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Asghar Ali Engineer on Communal Riots

Communal clashes rock Karnataka town [September 2002]

September 28, 2002 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Communal Violence, Human Rights 

[Source] [From September 2002]

New Delhi: South Indian city of KR Nagar witnessed a rise in communal temperature on September 13 evening following a clash between two youths taking on a communal colour.

The tension led to communal clashes in the Karnataka state town the following morning and police resorted to lobbing of teargas shells and lathi-charge to bring the situation under control, the police said.

Ten persons were injured in the melee and one person, identified as “Ravi” was taken to K R Hospital for treatment. Incidents of stone-throwing, arson and looting were also reported in several areas of the town.

An argument between two youths belonging to Hindu and Muslim communities respectively at the Manchanahalli bus-stand in the town is said to have led to communal clashes, said the police.

In a related incident in the same area, two groups resorted to stone-throwing in Harapanahalli area during the immersion of Ganesha idol, and police had to resort to caning and lobbing of teargas shells to bring the situation under control. A tense situation prevailed in the town and prohibitory orders were clamped in the area.

A total of 15 persons including five policemen were injured in the stone throwing. The clash is said to have occurred when a Hindu nationalist outfit Yuvashakti Sangha took out a Ganesha idol procession through Banageri and members of Hindu and Muslim communities had an argument over the volume of a loudspeaker.

South India did not know communal riots, that is Hindu-Muslim clashes, until about a decade ago when the North-based Hindu nationalist organisations like the RSS, BJP and VHP introduced this virus there. Now they have floated outfits like the Hindu Munnani which are on the lookout how to vitiate the communal harmony on one pretext or the other in order to convert the resulting communal polarisation into a vote-bank for the Hindu nationalist BJP and similar outfits.

|Report| Police Atrocities and Human Rights Violations at Katipalla [2002]

PUCL Bulletin, January 2002

Karnataka: Mangalore PUCL

Police Atrocities and Human Rights Violations at Katipalla

By P.B. D’Sa

Thursday 23rd 2001 morning about 100 men in uniform stormed the Katipalla town with Lathis, Tear Gas cells and guns to the utter shock of the unsuspecting citizens of this locality .The Police personnel beat up every person they could lay their hands upon irrespective of their age, sex or social standing. The Police forcibly entered at least a hundred houses and indulged in indiscriminate rampage. In some houses they forcibly broke open the doors and damaged household articles. They dragged out every male person found in the houses or in streets and brutally assaulted them before thrusting them into waiting Police vehicles. They used extremely foul language against the members of the families and in many cases misbehaved with the women folk.

Obviously there was no provocation whatsoever from the inhabitants of the area for this high handed and inhuman attitude of the police personnel. In fact one local bus driver who belongs to the Muslim Community had been assassinated two days prior to this incident by an armed gang of hooligans at a place close to this locality. But people of this locality where members of the Muslim Community who occupy a predominant position were sane enough not to give any communal color to the incident and were with full sense of responsibility waiting for the judicial machinery to take its own course on the case. Although a bundh was observed on 22nd August the local Muslim community had absolutely no role to play in this bandh because the bundh was in fact called by Bus Workers Association, Mangalore.

Thus, having proven that they are law-abiding citizens and having refused to be provoked even after the brutal murder of a member of their community they naturally never expected the police forces to be hostile against them. One may recall areas were up in flames due to communal riots. People of this particular area in the 2nd block, Katipalla had successfully ensured that their area remained peaceful. Hence a wholesale and indiscriminate attack against them was the last thing they expected from the police.

