On May 24, at 1 pm, a video began on social media. It showed a young boy in a blue shirt being brutally manhandled by a Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike staffer for allegedly not agreeing to get tested for Covid at a BBMP testing booth in South Bengaluru’s Nagarathpet.
In the video, the staffer first slaps the boy, then violently twists his arm. The boy falls and hits his head on a steel table. When he manages to stand, the staffer grabs him by the scruff of his neck and places him face down on the table.
Here’s of the same incident shot from a different angle.
Local residents told this reporter that the booth had been set up in the area a week ago. While Bengaluru has of people for Covid, residents suspect that BBMP officials perhaps have to meet a “quota” of tests at the booth, which means they have to do a certain number of tests per day. Booth officials “behaved very harshly” for the last three days, one resident said, and “maybe that’s why they’re getting so violent”.
This theory was not confirmed by the BBMP. BBMP commissioner Gaurav Gupta tweeted that there was “no question” of forced testing and that an enquiry would be conducted.
that the Bengaluru central division police registered a suo motu case and filed an FIR against a BBMP booth-level officer.
Express also quoted MN Anucheth, the DCP (central), as saying that while the Covid testing was taking place at the booth, "a person named Kishan mistook it for vaccination and registered himself".
"When the OTP was generated, he realised it was for Covid-19 testing and not for vaccination and therefore refused to undergo the test," Anucheth said. "At this juncture, he was assaulted by a BBMP booth level officer by the name Nagabhushan."
Naveen*, an eyewitness to the assault, told Newslaundry that he had been harassed by BBMP officials at the same booth.
At 9.45 am, he had been rushing on foot to take an injured kitten to a veterinary doctor when he was stopped by BBMP officials. According to Naveen, they began demanding his name and phone number. When he asked why, an official said it was for a Covid test and sent an OTP to his phone for that purpose.
“I told them I was rushing the kitten to a hospital so I didn’t want to wait,” Naveen said. “But on seeing their aggression, I agreed to do a Covid test.”
Soon after he finished his test, he said, he saw a boy in a blue shirt being similarly confronted by the BBMP officials. The officials spoke to him in Kannada. When the boy, who spoke Hindi, could not understand what they were saying, Naveen claimed, the officials got aggressive.
“He started pushing him around and said, ‘How can you be in Karnataka and not speak Kannada?’ The poor boy did not want to do a test”, said Naveen.
The officials then began pushing the boy. Naveen tried to intervene, he said, and “that’s when they began pushing and dragging me as well”.
He continued, “When I took out my phone to record the incident, the official snatched my phone and threatened to break it. Then he dragged me towards an ambulance and said, ‘If you don’t stop, I will push you inside this ambulance and make sure you test positive.’”
When he tried to resist, Naveen said, an official scratched his neck. It began to bleed. Meanwhile, the boy in the blue shirt was being dragged and beaten by other officials.
“Within minutes, the police arrived and everything quietened down”, he said.
Another eyewitness told Newslaundry that at around 9.30 am, the boy in the video, along with another person, had been crossing the road when the BBMP official confronted them.
“They had some conversation and within seconds, the BBMP official started slapping him,” the person said. “The boy’s friend immediately began taking a video.”
‘He was in a lot of pain’
When Newslaundry reached the booth at 2 pm, it had been closed. Officials had left “after the video went viral”, one resident said.
The boy, meanwhile, had been taken to a hospital. “He was in a lot of pain,” a local said, “since his arm was twisted quite badly.”
All the residents only spoke to this reporter on the condition of anonymity. One resident explained why: “A few days ago, one BBMP official came up to my apartment and started forcing me to test. He said that if I don’t come down and test then they will be forced to declare this apartment as a containment zone and seal it off for days.”
Dhanalakshmi, a fruit vendor in the area, was the only person who agreed to speak on the record. She said she had been “harassed” by BBMP officials at the spot three days before.
“They kept forcing me to take the test,” she said. “I refused because I did a test a few days ago and I’m vaccinated. My phone display was broken so I couldn’t show them my test result. But when I tried explaining, they snatched away my phone and threatened to overturn my fruit cart.”
After that, Dhanalakshmi said, she came to the area only after 2 pm since the booth officials would usually have left by then.
When Newslaundry visited the Halasuru Gate police station, the closest police station, station house officer AK Deepak said that he had not received any complaint about the boy being beaten.
Dr Veerabhadraswamy, the joint commissioner of the BBMP, said an official investigation will be conducted. He suggested that BBMP officials had perhaps “made a mistake”.
Have the men been removed or suspended until the inquiry is completed?
“They have been diverted and told not to act this way,” he said.
*Name changed to maintain confidentiality.
Urvi Dugar contributed reporting.