2007: When Bangalore rioted over Saddam Hussein (Sort of)
In a decision that continues to baffle many to this day, the Bangalore police gave permission to politician Jaffer Sharief to hold a massive rally on January 19, 2007. Sharief, who had just broken away from the Congress, was trying to give his new Peoples Front party a boost among the Muslims of Bangalore, and he chose to do this by making his rally against the execution of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
It was a strange time to give permission for such a rally, since, at the time, for more than week the entire city was blanketed in saffron. It was the birth anniversary of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh leader M.S. Golwalkar and the RSS, along with many affiliated Hindu right-wing organizations, were going to hold a series of giant meetings in the city.
Jaffer's rally was on Friday, the RSS' big meetings were on Sunday. It feels almost inevitable that something would have happened.
What happened was, towards the end of Jaffer's meeting, after a long day of pro-Saddam speeches before a 30,000 strong crowd, party members tore down the saffron banners around Shivajinagar Stadium - where the rally was happening. Sangh activists, who were perhaps expecting something like this, attacked those tearing down the posters - and a general riot began. It quickly spread out to the surrounding areas and did the usual damage - torched cars, stoned buildings and randomly attacked passerbys.
Things simmered down for that night. But on the coming Sunday, January 21, the Sangh parivar took out massive processions, as part of their celebrations. Once again the move by the police to give them permission to parade through areas that had been attacked just two days previous is baffling.
Perhaps inevitably, as they passed Muslim areas, they attacked everything in sight - burning down homes, butcher shops and generally attacking everyone. They also heartily ransacked any showrooms they passed. Nearly 40 vehicles were torched that day alone.
The only official death was of the orphan Faizal, shot down in police firing. Hundreds of others were injured though.
Matters calmed down by Monday, as usual, the riot passed out of memory.
Image: Activists shout anti-US slogans during a demonstration to condemn the hanging of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, in Bangalore. (AFP)