Bengaluru violence: Chargesheet says political rivalry within Congress led to riots

According to the chargesheet by the Central Crime Branch, the riot was planned months in advance and that the accused members took advantage of a Facebook post on August 11.
DJ Halli Police Station, Bengaluru
DJ Halli Police Station, Bengaluru
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The chargesheet by the Central Crime Branch (CCB) in the investigation into the riots has highlighted that a political rivalry between a former Bengaluru mayor, a former councillor and MLA R Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy, led to the violence on August 11. The chargesheet names Sampath Raj, a former Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) mayor from the Congress, his personal assistant Arun, car driver Santhosh, Mujahid Khan, and former Pulakeshinagar councillor Abdul Rakhib Zakir. It stated that a closed group of people, which included the accused members, allegedly planned an attack on the residence of MLA Akhand Srinivasa Murthy by asking Mujahid Khan to instigate members of the Muslim community to turn against the MLA. 

The chargesheet stated that the attack was planned months in advance and that the accused members took advantage of the situation on August 11 — an alleged offensive Facebook post. 

A violent mob launched simultaneous attacks on the police station at DJ Halli and the residence and office of MLA R Akhand Srinivasa Murthy in Kaval Byrasandra in Bengaluru on the night of August 11. The mob was angered by a Facebook comment made by P Naveen, a relative of Akhand Srinivasa Murthy, which was deemed offensive to Muslims. The mob was also angered by the police's refusal to register an FIR immediately in the case. The violence, which started on the night of August 11, was brought under control around 1 am on August 12 after the police opened fire to quell the mob, killing three people by gunshot. 

What the chargesheet says 

Akhand Srinivasa Murthy was among seven rebel JD(S) MLAs who had joined the Congress on March 25, 2018, ahead of the state Assembly elections.

The CCB chargesheet said that Sampath Raj was an aspirant for the Congress ticket from Pulakeshinagar Assembly constituency but the party decided to go with Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy. Sampath Raj instead contested as the party candidate from CV Raman Nagar Assembly constituency but lost. 

According to the police, three months ago, Sampath Raj and his associates had hatched a plot and held a meeting at Haseena Hall within DJ Halli police station limits. "To cause a commotion by instigating Muslims, some of the accused used to hold meetings often. They got an opportunity when Murthy's nephew Naveen made an objectionable social media post," stated the chargesheet.

‘A conspiracy against Congress’

Earlier on Thursday, the Congress rejected police's attribution of internal party rivalry to the attack on its MLA Srinivas Murthy's house during the violence.

Blaming the government for the incident, KPCC President DK Shivakumar said allegations were part of the conspiracy against his party and accused the police of acting as agents of the ruling BJP.

Along with the CCB, even the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is investigating the case. On Monday and Tuesday, the agency summoned two Congress leaders, Rizwan Arshad and Zameer Ahmed Khan.

NIA summons Congress MLAs

The two MLAs were called to DJ Halli on the night of the mob violence to defuse the situation and it was when they addressed the media close to the DJ Halli police station around 1 am on August 12, it was made clear that the situation was under control. 

"Senior officers asked us to come to the station to defuse the situation on the night of the incident. The police commissioner in his report has said that we reached the spot to help bring the situation under control. We informed the NIA what we saw," Rizwan Arshad told TNM. 

Sources said that the NIA was also probing the political rivalry within the Congress. Akhand Srinivasa Murthy's supporters called for Sampath Raj's arrest in a protest held on Tuesday at Peiyar Circle in Bengaluru. 

Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai called for the Congress to answer the questions posed by an MLA from their own party - Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy. "Thorough investigation has been done and therefore they are named in the chargesheet. They (Congress) know that this has happened due to internal differences of the party in collaboration with SDPI officials. They have to answer the questions posed by their own MLA," Basavaraj Bommai said.  

The CCB is focusing its investigation on the attack on the residence of MLA R Akhand Srinivasa Murthy while the Bengaluru police's east division is investigating the 72 FIRs (first information report) registered at the DJ Halli and KG Halli police station. The NIA is also investigating the case.

A total of 421 accused persons, including many residents of DJ Halli and KG Halli, were arrested in the days after the violence. Two main FIRs registered in the case invoked the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) against 163 accused persons. Police officials said this is the largest number of people charged under the act in a single case in Karnataka.

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