At least three people have died in southern India’s Bengaluru city after protesters clashed with police over a provocative social media post about the Prophet Muhammad, police have told Reuters news agency.
The Facebook post offensive to Muslims sparked protests in India’s tech hub on Tuesday night in which a police station was attacked, and a politician’s house and vehicles were torched.
“The situation is under control,” Bengaluru City Police said on Twitter, adding that police fired live ammunition to disperse the crowd after using tear gas and batons.
“Despite elders of the community trying to pacify the crowd, the mob burnt vehicles on the road, they attacked the police station,” Police Commissioner Kamal Pant said.
The Prophet (SAW) faced the vilest of abuses in his lifetime. Not once did he retaliate. Let’s learn from his wisdom, patience & grace. Loving the Prophet (SAW) means following his ways.
— Irena Akbar (@irenaakbar) August 12, 2020
“The police had no escape and they had to resort to firing and three people died,” Pant said, adding that 110 people had been arrested for alleged vandalism and attacking the police.
A police official said an emergency law prohibiting gatherings had been imposed in Bengaluru, a city of 12 million people best known as India’s Silicon Valley.
Al Jazeera’s Elizabeth Puranam, reporting from New Delhi, said the protesters forced businesses to close.
[email protected] @INCKarnataka mla Akhanda Srinivas Murthy’s house now after the mob torched and ransacked his house last night. pic.twitter.com/mLFTDIgbSA
— Imran Khan (@keypadguerilla) August 12, 2020
“Police say a very large group of people broke off into two groups and went around the neighbourhood forcing shopkeepers to close their stalls, damaging properties, setting vehicles on fire before going to two different police stations,” Puranam said.
Person behind FB post arrested
Pant said the person responsible for the offensive post had been arrested. It gave the first name of the accused man as Naveen, and said he is the nephew of Congress politician R Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy, whose house was attacked and burned in the violence.
The post, which reportedly involved the Prophet Mohammed, has since been deleted. Facebook did not immediately comment on the issue.
TV channels showed a group of people gathered outside a police station and clashing with officers, burning several police vehicles. The videos showed the group later trying to force its way into the police station, and another group gathering outside the politician’s house shouting, throwing stones, and setting fire to vehicles parked along the road.
Protesters blocked fire engines, and some media personnel were allegedly attacked, according to reports.
“We are investigating the issue and will make use of the CCTV footages to see who is behind these violent acts, and will take stringent actions,” Karnataka state Home Minister Basavraj Bommai told a local TV news channel.
— 𝗠𝘂𝗵𝗮𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗱 𝗡𝘂𝗮𝗺𝗺𝗶𝗿 💞 ( نُعَمِّرْ ) (@iam_nuammir) August 11, 2020
‘Let’s not fight… we’re brothers’
Muslim leaders and politicians urged people to refrain from violence.
“There is a youth who is related to a local politician. He has posted that ‘I am not secular’ and then also posted a derogatory post on social media against Prophet Muhammad, which angered people,” Maulana Mohammed Maqsood Imran Rasheedi, a top Muslim religious leader in Bengaluru, told Anadolu Agency.
“We have appealed to people to maintain peace and not to resort to any kind of violence,” he added.
Mufti PM Muzammil of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind appealed for calm, saying that police had taken action against the provocateur.
A senior leader from the opposition Congress party in the state, Dinesh Gundu Rao, also appealed to people not to take the law into their hands.
“If anybody has written anything objectionable the law will take its course and there are so many ways in a democracy to fight for justice,” he tweeted. “But Violence is not the answer.”
“What was written about the Prophet is the working of a sick mind with an intention to create violence.”
Murthy, a member of the state legislature, has also called for peace in a social media post.
“… I request our Muslim friends, for the mistake of some miscreants, let’s not fight. Whatever the fight, we’re brothers…. I request our Muslim kin to please remain peaceful. I will also stand with you,” he was quoted as saying by the newsminute.com website.
Meanwhile, R Ashoka, a state minister, told the same news channel that attacks on police and media would not be tolerated.
“What kind of people attack the police? The media? The local police have been given a free hand to deal with the situation,” he said.