Riot Redux: For Alleged Insult To Mohammad, Bengaluru Has Burnt Like This Many Times In The Past Four Decades

by Harsha Bhat - Aug 12, 2020 03:31 PM +05:30 IST
Riot Redux: For Alleged Insult To Mohammad,  Bengaluru Has  Burnt Like This Many Times In The Past Four DecadesBengaluru Riots (Twitter)
  • A mob attacked Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy’s house on Tuesday night and the DG Halli police station in Bengaluru. Here’s a look at past instances when Bengaluru burnt under similar circumstances.

Even as it makes strides in technology, silicon city Bengaluru doesnt seem to have changed much in terms of things that hold it to ransom. If anything, the fears are only greater, and the threats only more fierce.

And last nights rioteering in East Bengaluru is just dejavu for residents of this city, as a similar incident had brought the city to a halt way back in 1986.

"Four people were killed and nearly 50 were injured in riots here today," read a New York Times report on 8 December 1986.

Mobs of Muslims battled it out with the police in Bangalore, Mysore and several smaller towns like Tumkur. When the violence finally subsided, 17 people had been killed in police firing, 11 in Bengaluru itself.

And not so surprisingly, nothing much has changed in the last four decades - be it the modus operandi , the cause or the community in question.

Three people are reported to have been killed in the Police firing after a mob armed with stones and staves landed in Pulakeshinagar and attacked the house of Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy.

This they said was in reaction to an alleged derogatory post by the said MLA' s nephew Naveen who had commented on a post with a graphic that was said to have 'portrayed Prophet Mohammad in badlight'. Around 110 people are said to have been arrested for arson, stone pelting and assault on the cops according to Police Commissioner Kamal Pant.

Rewind to 1986, Police Commissioner P G Halarankar said his officers had to fire on the mob which was trying to burn down a office of city’s leading daily Deccan Herald.

As reported by the NYT, ' the entire police force was mobilized, state reserves were called in, and a ban was imposed on gatherings or carrying arms for five days'.

The situation is similar today. Section 144 which restricts movement of people and gathering has been imposed across the city.

It was a newspaper article then, it is a comment to a social media post today.

Back then, the riots had continued for three days, starting on a Sunday and panning out to Mysuru and Tumkuru with three to five thousand Muslims marching through Bengaluru and then setting the warehouse of the newspaper Deccan Herald on fire.

The story in question was a short story penned by PKN Namboodri about a youth named Mohammad who was a poverty-stricken, handicapped person who eventually commits suicide, which was published in the Sunday edition of the newspaper on 7 December 1986. The title of the piece was ‘Mohammed the Idiot’. But the community took it as a reference to the prophet and set the town ablaze.

At the beginning of this millennium too, another newspaper had to bear the brunt of 'upsetting the minority community' over an 'unflattering reference' to the Prophet in an article titled "The Millennium is Dead . . . Long Live the Millennium".

The New Indian Express had to tender an apology to keep the 1000 people mob from ransacking its premises for an article by its editorial adviser T J S George which quoted the Italian philosopher Dante.

But even in this case, by the time the cops arrived and dispelled the crowd a lorry with newsprint had been burnt down. The then police commissioner T Madiyal had then ordered lathi charge, tear gas to quell the mob after which prohibitory orders were imposed in the surroundings of the building. Congress leader Roshan Baig, former Union Minister C M Ibrahim (now with the Congress) were accused of 'instigating' the mob.

Another instance one remember the involvement of Baig, is of 2010, when Siasat Daily, whose Karnataka edition was franchised by Baig, carried a report alleging that the Kannada daily Kannada Prabha had published derogatory remarks against Muslims in the Sunday piece. The piece in question was a translation of Taslima Nasreen's piece titled 'Let's think again about the burqa' from 2007 which was republished under the title 'Purdah hai purdah'. This led to violent protests erupting in different parts of the state, that saw two people killed in police firing in Shimoga.

CM Ibrahim's name was also one of the key ones mentioned in the 1986 Deccan Herald episode. He was accused of leading the Muslim leaders who instigated the community with provocative speeches, leading the 6000 odd mob outside the newspaper's building and urging them to offer Namaz on the road. As reported, he was also the one who threatened to gatecrash the premises, which is when the police had to intervene and get the mob in control.

Cut to what happened in the city yesterday, the Congress's proxy party the SDPI which has offlate also had differences with the Congress over it being not sufficiently pro- Muslim, as is evident by their recent remarks and distancing from the national party in various pockets, has just followed the template.

SDPI Bangalore Dist. Secretary Muzammil Pasha addressing the protesters who had come to seek justice demanding to punish Gustaq-e-Rasool at DJ Halli Police Station, Bangalore

Posted by SDPI Bangalore District on Tuesday, August 11, 2020

SDPI Bangalore District Secretary Muzammil Pasha was seen addressing the protestors at the D J Halli police station minutes before things went out of control. Pasha, who has now been arrested, was seen telling the mob which had by then begun to gather at the gate that they would do whatever it takes to see that the 'Gustaq-e-Rasool' is punished.

Another key aspect is the similarities in the political scenario in the current setup and what was during the 1986 fiasco. The parallels are a tad too many to be ignored. Ramakrishna Hegde who had been carefully crafting the secular narrative, had managed to ensure the Muslims werent displeased with the state government. Map that to the present and one knows how B S Yediyurappa, even at the cost of upsetting his party insiders, has ensured he doesnt upset the minorities (even during the Tablighi Jamaat frenzy).

For like Hegde, BSY too cant afford to upset a large part of the population which is clearly miffed with the Congress in many parts and has moved to vote for the SDPI. The SDPI which has taken the minority baton from the Congress has managed to replicate the Congress leaders formula of inciting violence disrupting the political stability that was being carefully crafted.

Hegde then had the crucial zilla panchayat and manadal parishad elections , while BSY has the BBMP elections in another month's time. As hard as one tries to see no pattern, one cant write it off.

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