bengaluru. — PTI

‘There is a lack of substantial evidence to suggest that the mob violence was communal in nature, that it specifically targeted the Hindu community or that it was premeditated and pre-planned’

Clarion India

NEW DELHI – A fact-finding committee formed to probe August 11 violence in Bengaluru, the capital of southern Karnataka state, has concluded that it was not communal in nature and that police inaction and failure of Facebook to remove an alleged blasphemous post aggravated the situation.

The violence had broken out in parts of Bengaluru over the post by one P. Naveen, who happened to be a nephew of local MLA, Akhanda Srinivas Murthy. At least four people were killed and nearly 60 police personnel were injured in the incident. Besides, the MLA’s house was also set on fire. The police had arrested over 300 people, mostly Muslims.

The fact-finding committee was formed by 23 eminent members of civil society in Bengaluru. Those on the committee included Nina Nayak, former chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, journalists Indudhara Honnapura and Cynthia Stephen.

The violence was blamed entirely on Muslims. But the committee findings are otherwise. It says the rioters in the violent incidents did not specifically target Hindu residences. “It is accepted by various groups that Muslim youth assisted in the protection of Hindu and Christian families and the homes and vehicles of Hindus. They formed human chains outside the Hanuman temple as also the police station to keep away the mob.

In Kaval Byrasandra, a property belonging to a Muslim was vandalised and damaged while vehicles of Muslims were also burnt regarding which they have filed police complaints,” states the report.

However, it adds that, “While some individuals and houses of Hindus were randomly targeted, it was felt that this moment was used to seek personal vendetta on some families and not communal in nature. Many Hindu families whose houses were vandalised shared that it was the local Muslim families who also helped protect their property.”

The report concludes that “there is a lack of substantial evidence to suggest that the mob violence was communal in nature, that it specifically targeted the Hindu community or that it was premeditated and pre-planned.”.

The observations in the report are in contrast with the report by a government-appointed committee called ‘Citizens for Democracy’. The report, released on September 4, had termed Bengaluru violence as ‘communal attack on Hindu residents’ in the areas such as DJ Halli, KG Halli and Kaval Byrasandra. Notably, the address of the committee mentioned in the report is the address of ‘Vikrama Weekly’, a magazine affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), says Press Trust of India.

The civil society report titled ‘Communalising Violence in DJ Halli’, released on September 16, has recommended Bengaluru City Police to widen the scope of investigation and include Facebook as well as the police itself. “The intelligence failure to predict and prevent the violence must be investigated,” the report has said.

“This report brings out several truths. This report is not the end, on its authority, we must inquire into the truth and find out who is behind the violence, and who all failed to act. There are people who profit from the riot as well. We must find out those who are responsible,” Indo-Asian News Service quoted (Retd.) Justice H.N. Nagmohan Das as saying.

Adding to this, senior journalist Indudhara Honnapura said, “There was an opportunity to stop this, but police failed to do so. Everyone, including the police, knew this is a sensitive area. There are many good officers, but I do not understand why they did not send sufficient police force to control the incident. Why didn’t the government provide information to the police?”

“Facebook has failed to act against Naveen’s post which amounts to hate speech. Besides the local police too showed laxity in handling the situation as a result of this, the situation went out of their (Police) control,” the report alleged.

The committee further stated that there was an intelligence failure in the state machinery’s reaction to the incident, the police were responsible for a delayed response in registering the FIR against Naveen, which resulted in a discontent crowd swelling at the stations.

Denying allegations that the mob was communal or political in nature, the report said, “This is a local and spontaneous incident that has been taken advantage of by different political parties for immediate political gains which included the upcoming local bodies’ elections in the state,” the committee observed.

“The police carried out several arbitrary arrests in the middle of the night, which has created an atmosphere of fear in the areas. The families of those arrested have not been informed of the arrest or whereabouts of their loved ones,” the report stated.

The report also noted a larger agenda of total criminalisation and demonisation of the entire Muslim community.

Media’s role in vitiating the atmosphere during the course of violence has specially been highlighted in the report. A large section of media wrongly portrayed the incident in a communal light by spinning conspiracy theories and targeting the Muslim community, the report observed.

According to IANS, following are key findings of the committee:

1. The Facebook post uploaded by accused P. Naveen, nephew of Pulkeshi Nagar MLA Akhanda Srinivas Murthy, crosses the constitutional protection encompassing free-speech, and amounts to hate speech against the Muslim community;

2. The police and the media failed to sufficiently probe the intent and motive behind the post and focused only on the violence that was triggered by the blasphemous post;

3. The mob violence appears to be not directed by any visible leadership. However, the role of the mob in attacking Devarajeevanahalli (D. J. Halli) and Kadugodanahalli (K. G. Halli) police stations and MLA Murthy’s residence in Kaval Byrasandra destroying public and private property is undeniable and unjustifiable.

4. The cops failed to act swiftly and effectively on the post when small delegations approached the police station and to intervene in effective ways to prevent the violence from escalating in the areas.

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