MP Tejasvi Surya, a legislator from South Bengaluru, read out the names of 16 Muslim men over an alleged bed-allocation scam in the BBMP South Zone war room. The men, who were not mentioned in any of the FIRs registered by the police, were reportedly probed till 3 am on Wednesday, after some WhatsApp chats that branded them as ‘terrorists’ surfaced.
“We just sat and waited at the police station, telling every passing cop that we were not terrorists,” said Zameer Ahmed, one of the 16 named by the MP, The News Minute reported.
What Had Happened?
During the inspection at the South Zone COVID war room, as part of exposing a bribe-for-bed-scam on Tuesday, Surya and his associates – MLAs Satish Reddy and Ravi Subramanya – read out the names of the 16 Muslim employees – all under the age of 20 – in the Zone and demanded to know their qualifications, Hindustan Times reported.
As per a report by The News Minute, the 16 people named by Surya were employed by an agency called Crystal Infosystems, which provides human resources to the South Zone war room. A representative at the agency, Shivu Naik, said that six out of the 16 men were put to work just 10 days before Surya barged in there. He said, “They are still learning the process. How can they scam the system?”
Soon after the MP’s press conference about his inspection, a WhatsApp message titled “List of terrorists working at the BBMP WAR ROOM killing thousands of Bengalurians (sic)” was widely shared in Bengaluru. The message listed 16 of the 17 names mentioned by the Surya in his conference, HT reported.
Following this, the men were reportedly detained at the Jayanagar police station for the entire night on Tuesday without any explanation.
Umraiz Khan, one of the named, said, “We were taken to the police station straight from work on Tuesday evening, a few hours after the MP came to the war room,” The News Minute reported.
He added, “They took our bank and family details, checked our phones, opened all our personal chats. They repeatedly asked us about our role in bed-blocking.”
What the Manager Said
After the interrogation, all the men were suspended by the agency till closure of the investigation . According to Hindustan Times, Naik said, “They will not be paid during their suspension. However, they have been told that they will get their jobs back once the enquiry is over.”
On the allegation, the manager reportedly said, “WhatsApp messages are calling them terrorists, but except for one person, none of them was directly involved in booking beds. They were responsible for the helpline, home isolation, indexing, death and discharge. Even the person working in the bed allotment had joined recently.”
He also added that they were not recruited together. They were among the many candidates who had applied for the post.
Why These 16 Men?
The MP, who has been widely criticised for communalising the issue, claimed he had merely read out the names of those who had already been removed from the war room, The News Minute reported.
He also claimed that the BBMP Joint Commissioner Dr Veerabhadraswamy had told him their names. The Joint Commissioner’s phone has reportedly been switched off since the morning of 6 May.
Naik refuted the MP’s claim, “We have only removed people who took leave without informing us for more than two days. None of the 16 were removed, many of them were in the war room when Tejasvi Surya sir went in,” The News Minute quoted Naik.
However, it is important to note that the commotion created by Surya and his associates has resulted in several WhatsApp forwards that have branded these men ‘terrorists’ and accused them of killing ‘Hindus’.
As a result, on Thursday, workers of Karnataka Pradesh Congress, among others, filed a criminal complaint, accusing Surya of making communal and inflammatory remarks during his visit, Hindustan Times reported.
The Crime Branch, responsible for probing the case, said it had not arrested any of the men. They were only detained, questioned and relieved.
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