Authorities at Bengaluru’s civic body said they will reinstate 11 of the 16 Muslim employees of a coronavirus war room who were suspended after Bharatiya Janata Party leader Tejasvi Surya accused them of being complicit in a bed allocation scam on communal lines, The Times of India reported on Monday.
The decision was made after the police questioned all 16 of them, but found nothing conclusive against them to suggest their involvement in the scam, an unidentified police officer told The Times of India.
Special Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike chief (South Zone) Thulasi Maddineni told the newspaper that after the investigation, 11 officials had requested their suspension be withdrawn as it was a matter of their livelihoods. He said the civic authorities have written to the agency to allow them to return to work.
The remaining five, however, refused to join back, saying they found the entire experience “traumatising”, The News Minute reported, quoting a lawyer who has been in touch with the employees.
Following Surya’s allegations, suspended officials of the war room complained that they were being harassed by strangers as their names and numbers had been leaked on social media platforms. Some of them said they had to disable their numbers after receiving a barrage of unsolicited phone calls and threats.
All 16 of them are in their 20s, with some still in college, reported the website. Only one out of all was on the bed allocation team, while others were looking after Covid-related deaths and discharges, home isolation, and indexing.
‘I only read out a list’
Meanwhile, Surya on Monday claimed he had no intentions of being communally insensitive and that he had merely read out the names that were given to him. After persistent questions from reporters on why he only picked Muslim names, Surya claimed that they may have a “certain agenda” but his only agenda was to “tell the truth” and “save lives”.
“This was the list that was given,” he said at a press conference, when asked why he particularly chose Muslim names from the employee database, according to NDTV. “I questioned why they were appointed, how they were appointed, what was the process of appointing...You should ask the officers who made the list.”
The BJP leader added that he was not responsible for the comments and actions of his colleagues. “Please hold me accountable for my actions and my words,” he said.
The controversy started last week when Surya and other BJP leaders visited the war room located in Jayanagar, and confronted officials about the manner in which beds were being allocated to Covid patients in Bengaluru. The party leaders claimed that officials of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, the city’s civic body, were colluding with private nursing homes and hospitals to block beds and reserve it for exorbitant fees.
In doing so, Surya also gave communal overtones to the allegations, accusing Muslims working in the coronavirus war room of being responsible for the conspiracy, without any evidence.
At a live press conference, Surya listed 16 officials responsible for the alleged scam, all of whom are Muslims. The BJP leader asked why so many from the same community were appointed in the war room.
Subsequent reports made it evident that Surya had simply read out the names of 16 Muslims officials from among more than 200 employees across various shifts, offering no evidence or explanation for why only these individuals were highlighted.
On May 7, reports said that Surya personally visited the war room to apologise to the workers. However, the BJP leader’s office refuted the reports. “When one has no news, they create fake news,” his office tweeted. News website The News Minute later said it had the 15-minute audio clip where Surya apologised.