A provocative Facebook post sparked violent clashes between protesters and police in Bangalore on August 11, resulting in three deaths and dozens injured.
The post referred to alleged sexual crimes against a minor and was considered a slander against the Prophet Muhammad. The post, now deleted, was made by P Naveen, nephew of Srinivas Murthy, a politician from the opposition Indian National Congress (INC) party.
Shortly after the publication, a mob protested outside Murthy's home, located in the village of Devarajeevanahalli, in a rural area of Bangalore (officially known as Bengaluru).
The mob also tried to set fire to two police stations. About 60 policemen were injured, along with several protesters.
Images of the destruction were spread widely online, sparking reactions like this tweet from Jiten:
https://t.co/GMXqHVXNRY what is happening… how can they destroy public property. why india cant be strict on these gundas.
– jiten (@royaljiten) August 12, 2020
Three killed in shooting at Police in Bengaluru amid violence due to Facebook post.
Violence in Bengaluru: Protesters set fire to 24 cars and surrounded the house of a parliamentarian in the capital of Karnataka.
What's happening… how can they destroy public property. Why can't india be strict with these thugs.
The clashes escalated into large-scale protests in two other villages in Bangalore, KG Halli and DG Halli (Halli means “village” in Canadian). Shortly after, the state government imposed a curfew in the area. The Police arrested more than 100 people.
The media maintain that some protesters belonged to the Social Democratic Party of India, an Islamic political group.
One of those arrested was Sayyad Nadeem, a 24-year-old mechanic who died of COVID-19 while in custody. Following his arrest, he entered Bowring Hospital in Bangalore City after he complained of chest pain and shortness of breath. He died a few days later, according to police. His COVID-19 test came back positive.
BS. Yeddyurappa, head of the government of Karnataka state, where Bangalore is located, urged the authorities to take strict action against those participating in the protests. He added that the government of the Indian People's Party (BJP) “I would not tolerate such provocations or rumors.”
Although India's Constitution is democratic and secular, violence between its Hindu and Muslim communities has long plagued the country. In recent years, the problem has been made worse by online misinformation and harassment campaigns.
In 2020, more than 50 people were killed during riots in the capital New Delhi following protests against the controversial citizenship amendment law. Most of the victims were Muslim.
During the recent riots in Bangalore, at least five reporters were attacked by protesters and the Police, as reported by NewsLaundry.
Journalist Nolan Pinto highlighted complaints of police violence:
@CPBlr your police hit my head with a pole even though we kept yelling we are reporters. @prajwalmanipal was hit on the back. We had to run from your police to save ourselves when there was no mob present !!
– Nolan Pinto (@nolanentreeo) August 11, 2020
Bangalore Police Commissioner, your Police hit me on the head with a pole even though we were yelling that we are reporters. Prajwal Manipal was hit on the back. We had to flee from the Police to save ourselves when the mob was gone !!
Thanks to journalist Yasir Mustaq for the first aid.
Journalist Arun Dev reported how the violence impacted ordinary Bangalorean citizens who had no connection with the protesters or the MP's nephew.
Even though close to the house of Naveen, who posted the derogatory content, the bar wasn't owned by anyone related to him. It was an act of vandalism. The occupants of the bar were chased out before burning the bar. #Bengalururiots pic.twitter.com/Ld1EjY1Kpe
– Arun Dev (@ ArunDev1) August 12, 2020
She is Ranjitha. His house is next to a commercial building in Kaval Byrasandra, with a party wall that was burned by the mob. She says that when the bar burned down, she and her family locked themselves in and turned off the lights.
Although it is close to the home of Naveen, who posted the derogatory content, the bar was not owned by anyone directly related to him. It was an act of vandalism. The occupants of the bar were made to leave before setting the bar on fire.
The blame game – and reactions
Following the violence, numerous right-wing groups on social media argued that P Naveen's post was a response to someone named Adyar Basheer Adyar, who allegedly posted derogatory comments against the Hindu goddess Lakshmi.
