Bengaluru violence: ‘Fact-finding committee’ urges police to widen probe against ‘hate speech’ post

The committee noted that the "police failed to act expeditiously 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 areas of East Bengaluru on August 11.

Three people were killed in police firing and the fourth one succumbed to injuries during violence in D J Halli and adjoining areas on August 11

A fact-finding committee formed by several civil society organisations (CSOs) based in the city Wednesday urged the Bengaluru City Police probing the incident and the violence — that took place then at the streets of East Bengaluru on August 11 — to widen the scope of investigation against the alleged Facebook post believed to have led to the same.

In a report titled ‘Communalising Violence in DJ Halli’, the committee alleged, “Facebook failed to take action against Naveen’s post that amounts to hate speech. Several sections of the media have misportrayed the incident in a communal light by spinning conspiracy theories and targeting the Muslim community.”

The fact-finding committee claimed that it inferred several facts on the incident, after “a thorough inquiry into the incident, documenting several testimonies, and gathering evidence from all those involved across the spectrum.”

Key findings by the committee:

*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, the committee noted.

Further, it accused the police and the media of not “sufficiently probing” the intent and motive behind the post but focussing on the violence that followed the same instead.

* The mob violence “appears to be not directed by any visible leadership.” However, the role of the mob in attacking Devarajeevanahalli (DJ Halli) and Kadugodanahalli (KG Halli) police stations and MLA Murthy’s residence in Kaval Byrasandra destroying public and private property is undeniable and unjustifiable. A “larger agenda of total criminalisation and demonisation of the entire community” has also been noted.

*Alleging police inaction, the committee observed that the cops “failed to act expeditiously 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.

The report added that the perceived delay in lodging the FIR, and the failure to assure firm legal action and the perception that this was due to the MLA’s intervention cannot be ignored.

“There was an intelligence failure in the State machinery’s reaction to the incident, the police are responsible for a delayed response in registering the FIR against Naveen, which resulted in a discontent crowd swelling at the stations,” the committee stated.

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* Denying allegations that the mob was communal or political in nature, the team comprising CSOs claimed a “lack of substantial evidence to suggest that the mob violence was communal in nature, in that it specifically targeted the Hindu community or that it was premeditated and pre-planned.”

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The “local and spontaneous” incident has been taken advantage of by different political parties for immediate political gains which included the upcoming corporator elections in the state, the committee added.

* The imposition of prohibitory orders under Section 144 (of the Code of Criminal Procedure) has been termed a “ubiquitous punishment” to those in the areas, who allegedly met with verbal and physical abuse when they attempted to leave their homes. “Several arbitrary arrests were carried out in the middle of the night, that 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.

In addition to this, the ‘fact-finding team’ — which comprised former chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights Nina Nayak, independent journalist Cynthia Stephen and 21 others including lawyers, civic activists, representatives of various CSOs and policy researchers — has urged the state government to form peace committees including all communities to restore peace in the areas.

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“The intelligence failure to predict and prevent the violence must be investigated,” members of the committee demanded.

Earlier, another report by ‘Citizens for Democracy’ — a platform of responsible citizens that claims to be committed to democratic values, safety and security of the citizens of India — had noted that the riots were “pre-planned and organised” and it was “undoubtedly communally motivated”.

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