The Shivamogga rural police have arrested more than 40 people in 18 cases of stone-pelting during an Eid Milad procession in the communally sensitive Ragi Gudda area on Sunday, 1 October.
At least four people were injured and several properties suffered damages in the incidents, which forced the police to clamp prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC.
“We have asked the injured and those whose properties were damaged to lodge complaints. We have already secured some people who were involved in the incident. There is videography, CCTV camera, and drone camera footage, and we will nab all those involved and ensure they are brought to justice,” said Superintendent of Police (SP) GK Mithun Kumar.
The SP also said there was sufficient force, including the Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP), one company of Rapid Action Force (RAF), 900 home guards, 2,000 police personnel, and senior officers to maintain law and order.
“We have made sufficient bandobast. There won’t be any problem in Shivamogga city and the situation is peaceful,” he said, urging people to ignore rumours.
The police said a mob pelted a few houses and vehicles with stones after the Eid Milad procession was allgedly targeted on Sunday evening.
The incident occurred majorly in Shantinagar’s 6th, 7th and 8th crossroads. Police sources said that during the procession, a group of people had made a cutout of the erstwhile Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan killing a warrior.
Another group objected to the cutout, and an argument broke out over the identity of the warrior who was being killed.
They demanded that the other group remove it or cover it up. However, the police intervened and spoke to both parties, who agreed to cover the part of the warrior being killed.
The procession of Eid Milad then went on amid police security. As the crowd swelled, the police brought in additional reinforcements.
Tense moments prevailed when a youth belonging to the minority community slit his hand and used his blood to write “Sher Tipu” on the cutout.
When the procession reached near the Ragi Gudda area around 8 pm, a group of people started pelting stones at it. People who were a part of the procession retaliated by throwing stones at houses and vehicles.
As the situation was getting out of hand, the police resorted to lathi-charge and dispersed the crowd. At least four people, including the gunman of a senior police officer, sustained injuries and were admitted to McGann Hospital in Shivamogga.
The police then declared prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC. They identified the miscreants with the help of videographers, CCTV, and drone camera footage.
CM talks tough
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Monday, 2 October, said 43 miscreants had been arrested in connection with the incident in Shivamogga. The government would not tolerate such incidents and would suppress them, he said.
“The situation in Shivamogga is now peaceful and under control and the police are taking all necessary measures to maintain peace”, Siddaramaiah told reporters. He said as much on X (formerly Twitter).
ಯಾವುದೇ ಧಾರ್ಮಿಕ ಕಾರ್ಯಕ್ರಮಕ್ಕೆ ಧಕ್ಕೆ ತರುವುದು, ಕಲ್ಲು ತೂರುವುದು ಕಾನೂನು ಬಾಹಿರ. ಇಂಥ ಚಟುವಟಿಕೆಗಳನ್ನು ನಮ್ಮ ಸರ್ಕಾರ ಸಹಿಸುವುದಿಲ್ಲ, ಇಂತಹ ಕೃತ್ಯಗಳನ್ನು ಖಂಡಿತಾ ಹತ್ತಿಕ್ಕುತ್ತೇವೆ.
ಶಿವಮೊಗ್ಗ ನಗರ ಸಂಪೂರ್ಣ ನಿಯಂತ್ರಣದಲ್ಲಿದೆ. ಪೊಲೀಸರು ಕ್ಷಿಪ್ರ ಕ್ರಮ ಕೈಗೊಂಡಿದ್ದರಿಂದ ನಗರದಲ್ಲಿ ಶಾಂತಿ ನೆಲೆಸಿದೆ. ಕಾನೂನು ಸುವ್ಯವಸ್ಥೆಗೆ…
— CM of Karnataka (@CMofKarnataka) October 2, 2023
Shivamogga MLA SN Channabasappa, who visited the houses in the Ragi Gudda area, alleged that some outsiders, backed by locals, were behind the incident.
The BJP leader said he had received information that some outsiders in vehicles bearing registration numbers starting with UP, KA-35, and KA-19, were seen in Shivamogga.
