India: Human chain protects Hindu temple amid riots over Facebook post

Become an Observer Riots broke out in Bangalore, India on August 11 after a legislator’s relative alleg

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Riots broke out in Bangalore, India on August 11 after a legislator’s relative allegedly posted a derogatory statement about the Prophet Muhammad on Facebook. A crowd of people gathered outside the politician’s house, stormed two local police stations, and set fire to vehicles in the area. Amid the violence, community youth formed a human chain to protect a Hindu temple near the riots, fearing the mob would damage the place of worship. 

The night of August 11 in Bangalore was marked by arson and mob violence after a mainly Muslim crowd descended on the DJ Halli police station, demanding the investigation of a Facebook post published by the nephew of Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Akhanda Srinivas Murthy. The post, now-deleted, allegedly insulted the Prophet Muhammad and was published with what some have called “an intention to create violence.” When police hesitated to investigate the offence, the mob grew angrier, leading to a night of destruction. 

“The mob was furious”

Photos and videos posted on social media show a massive crowd of people descending on the police station in northeast Bangalore, the capital of the southern Indian state of Karnataka. 
A video posted to Twitter on August 11 shows a large crowd gathered outside the DJ Halli police station.

Student journalist Noor Zahira went to the police station at the beginning of the conflict:
The mob was really furious because a few weeks ago, a similar situation had happened, but it was not an inflammatory post against any faith or any religion, it was against a legislator [Editor’s note: In June, a man was arrested for posting “highly derogatory/objectionable” comments about an Indian chief minister], and within minutes, the police had gone to the accused's home. So people were really saying, ‘If you can take swift action against a person’s post, why can't you do that if it's a religious post?’

MLA Murthy has said that he is not in touch with his nephew, identified as P. Naveen Kumar, who shared the post. Meanwhile, Kumar claims that his account was hacked when the post was published. 

Police have since arrested Kumar, but after officers failed to immediately take action, thousands of Muslims gathered outside the gates of the police station in protest. 

Defusing Hindu-Muslim tensions

Fearing that the growing mob would damage Hindu places of worship in the Muslim-majority neighbourhood, a group of youth volunteers began to gather around a nearby Hindu temple. 
In a video posted to Twitter on August 11, we can see a human chain of volunteers protecting the Hanuman temple in Bangalore.

Zahira witnessed the show of solidarity: 
There were people who were thinking that since the Muslim mob attacked the police station, there are chances that they could attack the temple that was just a few lanes down from the police station. To prevent any sort of communal disharmony, a few youth volunteers from the community went and stood outside the temple safeguarding the premises. It is a Hindu-minority area so they didn’t want them to be at risk. They stood there and made sure nobody touched any place of worship so that today or tomorrow, the communal harmony wouldn’t be spoiled and lead to even bigger riots.

There was a situation in February, the Delhi riots [Editor’s note: 53 people died in violent riots in Delhi in February, fueled by religious tensions between Hindus and Muslims. Read more on], and we want to avoid any such event at any cost in Bangalore. A lot of educated Muslim advocates, leaders and people with higher responsibility and social status stepped in and spoke to the crowd, told them that it is time to go the direction of peace.

The human chain successfully deterred members of the mob who came to attack the Hindu temple. While no damage was done to the place of worship, the scene at the police station nearby degenerated quickly.  
Police station vandalised, vehicles set ablaze
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