BENGALURU—While BJP MP from South Bengaluru Tejasvi Surya invited widespread criticism for his alleged mischief to communalise the scam pertaining to ‘sale of beds’ for COVID patients in hospitals in Bengaluru, the police have arrested seven persons in this connection all of whom happen to be non-Muslims.
Among the arrested persons include two doctors, a staffer of Bengaluru municipal corporation, a social worker, and three others. Doctors have been identified as Rihan and Suresh, BBMP employee Shashi and social worker Netravbati.
Surya had alleged openly that it were Muslim employees hired by the Brihan Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike(BBMP) who were running the ‘bed scam’ charging huge money from patients by showing artificial shortage of beds.
Surprsingly, BBMP is controlled by BJP, the party to which Tejasvi Surya belongs.
According to media reports, Tejasvi being groomed by the central BJP for a larger role in the state, visited the COVID-19 war room in south Bengaluru and picked the list of employees working on COVID duty at the centre. Out of a list of 205 names on the list employed by BBMP, he deliberately read out the names of 17 employees that were Muslim sounding and questioned about their qualifications. However, Surya refrained from reading any of the non-Muslim names from the list.
He also questioned the officials as to who appointed these Muslim employees. Surya was accompanied by two party MLAs-Ravi Subramanya, who happens to be his uncle and Satish Reddy. When a senior BBMP official present at the moment pointed out that all of them were selected through due process by the BBMP, MLA Subramanya allegedly said that why only these people were sending applications. Subramanya then questioned, “Are you hiring for a corporation or a ‘madrasa’?” Surya and BJP MLAs had accused the Muslim employees of blocking beds for COVID patients in hospitals and then selling them on a premium by showing artificial scarcity.
Surya then addressed mediapersons claiming he had unearthed a huge ‘bed scam’ in BBMP, run by Muslim employees.
After Surya’s press conference, Whatsapp messages began circulating on social media titled “List of terrorists working in BBMP WAR ROOM killing thousands of Bengalurians”. One of the whatsapp messages also targeted BBMP joint commissioner Sarfaraz. Surya, later on, called up Sarfaraz and clarified that he had not named him and that he was with him and would protect him. Sarfaraz, however, shared information stating that he had nothing to do with COVID war room.
The communally provocative act of Surya, who had in the past courted several controversies including passing highly objectionable remarks against Arab women, invited condemnation from various quarters. While condemning his communally sensitive remarks, Leader of Opposition in Karnataka Assembly Siddaramaiah termed BJP MP’s statements as “really unfortunate and insensitive”. To Tejasvi Surya’s questions if the Muslim workers were appointed to run a ‘madrasa’, Siddaramaiah replied, “Kannadigas are asking if Yediyurappa, his council of ministers, MLAs and MPs are elected to run Hindu burial grounds?”
Rajya Sabha MP Syed Naseer Hussain and AICC spokesperson Brijesh Kalappa also condemned Surya for selecting reading out Muslim workers names at the COVID war room.
Several people have also made demands for registration of an FIR against the BJP MP and the MLAs who accompanied him to the South Bengaluru COVID war room and were with him when he made communally provocative remarks. Vinay Sreenivasa, an advocate and a member of the Alternative Law Forum appealed Bengaluru City Police Commissioner Kamal Pant to register an FIR against Surya and BJP MLAs under sections 153A (promoting enmity) and 295A (outraging sentiments), and 505 (2) (statements conducive to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code.
After Chief Minister Yedyiurappa ordered inquiry into the ‘Covid bed allocation scam’, the Bengaluru police registered two FIRs and transferred them to the Central Crime Branch for investigation.
As many as seven persons have been arrested in this connection. They have been identified by police as Dr. Rihan (BBMP South Covid-19 War Room), Dr. Suresh (in charge of the Bommanahalli Covid-19 war room), Netravati(social worker) and her nephew Rohit Kumar, Shashi (BBMP staffer attached with Dr. Suresh). According to Police sources, the two doctors are suspected to have used Shashi Kumar in blocking and unblocking the COVID beds by using ‘Bengaluru Urban COVID-19 patients identification number’.
Police are reported to be interrogating the two doctors to know more details about the scam. Police sources say that they charged anywhere between Rs. 20000 to Rs. 30,000 to allocate a bed to COVID patients.
Three other arrested accused have been identified as Venkata Subbarao, Manjunath and Punith.