A social media post by an individual, a relative of a Congress MLA, has resulted in communal violence, causing the death of three persons in police firing in Bengaluru. Firm action should be taken by the government against all those who have conspired and contributed to turning a Facebook fracas into a cause for communal mobilisation and polarisation. The magisterial inquiry ordered by the state government must identify the guilty and ensure that they are quickly brought to book. Political parties must reach across the divides in this moment and work together to ensure that peace is restored.
Bengaluru, despite its cosmopolitan character and entrepreneurial culture, has not always been impervious to the pull of sectarian agendas. The violence that erupted on Tuesday may also have been triggered by factional politics, with parties in the fray attempting to consolidate their support ahead of corporation elections that were delayed by the COVID pandemic. By all accounts, the violence was limited to two police station limits and there are allegations about the role played by the SDPI, an Islamist political outfit known for mobilisations around identity issues. As it always happens during the flaring of communal tensions, rumours have also played a part, sharpening restiveness over perceived inaction by the local police after a complaint against the MLA’s nephew for his derogatory post. Questions have also been asked about the police failure to anticipate the arrival of a mob soon after a delegation filed the complaint at the police station. The alleged police inaction feeds into a lack of trust in the police’s willingness or ability or both to act fairly and firmly in precarious communal contexts. This distrust, then, lays the ground open for mischief by groups that have a record of mobilising people and targeting institutions citing “hurt sentiments”.
Bengaluru’s attraction as a global destination for talent and capital will be tested if the administration fails to keep the social peace. Especially at a time when the pandemic is stretching the limits of the city’s public infrastructure, political parties must not allow the lure of short-term electoral gains to override or cloud the larger, longer imperative — to protect and safeguard Bangalore’s reputation and promise of being one of the most vibrant and diverse cities in the country.