The charred wall of the police station and the metallic stench of torched vehicles filled the morning air, drawing curtains on the violence that erupted in Bengaluru on the night of 11 August. Apart from the occasional peep through the curtains, residents of East Bengaluru’s DJ Halli locked themselves at home on Wednesday. More than 100 men from these houses were now in police custody.
Outside DJ Halli police station, it was a reunion for the senior police officers in the city. These officers, who had served at some point in the East division, were called in to use all their resources and informants to track the culprits. Some officers were reconnecting with sources they established a working relationship with 10 years ago.
The Quint visited DJ Halli, KG Halli and Kaval Byrasandra – the three locations where violence broke out – to piece together what transpired on Tuesday. The initial police probe and eyewitness accounts suggest there were two simultaneous attacks – one at the police station and one at an MLA’s house.
Here is an account of how the violence broke out.
Attack One: The Police Station
It was around 6 pm on Tuesday, when the news of the derogatory post against Prophet Muhammad went viral. The first response came around 7.45 pm when The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) leader Muzammil Pasha arrived at the police station, said a senior police officer.
After he filed a complaint, DJ Halli police took two hours to arrest Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy’s 34-year-old nephew T Naveen Kumar, who posted the cartoon.
Pasha came to the station with a crowd of 150 people with him. While the mob stayed outside the gates, a handful of men along with Pasha went inside the police station.
DJ Halli police had deployed two teams to detain Naveen. As the mob got agitated, the imam of a local Masjid was called to the location. The imam, who came around 9 pm, went out to pacify the crowd. He told the mob that the FIR had been registered and Naveen would be arrested soon.
Violence Breaks out
Even though the Imam was trying to pacify the crowd, the fact that Naveen was yet to be arrested agitated the mob further. Some of them tried to barge into the police station, but they were lathi-charged and kept out by the police.
Soon after, one of the teams that had gone to detain Naveen returned. The mob surrounded the police van demanding Naveen be handed over. But they realised Naveen was not in the van. This time, all hell broke loose.
The mob barged into the police station. Officers and men of the station were forced to lock themselves inside, as the front yard of the station was overrun. The mob soon started torching vehicles on the road and in the police station’s parking lot.
The police reinforcement, including Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP), arrived at the location. By 10.30 pm, the mob had swollen to at least 800 people and the teams were unable to get inside the police station.
Police teams then broke opened doors of the state-owned Indira Canteen next door and gained entry into the compound. By then, policemen inside the station, too, came out to retaliate.
As the initial caning failed to disperse the crowd while the police were being outnumbered, around 11.30 pm, the cops took to firing tear gas. Since it had little impact, around midnight, shots were fired in the air and later, the police opened fire at the mob.
One person was killed on the spot and two died of their injuries later.
The Pushback and Spillover to KG Halli
A senior officer said while they were trying to clear the streets, they were attacked with bottles and rocks. But the police action continued with more back-up forces joining in.
In the middle of police action in DJ Halli, a part of the crowd that was dispersed from the police station, and another mob, moved towards KG Halli police station. The mob attempted to enter the station and police quarters and were met with stiff resistance, following which they set fire to vehicles outside the station.
Attack 2: MLA and His Nephew’s House
Around the same time as the attack outside DJ Halli police station, another mob had started moving towards the Congress MLA’s house in Kaval Byrasandra in the same locality. T Pavan Kumar, father of Naveen, said that a large crowd of 500-800 people passed by his house around 8.30 pm.
Within minutes, some of them returned and gathered outside Naveen’s house. “We thought they would protest or shout slogans. But soon enough, they started pelting stones. There were three policemen at our house, who asked us to lock the doors and move to the first floor,” T Pavan Kumar said.
The mob then entered Naveen’s house. They vandalised and looted the house after their demands for handing over Naveen didn’t get any response. The seven-member family, fearing for their lives, shifted to the neighbouring house using parapets.
Attack on Neighbours
After attacking Naveen’s house and setting their car on fire, around 10.30 pm, the mob moved on to the other houses in the area. They set vehicles on fire and burnt down a bar next door. The owner of the bar, Chandrappa, was not related to Naveen.
Rajitha, a resident of Kaval Byrasandra, shared a wall of their house with the bar. “When we heard the shouts, we locked ourselves inside the house and switched off the lights. We could hear people jumping on our gates. When they heard sounds in the house, they started banging on the door. But we didn’t open,” she said.
Attack on MLA’s House
In the meanwhile, another section of the mob had moved to Congress MLA and uncle of Naveen, Akhanda Srinivas Murthy’s house and office. The house was empty at the time of the attack. The mob set the house on fire and burnt the vehicles parked in a garage.
After the firing at DJ Halli, the crowd scattered. Over the next one hour, the police cleared the streets in both locations. It was around 1 am that the situation was finally brought under control.
However, the simultaneous attacks have fuelled speculation of a conspiracy to attack both locations – which is now being probed by the police.