Indiscriminate Arrests of Muslim Youths in Bengaluru Anger Community Leaders

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Police have filed seven FIRs at two police stations which mention 16 out of 300 accused persons as members of SDPI. The political wing of the Popular Front of India has refuted the charge

Shaheen Nazar | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – A delegation of various Muslim organisations in Karnataka met the Bengaluru Police Commissioner on Wednesday and sought his intervention into indiscriminate arrests of Muslim youths following Tuesday’s violence in the eastern part of the state capital.

The police are raiding houses and arresting Muslim youths, Masood Abdul Qadir, head of the Muttahida Mahaz (United Front) of Muslim socio-religious organisations in the state, told Clarion India from Bengaluru.

The total number of arrests has reached up to 200.

Abdul Qadir said the police were arresting even those who had not been part of the mob. “We urged the police commissioner not to punish the entire community. Those guilty of perpetrating violence must be dealt with as per law. But innocent people should not be harassed,” he said. The police chief, according to him, promised to look into the matter.

Abdul Qadir was part of the delegation that expressed its regret over the unfortunate incidents of arson and vandalism as well as the police firing that claimed three lives–all Muslims–and left a host of people, including several policemen, injured. The ugly scene was created following a blasphemous Facebook post targeting Prophet Muhammad by one Naveen, who is related to a Congress leader.

Abdul Qadir said the delay in police action against Naveen provoked violence which, he admitted, could not be justified. He questioned the police decision to resort to firing. “Instead of firing in the air to disperse the protesters, the police apparently fired at people with the intention to kill them,” he alleged.

Jamaat Islami’s Karnataka unit head Dr. Belgami Saad, who was also part of the delegation, hinted at the involvement of some anti-social elements in violence. “It is hard to believe that Muslims alone have indulged in violence. In such cases, many times, anti-social elements take advantage of the situation,” he told Clarion India on the phone. Since Naveen, the main accused, is related to Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivas Murthy, Saad said it could be the result of the ongoing tussle between the Congress and the BJP.

He as well as Abdul Qadir appealed for calm. They said an appeal to maintain peace was being made from all corners. Muslim leadership, both religious and political, held an online meeting on Wednesday to take stock of the situation. They were to meet again in person later in the day on Thursday.

Abdul Qadir criticised the negative role being played by the Kannada media. “The kind of reporting they are doing is vitiating the atmosphere. We brought this to the notice of the police commissioner,” he said.

Meanwhile, the police have filed seven FIRs at two police stations which mention 16 accused persons as members of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI).

The FIRs filed on Thursday in Devarajeevanahalli (DJ Halli) and Kadugodanahalli (KG Halli) police stations level charges against some 300 people for launching the attack. Out of these, 16 persons have been identified as members of the SDPI, the political wing of the Popular Front of India (PFI).

The SDPI has denied its role in the incident, alleging their members were “wrongly accused.”

Those named in the FIRs are: Afnan, Muzamil Pasha, Syed Masood, Ayaz, Allabaksh, Abbas, Fairoz, Muzzamil, Habeeb, Peer Pasha, Ziya, Kaleem, Kerchief Sadeeq, Javeed, Mujju, Sadiq, Govindapura Syed, Saif, Masood, and Farhan, besides six others.

The charges pressed against the accused include Sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 307 (attempt to murder), 332 & 333 (voluntarily causing hurt/grievous hurt to deter public servant from duty), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of duty), 427 (mischief causing damage amounting to Rs 50 or above), and 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc.)

One of the seven FIRs is filed against Naveen, the man who is alleged to have uploaded the “derogatory comment” about Prophet Muhammad on his social media. According to the FIR filed at the DJ Halli police station, Naveen has been charged under Sections 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion) and 295 A (insult or attempt to insult religious beliefs with malicious intent to outrage religious sentiments) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The police held 145 people in the case on Wednesday. “The process of identifying more people based on CCTV footage from the locality is still under way. More people are being arrested today as well,” The Indian Express quoted a senior police officer as saying on Thursday.

SDPI Karnataka President Elyas Muhammad Thumbe has denied the charges levelled against his party, saying: “As always, the SDPI is being dragged just to cover up police inaction against blasphemy and failure of the state’s intelligence unit.”

He also claimed that Muzammil Pasha, one of the accused, was “trying to calm people down”, citing videos shot from outside the DJ Halli police station on Tuesday night.

His remarks come after Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai Wednesday said the government was considering banning organisations like the PFI and SDPI.

Responding to this, senior Congress MLA and former Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy urged the government to ban the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates along with SDPI, terming all these organisations as “two sides of the same coin.”

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