Asking the state police brass to take seriously communal posts and messages on social media, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Wednesday directed them to register suo motu cases against those involved in posting provocative messages intended to incite tension. Communal troublemakers should be booked under the stringent Goonda Act, if necessary, Siddaramaiah said during his annual meeting with senior police officers. State police chief Neelamani Raju was also present in the meeting.
Siddaramaiah is learnt to have told the officers that a couple of incidents of stabbings reported in Dakshina Kannada district could have been prevented if the police had been more alert. The meeting comes after several incidents of communal violence were reported from coastal parts of the state, especially the communally sensitive Uttara Kannada and Dakshina Kannada districts, over the last couple of months.
“I have instructed the police to take suo motu action against provocative posts on social media that are intended to create communal problems and disturb the peace in society,” Siddaramaiah said after the meeting. “The police have been asked to take action irrespective of the community of the individuals (involved).”
Siddaramaiah said that communal forces are increasingly using social media to provoke people against other communities, and the police need to check this as the state goes into election mode over the next three months.
The police have increased vigil over communally provocative social media posts since early December, when violence was sparked off by the death of an 18-year-old boy in Honnavar, Uttara Kannada, with protesting Hindutva activists clashing with the police. While the BJP had claimed the teen, Paresh Mesta, was tortured, forensic doctors who conducted the postmortem have said there was no torture.
Since December 8, when Mesta’s body was found, the police filed more than 20 cases in Uttara Kannada for inciting violence with social media posts. BJP Lok Sabha MP Shobha Karandlaje is among those who have been booked.
In Dakshina Kannada, at least two cases have been registered since a 20-year-old woman committed suicide, allegedly after Hindutva activists harassed and hounded her on social media, accusing her of being friends with a Muslim man. A local leader of the BJYM, the youth wing of BJP, has been arrested in the case.
While Siddaramaiah said that there will be communal incidents “so long as communal forces exist”, he refused to comment on provocative statements of Union minister Anantkumar Hegde against sections of the society such as intellectuals and progressive people. “It is better not to reply to his comments. He is the most irresponsible person despite being a minister,’’ Siddaramaiah said.
He claimed that there has been progress in police’s probe into the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh but did not disclose details during a press briefing after the meeting with the police brass Wednesday.