Channabasappa also said he had informed the SP about outsiders so that they could alert their men at checkposts or nakabandis. He also said Ragi Gudda was a communally sensitive area, and people from both communities celebrated their religious festivals with grandeur and fervour.
“The police should have prepared themselves beforehand to avoid such situations that escalated on Sunday. Shivamogga has become a haven for those who want to spread terror,” Channabasappa told reporters.
This was not the first time untoward communal incidents were reported from Shivamogga. In February 2022, a 26-year-old Bajrang Dal activist, Harsha, was stabbed to death in Shivamogga, and the police arrested six men belonging to the minority community.
Soon after Harsha’s murder, violence erupted with agitators pelting stones, brandishing weapons, and even setting vehicles ablaze. A total of 19 incidents of violent protests took place, injuring at least eight locals and as many as 18 vehicles were destroyed, Four cases of arson were also reported.
In Bengaluru, Home Minister G Parameshwara termed it a minor stone pelting incident and said the police had controlled it and took the suspects into custody. Noting that the administration would not let any untoward incidents, he said the police had warned and dispersed the mob and the situation was now peaceful.
To a question on reports that some miscreants wearing masks had indulged in stone pelting, the minister said they have been arrested and legal action would be initiated against them after inquiry.
“Suspecting that anything may happen during the procession, forces including RAF were deployed in advance to control it from spiraling into a big incident,” Parameshwara said.
BJP blames government
Reacting to the Shivamogga incidents, former chief minister Basavaraj Bommai accused the state government of failing to maintain law and order in Karnataka and blamed it on the transfers of efficient policemen from such communally sensitive areas. It emboldened anti-social elements.
“Shivamogga is a communally sensitive city and many incidents have happened there. The local police failed to take precautions. Such incidents had been happening under three police station limits in Shivamogga City. Efficient officers must be considered while posting personnel in those three police stations,” he said.
“If officials were transferred for selfish reasons, they would do other things than maintaining law and order. It would instigate the bad elements to indulge in anti-social activities. The root cause for this had been the establishment of clubs in each district and the mushrooming of the real estate mafia,” the BJP leader alleged.
It must be thoroughly handled and adequate precautions should be taken. Clear instructions must go to them from the government. Such incidents would not have taken place if the officers were transferred without anybody’s influence,” Bommai added.
Karnataka BJP President Nalin Kumar Kateel alleged that religious fanatics were behind the incidents. In the name of Eid Milad procession, houses and properties of Hindus have been attacked and looted, he alleged.
“I condemn it,” he said, claiming that after the Congress came to power there were incidents of pro-Pakistan slogans being raised and no strict action was taken, due to which “fanatics are re-emerging.” He too flagged the alleged terror activities going on in Shivamogga and criticised the Congress government for failing to maintain law and order.
State BJP vice president and Shikaripura MLA BY Vijayendra also pointed out that a large Ganesh visarjan event and processions were held peacefully in Shivamogga recently. Sunday’s incidents, he said, seemed to be “aimed at disturbing peace” in Shivamogga.
Senior BJP leader and former minister KS Eshwarappa visited the injured. He claimed that huge posters of the 18th-century ruler Tipu Sultan and others were erected at various places “to instigate” the Hindu community.
“Not even a single Hindu youth was involved in stone pelting…houses of Hindus were selectively attacked by people wearing black clothes and masks,” he claimed.
The BJP even shared a video claiming to be that of Sunday’s Eid Milad procession in Shivamogga accusing participants of brandishing swords.
Jihadis run amok on the streets of Shivamogga, brandishing swords & weapons, while ‘secular’ @siddaramaiah has gone into hiding.
— BJP Karnataka (@BJP4Karnataka) October 2, 2023
Inspector General of Police (IGP) Eastern Range Dr K Thiyagarajan, however, told South First – “There are many videos doing rounds such as the one where people are seen flaunting swords, but we are informed that a lot of cardboard swords and other accessories were also used. We are also verifying all these videos if they are related to the Sunday’s procession in Shivamogga and we will book cases as and when we find and identify offences. As of now, we have not registered any case under the Arms Act.”