News outlets on Wednesday, 12 August, published an unverified report which claimed that “60,000 rioters” were involved in the incident of violence in Bengaluru where a mob went on a rampage, attacking a police station and an MLA’s house.
The violence which claimed the lives of three people had broken out in three areas in Bengaluru on Tuesday night after a Facebook post by T Naveen Kumar, the 34-year-old nephew of Congress legislator Akhanda Srinivas Murthy, reportedly insulting Prophet Mohammed.
However, we found that this figure of 60,000 was an exaggerated claim based on a sole witness account and cannot be backed up by reports from the ground or police.
News outlet Swarajya was among those who published a news report carrying the 60,000 figure, but attributed it to Hindustan Times. The newspaper has now removed the reference but hasn't issued any clarification.
The Hindi section of news portal OpIndia also carried a story with the same claim, attributing it to Hindustan Times as well.
Free Press Journal also carried this figure but attributed it to an eye-witness account published by ANI.
We traced the claim back to the ANI report and found that the wire agency had uploaded a video of a man by the name of Sharif who claimed to be an eye-witness to the incident and pegged the crowd at somewhere between 50,000-60,000.
#WATCH Bengaluru: Sharif, belonging to Civil Defence & an eye-witness to DJ Halli Police Station's vandalisation, comes to record his statement; says, "We're from Civil Defence & had come to protect Police. It was public's fault. This (Police Station) is like my temple,my masjid" pic.twitter.com/XeVyaK5Z1O
— ANI (@ANI) August 12, 2020
An archived version of this tweet can be seen here.
WHAT WE FOUND
We found that none of the news reports on the incident in Bengaluru mentioned a number as big as 50,000 or 60,000. In fact, police and eye-witnesses in Bengaluru have pegged the number at somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500.
MLA Murthy alleged that over 3,000 people were involved in the attack on his house, The Indian Express reported. Mirror Now, however, reported that this number was 1,500.
#Section144 has been imposed in #Bengaluru after violence erupted late Tuesday night over a social media post allegedly put up by a Congress MLA's close aide.
A mob of over 1,500 people gathered outside Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivas Murthy's residence, resorting to vandalism. pic.twitter.com/L5qqPrgcjx
— Mirror Now (@MirrorNow) August 12, 2020
The News Minute reported that according to police accounts, there were more than 1,500 rioters involved in the attack on the DJ Halli police station.
The Quint’s reporter Arun Dev, who was also at the spot, corroborated the details and said that Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) leader Muzammil Pasha arrived at the DJ Halli police station with a crowd of 150 people with him at around 7:45 pm.
By 10:30 pm, the mob had swollen to at least 800 people and police reinforcement teams were unable to get inside the police station.
In the middle of police action in DJ Halli, a part of the crowd that was dispersed from the police station, and another mob, moved towards KG Halli police station.
Around the same time as the attack outside DJ Halli police station, another mob had started moving towards the Congress MLA’s house in Kaval Byrasandra in the same locality.
T Pavan Kumar, father of Naveen, said that a large crowd of 500-800 people passed by his house around 8:30 pm. By all these estimates, it is clear that though the mob was split up into several parts and was flowing, at no point could it be estimated to be more than 2,500.
None of the news reports place the number of people present at various locations above 2,500. ANI ran a story based on an unverified eye-witness account which was picked up by news organisations and amplified on social media.
Read a detailed account of the violence in Bengaluru here.
(This claim was first debunked by Boomlive.)
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