The second disturbance that occurred during Mirza’s reign as Dewan was related to the unfortunate event that occured on Arcot Srinivasacharlu Street. There was an old building which belonged to the municipality on that road. For some time it was used as an income tax office and an octroi depot. Later, a portion of Sultanpet’s S R Nanjundaiah School found refuge there. Facing that building was the house of Mohammad Abbas Khan Saheb. In the school premises, a stone-sculpted mūrti of Gaṇapati had been there for a long time. For some reason, it was shifted to another room. Vīrakesari and other newspapers published this news taking an indirect route by means of a satirical article. In a soliloquy, Gaṇapati lamented about his predicament in a dark room in this manner:
“Oh no! How can I end up in this lurch! I’m the Deity of knowledge, education, and so forth, but I’ve been made to suffer without pūja (worship), naivedya (offerings)... and I am languishing in this darkness!”
Many people also felt similarly. This resulted in bringing out the mūrti again and installing it in its original place by performing a pūja. Some people felt that installing the Gaṇapati there and worshipping it, right in front of Abbas Khan’s house led to discontentment among Muslims. Whatever might have been the reason, it is a fact that a huge crowd gathered there and there was a riot. People were thrashed and hurt. There were people discussing how bullets were fired and how there was a loss of lives.
When these riots took place, I wasn’t in Bangalore. I had been to Bagalkote to attend a journalists’ conference. I got the news when I was there. Mirza Ismail himself sent a telegram and informed me that the situation was under control. I also wired back a reply saying that the government should constitute an inquiry committee.
I could return to Bangalore only two or three days after the riots and by this time Bangalore was in an unprecedented pandemonium. The reconciliatory meeting that Mirza had arranged to sort out differences between Hindus and Muslims ended up escalating the situation. Accusations flew thick. The day I returned to Bangalore, some of my friends received me at the railway station and gave me their version in an inciting manner. Few more such groups came to meet me once I reached home. All were my close friends; they were not swayed by emotions, and they were epitomes of justice. In summary, they opined that Mirza was somehow inclined to hurl all the blame on the Hindus.
While this caused me surprise I didn’t find it improbable. I felt that it might have been the case and so I didn’t bother to meet Mirza. I did not meet him for another year and a half.
One of my close friends opined that it was a mistake on my part. He told me, “If you had gone and talked to Mirza upfront, he might not have been so adamant!” After all these years I feel that he was right. Mirza Ismail was not an adamant man. He would take others’ opinions in a friendly manner. If I had met him when the situation was tense and had explained the stance of the Hindus, the situation might not have taken a worse turn!
But whatever happened, happened. The citizens were divided not into two but three groups. There already are two groups: Hindus and Muslims. Among the Hindus, there was a further division: one for the government and one against. In the group supporting the government were K H Ramaiah, H C Dasappa, Nilagiri Sanjeevaiah, and others. In the opposition, were Sampige Venkatapatayya, ‘Vīrakesari’ Sitarama Shastri, Pamadi Subbarama Shetty, M P Somashekhara Rao, Nittur Srinivasa Rao, Tirumale Tatacharya Sharman and others. Probably by then, the National Congress had opened its branch in Mysore. K Chengalaraya Reddy had entered politics around that time (1928–29).
The situation remained tense for a long time with mutual animosity between the said factions. We, a group of around fifteen to twenty citizens, decided to observe the anniversary of the Sultanpet Riots and had printed and distributed pamphlets. This resulted in a huge crowd. The crowd was accused of snatching the headgear of the City Magistrate Narayanaswami Naidu and causing disturbance. Some of them were thus taken to custody and were investigated by the police. Among them were ‘Vīrakesari’ Sitarama Shastri and Ti. Ta. Sharman if I remember right. Perhaps even P R Ramaiah was among them. Jenab Taj Peeran Saheb was the District Magistrate then. The court proceedings lead to a lot of unintended humour, not fit to be written about and published. The then superintendent of police, Mariappa had also become a butt of ridicule. He was the brother-in-law of K H Ramaiah. Except for his terrifying moustache, there was nothing frightening about him. A nice person and an honest officer. His moustache was pitch black with curved tips that were sharp like thorns. That had earned him the moniker Mīse (Mustachioed) Mariyappa.
After a year or two, there was another riot. It can be called the ‘Nariman Riot.’ Nariman, who hailed from Bombay, was a Parsi activist. There is a street named after him in that city. God knows what erudition or influence he might have had! It seems like he had the power to make provocative speeches and rile up the people.
As far as I can remember, Nariman’s visit to Bangalore was under the pretext of the National Flag Agitation. When Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru visited Bangalore, the local congress members had installed a huge pole in the quadrangle of the Dharmāmbudhi Lake, which is in front of the city railway station, and hoisted the congress flag. The government had it removed. This is disparaging to the national flag – thus a rumour was floated. This was the flimsy reason that Nariman was probably waiting for. Riots followed and the government brought in the military and made them do rounds. The people living in the eastern parts of the city spread rāgi all across the street to cause the horses to slip. The police used tear gas to disperse people and made people cry; in response, the agitators distributed onions. Finally armed vehicles were made to do rounds all over the city to restrain the unruly elements. That is how the riots went on.
I am unfamiliar with the details of this agitation. It was first carried out by Prajā-pakṣa (Peoples’ Party), which metamorphosed into Prajā-samyukta-pakṣa (Peoples’ United Party) and then into Prajā-mitra-maṇḍali (Citizens’ Friends Forum). Further, these historical details aren’t particularly relevant for the current discussion. In the initial days, the meetings used to be held in the Fort area in the premises of institutions such as the Sanskrit College, Fort High School, and Apex Bank. Then it shifted to the Kāryaraṅga Bannappa Park. In those places, many people have heard the valorous speeches delivered by K T Bhashyam, Changalaraya Reddy, and ‘Vīrakesari’ Sitarama Shastri. I too am one among them.