‘No attack on police, heath care workers’ in sealed Bengaluru ward

Published : April 22, 2020 17:18 IST

Police personnel patrol Padarayanapura in Bengaluru after tension gripped the locality during ongoing lockdown on April 20. Photo: Shailendra Bhojak/PTI

On the evening of April 19, an incident of vandalism took place in the sealed ward of Padarayanapura in Bengaluru when a group of youth broke the barricades erected to seal the ward. There are allegations that this group attacked officials of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) after efforts were made to take the secondary contacts of a patient who died in institutional quarantine. Padarayanapura had been sealed on April 10 when a few COVID-19 positive patients were detected in the ward. Considering that the ward has a large population of Muslims and is densely populated, the narrative in certain print and Kannada television channels communalised the reporting of the incident.

Questioning this narrative, a coalition of activists and organisations, including the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICTU), raised certain important questions in a statement while providing a larger context to the sequence of events. One of the important issues that the statement raised is that the residents of the ward, who are socially and economically backward, “found access to food and essential supplies very difficult after the sealdown”. There was also a suspicion on the part of the residents after the anti-Muslim narrative in the media following the recognition of Nizamuddin Markaz as a clustered hot spot of novel coronavirus cases. The spread of rumours only compounded the suspicion and “there was confusion around why people were being taken to quarantine when they were not displaying any symptoms”.

According to the statement, “residents also reported that BBMP officials provided conflicting information” about when the identified secondary contacts would be taken away for quarantine. The statement also clarified that there was no attack on the police or health-care professionals, contrary to reports.

While questioning the incident as it was portrayed in print and Kannada TV channels, the statement also recommended that it was important to “take people into confidence and provide adequate information”. The statement also emphasised that essentials should be supplied regularly and that the issue should not be communalised. Efforts by M.P. Renukacharya, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA and political secretary to Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, and C.T. Ravi, Minister of Tourism, to communalise the incident by blaming “the entire (Muslim) community must be avoided,” the statement said.

More than 120 youths of the area have been arrested so far in connection with the incident of vandalism.