“Hurt Sentiments Can’t Justify Violence”: How a Facebook Post Led to Mob Attack in Bangalore

Social Commentary

“Hurt Sentiments Can’t Justify Violence”: How a Facebook Post Led to Mob Attack in Bangalore

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

While Bengaluru attempts to fight the tide of rising coronavirus cases, violence gripped parts of the city on Tuesday night over an allegedly derogatory social media post uploaded by a Congress legislator’s relative.

At least three people have died with over 50 cops injured in violent clashes in east Bengaluru, between the DJ Halli and KG Halli areas. While the mob pelted stones and torched vehicles, the police had to resort to using batons, tear gas, and opening fire to bring the situation under control.

Naveen, nephew of Pulakeshinagar MLA Akhanda Srinivasmurthy of the Congress, had allegedly posted a derogatory comment on Prophet Mohammed on Facebook that enraged a section of the minority community. A small group started arriving at MLA Murthy’s residence, after which hundreds joined them in protest outside DJ Halli police station demanding immediate action.

“We will investigate the matter thoroughly, whatever the situation is. However, indulging in vandalism is not the solution. Additional forces have been deployed and the cops have been given a free hand to handle the situation,” Home Minister Basavraj Bommai had said at the time.

Bengaluru City Police Commissioner Kamal Pant confirmed the deaths to Indian Express, stating, “Three people have died during the incident. However, we are yet to ascertain the exact reason behind these deaths.” He further added, “Police jeeps, buses, and other vehicles parked in the area were torched by the mob. Stone pelting was also rampant in the area during the late hours. Two vehicles in which DCPs arrived at the site were overturned and burnt.”

Kamal Pant took to Twitter to announce that 110 accused had been arrested for arson, stone pelting and assault on police, along with Naveen for making the derogatory post. He appealed to the people to cooperate and maintain peace.

Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa directed police to take action against those involved in the incident. “Directions have been issued to the police to take strict action against the perpetrators involved in inciting violence at MLA Akhanda Srinivas Murthy’s residence and later against the police in DJ Halli station limits. The government will take all measures to punish the guilty. The government will not tolerate such provocations and rumors. I appeal to the public to maintain peace,” he tweeted.

Even while many condemned the violence, messages of harmony have been echoed by politicians and influencers to calm down the tempers.

Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah called for peace since only innocents suffer in communal riots. He asked for both religious groups to discuss and resolve the issue amicably.

“The Prophet (SAW) faced the vilest of abuses in his lifetime. Not once did he retaliate. Let’s learn from his wisdom, patience & grace,” tweeted writer Irene Akbar.

Congress spokesperson Shama Mohamed said that the mob violence was unacceptable.

Supreme Court advocate Karuna Nundy demanded action against perpetrators.

Condemning the incident, actor Swara Bhasker wrote, “No excuses for violence and arson! No, hurt sentiments are not an excuse!!”

The police have stated that Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedures has been imposed in DJ Halli and KG Halli areas to avoid further incidents. While the state and country is already reeling with the coronavirus pandemic and a string of natural disasters, the last thing we need is communal violence over social media posts that further stretches our police force and healthcare system to the absolute limit.