A road altercation between a biker and a pedestrian set off a series of violent incidents in Mysuru's Saligrama village on Thursday.
According to police officials at Saligrama police station, the clashes that gripped the village was rooted to caste bias after Chandru, a Dalit, was accused of brushing Srinivas, a Vokkaliga, on his bike late on Wednesday.
"Srinivas was angered by Chandru and blamed him for causing an accident on his bike. This led to Srinivas and a few others confronting Chandru about the incident," says a police official at Saligrama.
Srinivas filed a complaint accusing Chandru and a group of men of assaulting him. Police registered an FIR against Chandru charging him for assault and attempt to murder.
In Saligrama village located in KR Nagar taluk, the majority of the population are Vokkaligas while there are a sizable number of Dalit residents. In the past, the village has been in the news for caste-based oppression, particularly depriving Dalit residents of jobs. SR Mahesh, JD(S) MLA of KR Nagar and a former Minister, is from Saligrama village.
Following the incident between Srinivas and Chandru on Wednesday, a group of men entered Ambedkar colony in Saligrama, an area mostly inhabited by Dalits. Instead of resolving the tension in the village, the group of men began throwing stones at houses in the colony and broke open doors and windows. Later, videos of men burning tyres and forcibly shuttind down shops in the area also emerged.
Among the persons charged in the incident is SR Ravish, alias Raghu, brother of MLA SR Mahesh. The complainants accused Ravish of inciting the riot by leading a group of men to Ambedkar Colony and asking them to "charge" the area.
"There were hundreds of people led by Ravish who began vandalising houses and shops in our area. There was nothing we could do but run away from there. We want justice to be done and those who were involved in this incident should be arrested," Lokesh told TNM.
"There were two persons injured in the incident but the most significant damage was done to houses in the area. The group of men, who were large in number, took up clubs and stones and began vandalising the houses in sight," a police official added.
A complaint was filed by Lokesh, a resident of Ambedkar Colony, at the Saligrama Police Station, accusing 17 people under sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting with deadly weapons), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly), 427 (causing damage), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 324 (causing hurt with dangerous weapons), 504 (provoking breach of peace), 506 (criminal intimidation), and under sections of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Police officials said that the situation in the village was brought under control after Mysuru SP CB Ryshynath camped at the village and additional police security was deployed. Six persons were arrested in connection with the incident of rioting in Ambedkar colony although Ravish, who is named as the first accused in the case, was not arrested by the police.
Police officials working in Saligrama said that tension between the two caste groups was on edge ever since a disagreement arose over the naming of a traffic junction on the road to Somwarpet. Lokesh says that on November 26, Dalit groups had decided to formally name the junction after BR Ambedkar and had taken relevant permissions from civic officials for it. But when they reached the junction, they found that a board had been installed naming the junction after former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda. This led to a clash between the groups.
"Ever since this incident, Vokkaligas have kept it in the back of their minds that Dalits, who are minority in number had named a junction in this area after Ambedkar," Lokesh added.