Violent protests disrupted the peace in the communal strife prone Old Guddadahalli region in JJ Nagar in west Bangalore on Wednesday after a 7-year old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted by a physical education teacher at a school in the area. The school located in a predominantly minority area was vandalized by an unruly mob following the incident. While a case was filed by the parents of the child and the Byatarayanapura police arrived at the school on Wednesday morning to arrest the accused teacher the case took a violent turn when locals began pressurizing the police to hand over the teacher to them to mete out extra judicial punishment.
A police team headed by DCP (West) Labhu Ram stood its ground and refused to hand over the alleged suspect to the mob. In the nearly three hour stand off that followed the police held the suspect identified as Ramakrishna alias Krishnappa in the school premises even as nearly 800 locals surrounded the double-storey building and pelted stones. At around 12.25 pm the protesters attacked KSRP and civil platoons that had arrived at the spot. An angry mob also set ablaze two scooters and a bike in front of the school building and began throwing cold drink bottles.
Repeated attempts by local elders like Alla Baksh to pacify the mob comprising mostly youths in the 17 to 30 age group failed to have any effect. With the various efforts failing to yield results police took up aggressive measures and entered the area additional troops. They fired tear-gas shells and lathi-charged the crowd in an effort to disperse them. In the midst of dispersing the crowd the police also tried to evacuate the suspect to a jeep and to the police station but the angry mob regrouped, blockaded the vehicle and thrashed Ramakrishna as he boarded the jeep. The police finally took the suspect out of the tense area in a convoy. The physical education teacher has been booked for rape and offences under the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
As many as seven policemen were injured in the stone pelting. Locals in the area claimed that the unruly mob featured more outsiders to the area than locals. “Our boys are at work or at school, these guys are outsiders who are bringing bad name to our colony and our lives are stuck in the middle of all this melee,” Shafi, 72, a resident of Old Guddadahalli said.
“The suspect has been arrested and as per the law we will investigate the matter, book relevant cases and produce before the court. Under no circumstances we can allow ‘instant justice’ to happen,” city police commissioner M N Reddi said.
After the police managed to restore peace in the area a second wave of violence occurred on Wednesday evening when local MLA Zameer Ahmed Khan arrived at the scene and announced that he would ensure protection to all the youths involved in the incident. “I will talk to the commissioner and ensure that none of our boys are arrested come what may,” Khan said. This resulted in a fresh wave of violence forcing the police to resort to fresh round of tear gas shelling. Around 3000 police personnel have been deployed over night at the Old Guddadahalli area. A senior police official said a case of rioting had been booked against the mob but detentions would happen only after peace is restored.
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