5 arrested for attack on health workers test positive for Coronavirus in Karnataka
Bengaluru, Apr 24: Five people among those arrested for the violence let loose on health workers in Padarayanapura last week have tested positive in a jail and consequently shifted to a hospital, Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister Dr C N Ashwath Narayan said on Friday.
As the development triggered protests by JD(S) in Ramanagara, which hitherto remained a green zone with no COVID-19 cases, and a threat of a "massive" agitation by former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy, the government shifted other 121 people lodged in the prison to the Hajj bhavan here later during the day. "We are shifting the inmates to the Hajj Bhavan in Bengaluru.
The district administration has given the necessary permission. All necessary precautions have been taken to shift them," state Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai said.
A total of 126 people had been arrested in connection with the attack on health workers and police in minority- dominated Padarayanapura on April 19 and all of them were lodged in the district jail in nearby Ramanagara after being remanded to judicial custody by court. "We had tested all the inmates. During screening, five of them were tested positive for COVID-19. All the five have been shifted to the hospital," Narayan told reporters here earlier. Two of the remand prisoners tested positive late on Thursday and three more on Friday, he said.
Health workers had gone to Padarayanapura for quarantining some people who were the primary and secondary contacts of coronavirus patients from the area when they were thrashed by a violent crowd.
The Ramanagara jail was converted into a "sort of COVID-19" prison to accommodate those arrested in connection with the Padarayanapura attack, which drew widespread condemnation with Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa terming it as "goondaism" and directed stringent action against those taking law into their hands.
Inmates already lodged in the jail were shifted to the Central prison here. However, the move drew flak with Kumaraswamy opposing it, citing that the district, a stronghold of JD(S), had been free of coronavirus and lodging the arrested could lead to problems. After it emerged that two of the remand prisoners tested positive, he upped the ante and threatened to launch a massive agitation. If the disease spreads in Ramanagara, the government would be held responsible for it, he said.
Kumaraswamy alleged the owners of the houses where the jail personnel stay as tenants have asked them to vacate fearing they would also contract the virus. Karnataka Congress president D K Shivakumar, who too hails from Ramanagara, opposed the decision saying it was a green zone. Sensing the mood, the government decided to move the prisoners to Hajj bhavan.
Speaking to reporters after chairing a high-level meeting with the senior administrative and police officials, Bommai announced the decision. Later, they were shifted here in five vans by police personnel in full protective gear. Residents in the Hajj bhavan area staged a brief protest on hearing news about the accused being moved there, police said.
Police sources said personnel who were involved in the arrest of the 126 people and shifting them to Ramanagara might undergo tests. Protests broke out at Yelahanka in Bengaluru on Friday night for shifting the jail inmates to Hajj Bhavan.
Leading the protest, the Yelahanka BJP MLA S R Vishwanath demanded that the government should immediately remove them from the area. He warned of consequences if government did not act on his demand.
"I was busy in ration distribution to the needy people so I could not know about the development. Large number of people from Allalasandra, LBS Nagar and other neighbouring areas are frightened and have gathered here demonstrate against shifting them to Hajj Bhavan," Vishwanath told reporters.