At least three people have died in clashes with police in the Indian city of Bangalore overnight after a ‘derogatory’ Facebook post about the Prophet Mohammed sparked protests in which a police station was attacked, and a politician’s house and vehicles were torched.
The violence began late on Tuesday, with mobs pelting stones, burning vehicles and setting a police station on fire, and lasted until the early hours of Wednesday. Dozens of people were wounded.
“Seeing that much fire, smoke and the violence was really scary. I was really frightened. We’ve only seen such things on TV,” said Ahan Khan, a college student who lives near the police station in northeast Bengaluru.
P Naveen, the nephew of a Congress MLA R Akhanda Srinivas Murthy who is allegedly responsible for the offensive post has been arrested and that the post has since been deleted.
Naveen later claimed that his account had been hacked and that he would file a complaint, according to News18.
“For the fault of some miscreants, let us not fight among ourselves,” he said. “Whoever has done that, let police and government take action legally. I am also with you to see that whoever it is, is punished. Please maintain calm.”
‘It is highly objectionable and such statements about any person revered by any community needs to be handled in the strictest way possible by the authorities.’
‘What was written about the Prophet is the working of a sick mind with an intention to create violence,’ Congress Party lawmaker Dinesh Gundu Rao said on Twitter.
Bengaluru Police Commissioner Kamal Pant said his officers had initially tried to hold back around 1,000 protesters using batons and tear gas, but then opened fire.
“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.
Police have imposed an emergency law prohibiting gatherings in Bengaluru, a city of 12 million people best known as India’s Silicon Valley.
The three victims were Muslim men aged between 19 and 21, said Rizwan Arshad, a Congress party lawmaker in Bengaluru, who reached the police station amid the violence on Tuesday night to appeal for calm.
A medical officer at the government-run Bowring hospital said they had treated at least 27 injured policemen and 12 protesters, including three who had suffered gunshot wounds.
The politician, R. Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy, appealed for calm in a video message carried by media.
“We’re all brothers. Whatever crime has been committed, let the law teach them a lesson,” Murthy said. “I appeal to our Muslim brothers and everyone else to maintain peace.”
On Wednesday afternoon, charred remains of several cars and motorcycles were strewn across the basement parking lot of D.J. Halli police station, the facade of which was also scarred by fire.
Nearby streets were lined with burnt vehicles, with all shops shuttered along the nearly two-km stretch where the police station is located.
“We are investigating the issue and will make use of the CCTV footage to see who is behind these violent acts, and will take stringent actions,” said Basavraj Bommai, home minister of Karnataka state, where Bengaluru is located.