Tuesday 6 November 2012

Bangalore's first communal violence

Compared to any other city in India or even abroad, Bangalore is a peaceful city. Even when cities such as Chennai have been rocked by incidents related to the Sri Lankan conflict. Delhi by bomb blats and Mumbai has been under the shadow of the underworld, Bangalore has been pretty safe.
Except for the terrorist attack at the Indian Institute of Science (IISC)  and the bomb explosion at KSCA (Chinnaswamy stadium) and the Madivala bomb blast incident, Bangalore has been generally free of major incidents of terrorism, communal violence and anti-national activities.
This, however, does not mean that there have been no such incidents of terrorism, communal disharmony and other criminal activities in and around Bangalore. All that the blog wishes to state is that the incidents have been isolated and there has been no serial repeat of incidents that occurred in Mumbai or other cities.
The credit for making the City a good place to live in should certainly go to the police and the people aswell. The police in Bangalore and the State have been headed by good and honest officers. Bangaloreans too have been fair and have rarely resorted to violence. However, there have been some incidents which have soiled the reputation of Bangalore.
The first communal violence in Bangalore took place in June 1928 in Bangalore when the Wodeyars were ruling the then Mysore state which also encompassed our City (not Cantonment mind you, as it was ruled by the British).
This incident is generally accepted as the first incident of communal  violence in Bangalore. The place was Sultanpet and the reason for the clash between the Hindu and Muslim communities was an idol of Ganesha.
Repairs were being taken up at the Hindu Anglo_Vernacular School on Arcot Srinivasachar Street in Sultanpet. Some of the students of the school requested the contractor in charge of the repairs to build a small shelter over an idol of Ganesha that was in the school premises. While the repair work was on, the Ganesha idol had been kept in a passage.
The Director of  Public Instructions, during one of his inspections, asked the idol to be shifted to a room. The students resented this change over and demanded that the idol be placed back in the passage. Soon, the issue became a major topic of discussion and students of nearby schools also joined the protest.
The student protest reached the media. A Kannada newspaper, Veera Kesari, run by Sitarama Shastri, backed the students in an article on the issue. Other newspapers like Navajeevanan of  C. Ashwathanaraya Rao followed suit and some Congress leaders too backed the students.
On June 27, 1928 rumours began spreading in Sultanpet and surrounding areas that the Dewan of Mysore State, Sir Mirza Ismail, had been supporting Abbas Khan, a  Muslim leader of Sultanpet who had won a local civic election as Municipal president, and the Muslims on the issue. The issue then transformed into a Hindu-Muslim conflagration. Congress leaders Bheema Rao, Subramanyam and Tiwari were arrested on June 27 and taken to Central Jail. Students marched in a large group to Central Jail and demanded their release. The students were dispersed after a lathi charge.
On June 29, the idol was placed back in the passage. It was the turn of the Muslims to protest this move. They felt that if a temple came up for Ganesha, they would have to walk besides it to reach a mosque for their daily prayers. Moreover, Abbas Khan lived in a building opposite the school.
A clash broke out between Hindu and Muslims. One boy was struck by a bullet and 123 Hindus and 11 Muslims were injured in the clashes. A boy called Sathyanarayana had died of dysentry.  Rumours were spread that he was killed by firing which took place from the roof of Abbas Khan’s house.
The clash was quickly brought under control with patrolling by British armoured vehicles and mounted police. The Editor of Veera Kesari was reprimanded for allegedly inciting people. The instigators of the violence were caught and punished.         
The report of the incident reached the Diwan and the Maharaja too. The Diwan asked the Maharaja not to come to Bangalore till the leaders ere arrested and tried. The Maharaja heeded to the Diwan’s advice and did not stir out of Mysore.
However, the Maharaja constituted a committee headed by Sir M V Vivveshvariah to enquire into the incidents and compile a report. This was also the first ever committee which went into a communal disturbance in Bangalore. The other members of the committee were Justice D.K.Rama Rao, H.G.Basavappa, Gulam Ahmed Kalami, V.Manickavelu Mudaliyar, B.Nagappa Bar-at-Law and Ralph Nye.
The committee fond that the law and order had broken  down completely in the area and that the Government had taken sides. It ordered the two newspapers, Veera Kesari and Navajeevan to print the Government version of the incident, Both refused and cases were slapped against them.
One of Bangalore’s best known personalities, Nitoor Srinivasa Rau, a former Judge, used to reminiscence about the incident. He not only witnessed the Ganesha procession and the incidents but also appeared for Shastry and Ashwathnarayana Rao.
Over the decades, communal incidents have occurred in Bangalore, straining the secular fabric.  A violence of a different kind was the anti-Tamil riots in December 1991. This clash was not between two communities but between Kannadigas and Tamilians. The violence in Bangalore and elsewhere forced thousands of Tamilians to flee to Chennai, At least 18 people were killed and property worth crores burned down or destroyed.
Let us hope  that there are no anti-social incidents in Bangalore. Let us strengthen the hands of the police in ensuring that Bangalore become a crime free city.

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