The violence in Bengaluru on Monday night, triggered by a Facebook post insulting Prophet Mohammed, has led to police firing killing three people and widespread damage and loss of property. The post in question was made by P Naveen, a nephew of Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy, representing the Pulakeshinagar constituency in Bengaluru. A large group of people approached the DJ Halli police station to lodge a complaint against the post; mob turned angry and violent when the police allegedly did not show serious response to the complaint.
The clashes which started with destroying the vehicles parked in the police station compound, soon protests spread to the street when police started firing to disperse the crowd, in which three persons were killed. The protesters then went on a rampage, thrashed the CCTVs in the nearby shops and also barged into the house of MLA Srinivasa Murthy causing damage there. About 80 policemen were injured in the stone-pelting. The following dawn, after crushing the violence, the police went in search of the culprits and went on an arrest spree catching youths from houses. A curfew was also imposed in Banaswadi police sub-division. On Wednesday, a local leader of SDPI was arrested in the name of the clashes. And the ruling BJP's leaders and ministers have come out targeting SDPI with allegations of incitement to violence.
On earlier occasions also, Bengaluru had been vitiated by incidents of insulting the Prophet. In 1986, there was widespread riot and firing consequent on the publication of a provocative story in 'Deccan Herald' concerning the Prophet and his family. The ensuing violence had killed 17 people. Later, an objectionable mention of the Prophet in 'Indian Express' daily had led to violence, but a timely intervention by the police averted untoward incidents. But this time, it was not in mainstream news media, but in social media that a reckless person uploaded an Islamophobic post prompting violent reactions. Altogether, what Bengaluru witnessed that night was a sad happening caused by the foolhardiness of a sick mind being countered by a still worse imprudence.
With protests getting more and more intense on social media, the legislator came out with an apologetic explanation. The man blamed for the post, Naveen also gave a clarification that the incendiary comment was not his and that his account was hacked. But going by the violence that followed, including the experience of the MLA and the riots that spread out into the outskirts, none of such damage control seemed to have made any impact. As the police were talking to the complaining group inside the police station, another group surrounded the MLA's house and put the vehicles there on fire. According to eye witnesses, while the discussion with the police was happening, a section for the people were turning to protests and when the riot got out of hand, even the efforts to dissuade the crowd from violence by their leaders went futile.
The police say that as news of the controversial post started circulating, an attempt was made to spread messages mobilising people on a large scale for making widespread attacks. Bengaluru became witness to a situation in which an issue that should have been solved through the path of law, eventually tarnished the face of a metropolis and deviated to a track of communal disharmony and chaos. In the current Indian situation, where the politics of hate and suspicion has got an upper hand, social spread of the communal cancer has intensified. The safest course would be to ward off the nefarious utterances of that section and to keep a social distance from such provocations. If such an immunity cannot be acquired through wisdom and discretion, no one would be able to remain safe from the infection of the same communal virus. And sadly enough, the people who will have to pay the heavy price, will not be the exponents of intolerance and violence and their innocent emulators alone, as proved by the indiscriminate police action that followed the violence. The principle of Prophet's teaching consists in not being infuriated by incitement, but to hold one's composure and thereby turn an adversary into an ally. Implicit irreverence to Prophet may come more from forgetting such lessons. What was in display in Bengaluru was a consequence of that.