Former BJP Union minister B Patil Yatnal, who was absconding after being named the prime accused in rioting in Karnataka on the day Narendra Modi was inaugurated as the 15th Prime Minister, was arrested on Wednesday after six police teams were constituted to hunt for him.
Communal violence involving rejoicing BJP supporters and a group of vegetable vendors from a minority community erupted in the north Karnataka town of Bijapur on Monday evening. Yatnal has been booked under non-bailable sections of the IPC for leading the mob of BJP activists.
Yatnal was found holed up with three of his associates in a hotel room in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur, 350 km from Bijapur. Confirming the arrest on Wednesday, IGP (Northern Range, Karnataka) Bhaskar Rao told HT Yatnal had checked into a hotel under a fake name. A team led by deputy superintendent of police MY Baladandi tracked him down.
Three other BJP members —Umesh Kore, Parasuram Kenganal and Yellappa — were arrested along with Yatnal. The total number of those arrested has now gone up to 30. Of the 30 cases registered, Yatnal is listed as an accused in 19, Bijapur superintendent of a police Ram Nuvas Sepat said.
“The police team is yet to arrive from Kolhapur with the accused. They will be produced directly before a magistrate. We don't need their custody right now as we have enough evidence,” Rao said immediately after the incident.
On Tuesday, Rao said the footage of the incident recorded by the police clearly showed Yatnal triggered the attack.
“Provoked by him, his supporters molested women belonging to a minority community and tried to forcibly smear gulaal on the faces of vegetable vendors from a particular community,” he said.
Led by Yatnal, hundreds of BJP activists were taking out a victory procession, timed to coincide with Modi’s swearing-in. The violence erupted around 7pm when the procession reached LBS vegetable market in the heart of Bijapur, about 520km from Bangalore.
Confirming a report that appeared on hindustantimes.com soon after the incident, Rao said: “…they started playing provocative songs on loudspeakers. He (Yatnal) started shouting slogans about building a Ram temple… When they reached the market, they started provoking the vendors and assaulted them."
President of Karnataka BJP, Prahlad Joshi, said the matter had come to his notice. “I am still trying to ascertain the facts. I have been busy with other party matters," he told HT.
The IGP admitted the police were slow in responding after the violence. “The footage also shows that the police did very little to control the situation in the beginning. The (jurisdictional) superintendent of police is on leave and the junior officers failed to tackle the situation,” he said.
The former minister and a few of his followers have been booked under IPC section 295 (insulting a religion or class), 153 A (promoting enmity between religions), 354 (molestation) and 353 (attacking a public servant).