On 23rd August morning when the situation in the locality was perfectly normal at around 9 a.m. people were busy shopping. In fact these shops had remained closed the previous day. Many people had come there accompanying their children studying in one of three schools situated in the proximity. As the school hours were yet to commence there were many school children all around. It was in this backdrop that Mr. H.R.S. Shetty, Circle Inspector of Police arrived in a jeep along with another vehicle and accompanied by about a dozen uniformed men. His first target was one Abdul Salam, a young businessman and social activist. Mr. Shetty approached him using extremely foul language and dragged him all the way to the Police van and brutally assaulted him with his cane before dumping him into the van. Shocked at this brutal sight the people around came together and some of them sat down on the road protesting Mr. Shetty’s highhandedness and demanded the release of Abdul Salam. This response of the people was totally spontaneous and was provoked by the fact that Mr. Abdul Salam who was known to them as a law-abiding citizen and was not guilty of any crime, was being treated in this cruel manner. Taken aback by this spontaneous response of the local citizens Mr. Shetty agreed to free Mr. Abdul Salam from his illegal custody. On being released Mr. Abdul Salam came out of the van and requested the crowd to disperse peacefully. At this stage a few stones landed on the sitting crowd and on some police personnel obviously thrown by school going children who were witnessing the bizarre happenings. Having seen this Mr. Salam rushed to prevent the boys from this mischief. It was at this moment that the superintendent of Police Mr. Seemanth Kumar Singh came menacingly to the scene along with a few police vehicles and a couple of dozen uniformed personnel. Without even bothering to spend, even a moment to assess the situation, he straightaway ordered lathi charge against the crowd, which had already started dispersing. Police personnel started chasing and assaulting people indiscriminately. Even while people were trying to run away from the wrath of the police, the men in uniform fired tear gas shells in all directions and the beatings continued. After a long spree of indiscriminate beating the police first entered the shops and started dragging people out and dumping them into police vans. Even old people were not spared. Later the police started forcibly entering the houses in the locality. At places where people were too scared and shocked to open the doors the police broke open the doors and ransacked the houses.

Following are only a few among many extremely foul remarks passed by the police personnel targeting the Muslim community during the process of their uncalled-for house to house raids.

You Muslims deserve to be dispatched to Pakistan. You have no place in India. Right now we need only men. We will come in the night to pick your women. You Muslims have been spoiled by eating too much of cow meat. You Bearys (alluding to the Muslim community in the District) are anti nationals.

This entirely inhuman operation ended up in the arrest of 69 persons of the locality. Incidentally not a single person there arrested has any previous criminal record and even during the time of arrest obviously there was no charge existing against them. It was only at the later stage that the police attempted to concoct an entire story of their own and framed false charges against the arrested in order to justify their false charges against the arrested in order to justify their own atrocities and inhuman acts.

Out of the 69 persons arrested on 23rd August 2001,42 were released on the same day late in the night. The rest 27 were released on 29th August 2001. Most of those who were released on 23rd night have complained that they have been subjected to severe physical assault and torture by the police at Panambur Police Station. They were ridiculed, humiliated and thus were tortured mentally too by the police. The personnel used extremely offending words against their faith, religion and religious practices. Most of these persons showed obvious marks of Police beating on the different parts of their bodies. Those 27 persons who were released on 30th August 2001 had to go to the hospital for treatment. Eight of them had been admitted in the hospital for the treatment of wound and fractured wrist, this was because of the frequent assault by the Police.

The most surprising aspect of the whole dirty episode is that the police resorted to such inhuman treatment without any provocation. In fact it was only after unleashing their terror against the civilian that the police engaged themselves in covering up false evidences to protect themselves. For instance, after beating up almost all the inhabitants of the second block and after having created an atmosphere of terror in the area the Police went to a nearby house and forced the women in the house to hand over the key of the car which was parked well inside the compound of the house. The Police brought this car to the middle of the second block junction and after parking it there, they brought empty soda bottles from the nearby shops and piled them up in the vehicle along with the piled up bottles. People of the locality who were witness to this drama have reasons to doubt that this might be a conspiracy by the Police to create false evidence against the unsuspecting masses.

In the late night of August 23rd 2001, the Police took those 27 accused to the residence of the JMFC II Court Magistrate all the accused had told them that they had been brutally beaten up by the Police by dragging at their houses and he was convinced then. But unfortunately in his report the Magistrate has written otherwise. He had given the police clean chit saying the accused had got the injury in the incident itself; this was really shocking.

