Two Congress members, including former city mayor R. Sampath Raj and city civic ward corporator Abdul Zakir were quizzed by the central crime branch (CCB) in connection with the riots in the city’s eastern suburb last week, police said on Tuseday.
“Raj and Zakir were summoned to the CCB office in the city and questioned about the riots in D.J. Halli and K.J. Halli areas in the suburb on August 11, in which Congress MLA from Pulakeshinagar segment Akhanda Srinivas Murthy’s house was burnt in protest against a derogatory post by his nephew in the social media, a police official told reporters here.
Raj, who was the city mayor in 2017-18, is the city’s councilor from the D.J. Halli ward. He lost in the May 2018 assembly elections from the C.V. Raman Nagar segment in the city’s eastern suburb.
Zakir is Congress corporator from the D.J. Halli civic ward, a densely populated area in the eastern suburb.
About 350 people, including a dozen activists of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), a political outfit, were arrested for their alleged involvement in the riots in which a part of the D.J. Halli police station and scores of vehicles were also burnt and public property in the area damaged.
Three youth died when the police opened fire on the fateful night to control the situation and quell the unruly mob.
“Both were asked about the reported internal differences in the party between Murthy and the party’s corporators in his assembly segment ahead of the elections to the city civic body later this year,” said the official.
In the cctv video footage of the area during the mayhem, some of the culprits known to Raj were seen indulging in arson, looting and destroying public and private property.
“Zakir was questioned for reportedly forwarding a few offensive messages in the Whatapp groups, which made about 500 miscreants descend in the area and indulge in frenzied mob violence,” said the official.
State Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai told reporters on Monday that rift in the opposition (Congress) party and many of its members aspiring for a ticket to contest in the upcoming civic body elections sparked the riots in a show of one-upmanship and an attempt to settle scores.
Refuting Bommai’s statement, Congress state unit president D.K. Shivakumar had countered that the BJP government was trying to cover up its failure to prevent the violence by giving misleading statements.
“Though our members have nothing to do with the riots caused by mob frenzy, the ruling party was blaming them instead of admitting to delay in acting against the accused (Naveen) and failing to disperse the unruly mob,” Shivakumar told reporters in New Delhi, where he is camping to meet the party high command and apprise the top leadership of the situation in the city.
In a related development, police detained political activist Wajid Pasha from the area for allegedly instigating the mob to attack the MLA’s house and the police station.
Pasha had set up the Karnataka Tipu Sultan Tiger Arfath Trust to serve the needy in the area.