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Karnataka in the grip of communal fire: a report
By Our Correspondent

Bangalore: Muslim leaders of the state who visited the riot hit Koorg district in Karnataka and saw the destruction wrought by the rioters have demanded the government to take punitive actions against the perpetrators and compensation for the victims. Riots broke out in the Koorg area on 8 December last and continued unabated for three days.

Mufti Ashraf Ali, a senior community leader in Bangalore who visited the affected areas with a team, said in a meeting after the visit that RSS, Bajrang Dal and VHP members were involved in inciting violence in the district. He alleged that Bajrang Dal which was formed in the district just a month before the violence erupted wanted to destroy communal harmony for their personal interests. The meeting was attended by senior political and social leaders of the state including state transport minister Sagheer Ahmad, minister for housing Qamarul Islam, minister of state for science and technology Nafees Fazal, MLC's Hasnabba and Saleem, former union minister CM Ibrahim, state Waqf Board chairman Khaleel Ahmad and several other prominent leaders.

According to the reports the riots that engulfed around two dozen villages and towns in the district were not Hindu-Muslim riots in nature but were well planned attacks on Muslims and their properties. The rioters targeted those towns and villages where Muslim population was very sparse. Muslims at no place were able to resist their attacks and they reportedly evacuated their localities.

In earlier riots in the state there have never been such cases where Muslims were targeted in such a planned manner. As reports show, thugs drove in most of the places in large groups in Tata Sumo and other vehicles and set ablaze shops and mosques as well as houses after looting them. There are also instances when they used dynamites and LPG cylinders to destroy houses, shops and mosques.

The riots were organized in 21 villages of Koorg district, famous for its coffee plantations from 8 to 10 December. Police remained a mute spectator during this whole dance macabre. To top it all everything was done during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

People only came to know of the heart rending stories of terror stricken Muslims after the holy month of Ramadan ended.

Reports say that the VHP, Bajrang Dal and Hindu Jagran Vaidyake organized Vijay Divas on 6 December, the day Babri Masjid was demolished. They spread rumours of demolition of a small temple in Nopoklo. This six by six feet temple has never been much attended. The fundamentalists with an eye on spreading communal violence in the region spread the rumour in such a way through their paper Shakti and cable TV that the atmosphere got overcharged. This overcharged atmosphere encouraged these fundamentalists to use the opportunity by dynamiting mosques, shops and houses of Muslims. They also destroyed Muslim plantations in several places. 

People allege that the superintendent of police Ramesh wittingly backed the rioters. It is alleged that several police officials in the district are attached with the RSS. They say that it was the reason that the police did not act against the thugs when they went on rampage for full two days. They say that nothing was done before Add. DGP law & order Subhash Bharni reached Koorg. It was only after his arrival that the police acted a bit and started arresting rioters. Though the police arrested only 120 persons on bailable offences charging them for small and insignificant offences, it was in total contrast to the behaviour of the police when they had arrested 26 Muslim youths, all on non-bailable warrants. They were tortured and kept in detention during Ramadan.

Another important thing reported about the riots is that all these cases of arson and rioting were well planned. The thugs cut trees, blocking entrances in these villages and then looted the village without fear of any intervention. 

Around two dozen mosques in the affected villages were destroyed, some wholly and a few partially. In Bale Yale village there are 60 houses of Muslims. Here the large mosque of the village was burnt to ashes. The madrasa in the neighborhood was also given the same treatment. Not only the rioters who consisted of thousands of people burnt down the mosque and destroyed madrasa, but also looted all the shops of Muslims and then burnt them down. Women were forced to flee the village to save them and seek safety in woods in severe cold. The newspapers published the news of damage to six by six feet temple but never reported the demolition of madrasa and mosque. They were also threatened not to tell the horrendous news to outsiders. People still feel scared and are feeling insecure despite the police deployment. In Bhag Mandal, Muslim business establishments were targeted with precision. RSS, Hindu Jagriti Vaidyake and Bajrang Dal activists went on rampage and tried to destroy everything belonging to Muslims.

In Blamuri village two mosques were targeted and destroyed. In a nearby village Hatur rioters poured petrol on the mosque and set it on fire besides targeting Muslim shops. In Pawanaapasante village mosques and Muslim shops were brought down by using dynamites and gas cylinders. In Bilgeri village rioters did not target mosques or madrasa but targeterd big business establishments belonging to Muslims. The police was there on the spot but remained a mute spectator.

In Markera police itself became a party when it entered the mosque wearing shoes, while chasing some youths and caned the devout who were offering Isha prayers. It bundled the devout and people who were there on Itikaf and even children and took them to the police station. They were badly beaten and tortured. It is said that the Superintendent backed the rioters fully and gave them protection. Several mosques were targeted and shops and hotels belonging to Muslims looted.

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