The Killing Fields: Communalism in Karnataka

THE KILLING FIELDS: Communalism in Karnataka

The Constitution of India (1950) guarantees both the freedom of speech and expression (Article 19 (1) (a) and the right to freedom of religion and religious worship (Article 25). Each of these fundamental rights are expressly made subject to public order; Article 19 (2) and Article 25 (1) i.e. they are subject to laws imposing reasonable restrictions on exercise of each of these rights to prevent violence and disorder.

Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees the right to life and liberty. Article of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) holds that every human being has the inherent right to life, protected by law and inviolable by arbitrary deprivation; Article 7 forbids torture or inhuman treatment; under Article 4, these Covenanted freedoms are non-derogable even ‘in time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation’.

In India, these are the human rights under siege, the right to life and the right to faith. This holds good even in the case of Karnataka, the only State in the South that witnessed communal riots recently. Ganesh festivities always set the tone for the communal temperature to rise in this state as in Maharashtra. August ’90 had seen tension in almost all the districts in the wake of these festivities. These needed a fuse to burst into riots and this was provided by the Shilanya programme of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

It began in Ramanagaram in September, the pretext, a dispute between two individuals over a chit fund draw that lead to stabbing. Autorickshaws were burnt and since they belonged to one whose caste was the same as the local police officer, the latter lead the police force into the poorest locality of the town where the poor of the minority lived and assisted anti-social elements to set fire to homes. A few dalits who lived there fled leaving their homes to be damaged. This town is famous for its Silk filatures and owned mostly by some members of the minority. The workers are dalits, poor and exploited. A bid was made to set the dalits against the Muslims. The police played not a small role in setting one against the other. The prosperity of the owners of the Silk filatures is resented, hence the bid to destroy the economic base of this class. The loss is estimated to run into lakhs of rupees apart from loss of a few lives.

The riots in Channapatna broke out over the issue of teasing of a girl. Relations of the girl demanded that the culprit be handed over to them for instant justice which the police justly refused. Eighty houses and shops were set ablaze, fifteen out of seventeen died of burns. Nearby the village of N.M.K Doddi had its 39 houses burnt to ashes but fortunately their inmates were sheltered in nearby villages by members of the other community. Even to this day members of the minority dare not stir out of town to buy or sell things in the villages around.

Kolar and Tumkur witnessed violence too, outcome of processions carrying Ram Jyothis. The former town was fairly free but villages around fed on wild rumours spread by young men on motorcycles who worked in BHEL, were badly affected.

Hosadurga in Chitradurga district had its first taste of violence when a procession of Ram Jyothi insisted on going into a sensitive area and grew violent forcing the police to open fire. Davanagere was set for the storm to burst with Ganesh and Shilanya festivities. Prophet’s birthday was celebrated with great pomp and all communities participated in the procession. Though there was an understanding that all would be present to make the Ram Jyothi procession a success, this procession turned away from the route agreed upon and violently tried to barge into a sensitive area. Police opened fire killing eight and all agree that this use of force was in excess of what the situation demanded. Following this, petty shops of the poor were set on fire. The police retaliated by arresting mostly innocent people who had no role in the riots and foisted cases on them. Tarabala Jagatguru of Sirigere Brihanmath with the co-operation of all communities staged a peace march through the town which restored a sense of security in the minorities in particular.

Ram Jyothi processions had their toll in Coorg where workers of Congress (I) joined hands with the B.J.P. according to Sri Subbaiah, M.L.C. (Congress (I)) and trees two hundred years old, worth lakhs of rupees were cut down according to Dr. Pias, a well-known social activist. Mulbalgal in Kolar district saw shops burnt, goods worth lakhs lost and trees cut down which run to three crores or rupees. Among the badly affected towns were Hubli where 48-hour curfew was imposed, Kunigal and Chamarajnagar. Other towns that could be named were Shimoga, Kanakapura, Nagamangala. The most alarming feature were the disaffected villages where members of minorities were isolated and helpless. There are reports of migration into towns from villages because of the feeling of insecurity.

