Bengaluru: When India’s Silicon Valley descended into fear, chaos and violence, N.S Megharikh had a tough job to do. Besides pushing back agitators protesting over the Supreme Court order to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu, the Bangalore city police commissioner was also dousing rumours on social media. Edited excerpts from an interview:
When and why did the situation get out of control on Monday?
Misinformation, misreporting and mischievous reporting caused this. The SC order was not so harmful, though it was also contributory. But it was not as responsible as the provocative media reports and footages in circulation on all these assaults in Tamil Nadu. The whole thing started around 2pm. We were able to completely control the situation only by 10 pm.
Who were these people?
These were splinter groups. Even the 600 people we had taken into preventive custody during the Karnataka bandh (on 9 September) were perhaps part of the mob which indulged in violence. This we will ascertain during the investigation. A lot of violence against people from outside the state will be used for collection (forcibly extracting money from businesses on Rajotsava and other festivals by local goons).
Why did you issue an advisory to the media?
It was basically because of provocative electronic media reporting. We have issued advisory to restrain them and said if the advisory is not followed, then they will be inviting criminal action. The two individuals arrested were bailed out the next day. They have been charged with Section 153 of the IPC (Provoking people and causing enmity).
Was there any direction given to go easy on the protestors?
No. We never said so. Even on the day of the Bandh, we had taken the stand that let there not be any violence. If violence is there, deal with it strictly. There were only three companies (of additional forces) in Bengaluru on the Bandh day, there were seven companies on Monday evening.
Also read: Tamil Nadu bandh tomorrow: What will remain closed
What role did social media play?
Social media has two sides. If they can be destructive, they can be constructive also. People were looking at our Twitter handle for police guidance. But for the latest news, they depended on the news channels. We had to work hard to counter any claims at regular intervals on what was happening. In the process, we had to tolerate nonsense also. The whole purpose of our social media handles became nullifying the effect of the electronic media.
There was confusion about the imposing of Section 144?
It was clear-cut mischief by the media channels. I had not issued prohibitory orders till such time. The home minister told the media that section 144 had been imposed. Till that time we had not promulgated and we did not feel any need to impose Section 144. It is prohibitory orders and is a precautionary measure and not like curfew was imposed. It’s a misconception that declaration of prohibitory orders will help the situation. We issue prohibitory orders around Vidhana Soudha every time there is a legislative session. This doesn’t mean we arrest people. We clarified on Twitter that I had not issued any prohibitory orders.
Is there more to KPN Travels’ bus burning incident?
It is a matter of investigation. There are a lot of things in circulation but we don’t subscribe to any of the things -- positive or negative.
How to do you plan to keep the city safe on Friday, when Tamil Nadu has called for a bandh?
We have 10-11 companies of paramilitary forces coming including six from Rapid Action Force specially trained for riot control. With this effective force, we will be able to manage and not allow any mischief to happen again. The forces will remain in Bengaluru till 22 September.