Head constable Shaik. SMD. Athawulla applied for leave on January 7, citing his father's ill health. But the video footage revealed his participation in communal riots in Atmakur on January 8. Police arrested him 47 after the incident when the media was highlighting his involvement.
"We can have no sympathy with those who seek the power of government to advance their own personal interests."
The public looks up to the police in case of any security problem, and many police personnel in our nation have sacrificed everything to protect people. If the protecting police person becomes a part of communal riots and attacks police station, who should the public believe?
On January 8, 2022, Atmakur in AP witnessed communal riots over the illegal construction of a mosque without proper permission. Locals objected to the unauthorized construction near Padmavati school and informed the concerned authorities in August 2021. But hundreds gathered on January 8 2022, tried to construct a mosque on a temporary basis and arrived at the spot with weapons. Locals approached the police, but the mosque construction went ahead. Finally, locals approached BJP district President Dr Srikanth Reddy.
He spoke with DSP over the issue, and DSP asked him to come for talks. Srikanth Reddy went to the site without weapons, and he suggested the locals to go to the police station to lodge a complaint. Hell broke loose after this, and Atmakur had a nightmare. Within a few minutes, thousands gathered and attacked local Hindus, along with Srikanth Reddy, and burnt his car. The mob attacked the police station when the locals and Srikanth Reddy were inside. They pelted stones and burnt police vehicles. The mob demanded to hand over Srikanth Reddy and locals to kill them and chanted Islamic slogans. Police switched off the lights and waited till 1 AM when additional force and SP arrived. Gun firing had to be done to disperse the crowd. Subsequently, SP revealed that terror outfit SDPI conducted training camps in Atmakur before creating communal riots, and SDPI members were involved in it.
A disturbing and dangerous fact is about the involvement of head constable Shaik. SMD. Athawulla in these communal riots. Shaik Athawulla was working as a head constable in AP Special Police Battalion. He was posted in Thadepalli Chief Minister camp office, Amaravathi as a transport driver. He applied for leave on January 7, citing his father's ill health. Video footage revealed his participation in communal riots in Atmakur on January 8. He returned to Thadepalli on January 9 and took two days' leave later. Drones used by police to record the riots showed the involvement of Shaik Athawulla in the communal riots. Allegedly, some police personnel were trying to protect Shaik Athawulla and gave information to the battalion. When asked about this, AP Special Police Battalion commandant Ravishankar said they did not know about it and received no complaint. He further said they would act only after getting a written complaint. But, 47 days after the incident, Shaik Athawulla was arrested after media reports.
There are many questions:
• Why the police could not identify him earlier in their investigation? If they did, why didn't they take any action?
• Why did the police not consider the video showing constable involvement earlier?
• Why did the police not lodge a complaint earlier?
• Why Shaik Athawulla was arrested after 47 days when the media reported his involvement?
• If the media did not report, would Shaik have been continued on duty and not arrested?
• Is it true that the administration was trying to protect Athawulla? The sequence of events suggests so.
• Despite section 144, deputy CM Amjad Basha and ruling party leaders visited Atmakur and conducted meetings. Allegedly, there was political pressure to dilute the charges on the radical mob, which vandalized the police station. BJP leader and a few local Hindus were charged with grave charges like section 307–attempt to murder. Thousands of Muslims were charged with less severe charges. Was there political pressure to save Shaik Athawulla?
• Before media reports, AP Special Police Battalion denied knowledge of his involvement. After media reports, police claimed he was accused 31 and was absconding. But was arrested immediately after media reports. Why did the police not arrest him before?
• The sequence of events clearly shows that Shaik Awathulla was being protected. If the police and the administration who have to protect people and work impartially behave like this, where should the people go if they face problems?
• If the police who takes the oath on the constitution to work for the nation become part of a religious plot and attacks police station, what is the morality?
The AP government is definitely encouraging appeasement politics. YSRCP government withdrew cases on Muslims involved in attacking a police station. YSRCP government is giving salaries to mouzans, imams and pastors. The government is building churches and conducting Haj and Jerusalem pilgrimages with public money. The government turned a blind eye to attacks on temples, has not solved one case till now and paradoxically arrested Hindus who were asking for justice. Such actions embolden radical elements in society. This may be the reason Shaik Athawulla participated in communal riots and attacked the police station. Most of the media did not take up the issue. Secularism does not mean justifying the crimes of one particular community at any cost. If governments and media behave in such a pseudo-secular way, it ultimately leads to dangerous and deleterious circumstances which can harm the entire nation.
High time to follow -"Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava."
(The writer is a state media panellist, state executive committee member and state in charge for research and policy, Mahila Morcha, BJP Andhra Pradesh)