Members of Congress (I) and Janata Dal freely participated in Ram Jyothi processions displaying as much zeal as the VHP. When the leaders of Communist parties were interviewed, they confessed that their workers were communal for want of political education. Fed of economism, these workers were innocent of Marxist ideology. Leaders of Raitha Sangha claimed that they were combating communalism by educating their followers about the democratic process and this was borne out by the role they played in villages where they had their bases.

The VHP and its mentors, B.J.P. and R.S.S. have asserted dogmatically that matters of faith are above the Constitution and the rule of law, thus placing themselves outside the pale of law. They need to be treated as outlaws by the people and the State.

Human rights activists have a long haul ahead of them. Those who have faith in democracy and human values must educate the people that religion is being used cynically and unscrupulously for political gains and it is distracting the people from social and economic priorities. The juggernaut of fascism which has usurped the right to speak for the majority mows down the minorities like Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, dalits, tribals and the liberals in the majority community will not be spared either as it happened in Hitler’s Germany.

Those with faith in the democratic process and egalitarianism have to stem this fascist onslaught. This ardent appeal is to confront this genocidal frenzy by rallying round all forces of democracy to preserve this pluralism we are justly proud of. Human fraternity is indivisible and let us strive with all our might to keep it so. Human rights groups should ‘keep alight the hope of a new day dawning’, with the ‘recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and unalterable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world’.

|Report| 1992: Communal Situation in Belgaum, Dharwad and Hubli

[From the Archives] [Read full text of the report]

A Study of the Communal Situation in Belgaum, Dharwad and Hubli by
CFD-K/PUCL-K Team related to the aftermath of violence of December 1992

|REPORT| Events of December 1992

From the Archives

[Read the full Report]

A Report by:

  • Citizens for Democracy- Karnataka,
  • People’s Union for Civil Liberties- Karnataka,
  • Karnataka Civil Liberties Committee and Karnataka Ekta

Karnataka has the dubious distinction of being ranked third in India and the first state in the South in the riots that broke out all over the country during October 1990 in the wake of the notorious Rath Yatra of Advani. These riots left 88 dead with hundreds maimed and properties worth Rs 4.37 Crore destroyed. Police opened fire in 4 cities and the total number felled by bullets was 10. Since then the communal situation in the state has been rather fragile.

[Read the full Report]

“Dargah versus Peeta”

January 1, 1993 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Communal Violence, Minorities, Report 

[From the Archives]

[Full Paper]

“Dargah versus Peeta”: Hindutva’s Politics of Appropriating Syncretic Culture in Karnataka

A paper by : Dr.Muzaffar Assadi
Dept of Studies in Political Science
University of Mysore
Mysore 570 0006, Karnataka

For the past couple of years, Karnataka is witnessing the growth of communal politics, manifested in the form of communal conflict or riots. This trend has increased after the demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. In some districts or parts of Karnataka, the frequency has increased such as in Gadag, Mangalore, Hubli, Belgam, and Chickmagalur. The last district is slowly receiving the national focus mainly due to Hindutva’s deliberate attempt to appropriate  symbol of syncretic culture and convert the same into a terrain of contestation and thereby expand its social bases in South India. Here lies the larger agenda of constructing one more Ayodhya in South India.This would help in completing its project of capturing the power of Indian state in due course. This is the reason why a sustained effort is being made to retain the tempo of the movement to liberate the “Dargah/peeta” from the clutches of “Muslims”- the presence of the latter is essential to construct an external  “enemy” to justify the logic of Hindutva.

[Full Paper]

|Report| Riots in Kolar



On 2.10.1990, Kolar was rocked with communal violence. The clashes between two communities Hindu – Muslim resulted in a long curfew of 78 days in the town; a record of sots in South India!! The clashes were the direct result of development of communalism in a peaceful town, over the years.

[1990 Kolar]

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