But an investigation by AltNews, a fact-checking organization, found these claims to be false. AltNews showed that Basheer's anti-Hindu post was from 2018, and that P Naveen never responded; both images had been modified to support this falsehood.
Certainly, Basheer's post resulted in police action against him in 2018.
Many condemned the violence by Muslim groups, such as journalist Anusha Ravi Sood:
Violence in Bengaluru on Tuesday night is quickly being given a ‘Dalit v / s Muslim’ color while inflammatory posts that sparked d violence is being sidelined. This narrative being pushed at a time d country has witnessed both communities come together on many issues like NRC-CAA
– Anusha Ravi Sood (@ anusharavi10) August 12, 2020
The violence in Bangalore on Tuesday night is rapidly turning a ‘Dalit versus‘ Muslim ’color, while provocative posts that started the violence are being shelved. Let this narrative be pressed at a time when the country has seen both communities come together on many issues such as the National Registry of Citizens and the amendment of the citizenship law.
Bollywood actor Swara Bhaskar tweeted his condemnation of violence:
No excuses for violence and arson! No, hurt sentiments are not an excuse !! Highly condemnable, the violence by Muslim hooligans in #Bangalore Just proves religious fanaticism is a scourge in all communities. Guilty must be brought to book as per law. Shameful! #bangaloreriots
– Swara Bhasker (@ReallySwara) August 12, 2020
There are no excuses for violence or fires! No, hurt feelings are no excuse !! The violence of Muslim vandals in Bangalore is highly condemnable. It only shows religious fanaticism is a scourge in all communities. The guilty must be brought to justice. What a shame!
Indian MP Shashi Tharoor highlighted a tweet from Indian user Muhammad Nuammir that shows Muslims protecting a temple in Bangalore with a human chain:
Those who incited and perpetrated the #bangaloreriots must be found, arrested & given exemplary punishment. But they are not to be equated with an entire community any more than thugs & vigilantes represent all Hindus. This also happened in Bangalore: https://t.co/TCrfo6kU7k
– Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) August 12, 2020
This is the beauty of India.
Muslims created human chain to guard the temple in Bangalore during the violence.
Be calm, make peace.
Those who incited and perpetrated the riots in Bangalore must be found, arrested and given exemplary punishment. But he is equated with an entire community only (saying that) vigilante thugs and vigilantes represent all Hindus. This also happened in Bangalore:
However, right-wing accounts continue to spread a false narrative:
#bengaluruviolence U muslims did riots because of prophet mohammed insult. Now what can we do with U. U made insult of our MATA (Mata means mother in Hindi) . This was a preplanned riots by muslims. Ur muslim man first did insult & then to reply Naveen posted prophet's photo. pic.twitter.com/rDmiFPIqWy
– Aniruddha Ghadge (@ AniruddhaGhadg1) August 13, 2020
Violence in Bangalore. Muslims, they made these riots out of an insult to the Prophet Muhammad. Now what can we do with you. You insulted our land. These were Muslim-planned riots. The Muslim first insulted, and then they respond to the photo of the prophet that Naveen posted.
Sandhya Subedi, who lives outside of India, demanded punishment for the violent protesters:
Dear Prime Minister of India @PMOIndia please punish the Banglore rioters in the strictest way possible! A facebook post should be replied with facebook post, no one has the right to create riot and kill people for a facebook post! This intolerance should be condemned!
– Sandhya Subedi (@HAMROCHANNEL_NP) August 12, 2020
Dear Prime Minister of India, please punish the violent protesters in Bangalore as strictly as possible! A post on Facebook must be answered with a post on Facebook, no one has the right to riot or kill for a post on Facebook! This intolerance must be condemned!
Faced with the situation, Tejasvi Surya, a Bangalore MP for the BJP, recommended that the Karnataka government follow the model of Yogi Adityanath of Uttar Pradesh and confiscate the property of violent protesters as a way to compensate for the loss of public property. This is a measure that Indian activists see as biased against minorities, helping to suppress protests against legitimate issues.