Bengaluru: Existing tense situations in Karnataka over the ongoing hijab row in the state, took a turn for the worse Sunday, with the alleged killing of a Bajrang Dal activist, Harsha, late Sunday evening. The 26-year-old was allegedly hacked to death by unidentified assailants in the state’s Shivamogga district, around 9.30 PM, Sunday, said local police.
Within hours of the crime, Karnataka Home Minister Aaraga Jnanendra said three persons had been arrested but further details could not be revealed considering the sensitive situation. “We have arrested three persons. We suspect the involvement of five persons and more details will emerge as investigation proceeds. For now, this is all the information we can give,” Jnanendra said in a press conference Monday.
The deceased had participated in protests against the wearing of hijab in educational institutions by Hindu groups earlier this month, which had seen many Hindu students and protestors wearing saffron scarves in reaction against the wearing of hijab by Muslim students. Photos of Harsha in a saffron scarf, protesting with students at Sahyadri College in Shivamogga on 7 February were shared on his social media pages.
While the details of what led to the youth’s alleged murder are yet to be known, senior BJP leader and Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, K.S. Eshwarappa, has accused “Muslim goons” of killing Harsha.
The 26-year-old being declared “dead on arrival” by a local hospital also sparked outrage among Hindu organisations, leading to violence, though district authorities downplayed the outburst as “minor incidents”.
Prohibitory orders imposed, schools, colleges closed
Members of Harsha’s family and workers of various Hindu groups protested outside the hospital Sunday, demanding immediate police action. Police had to resort to mild baton charge to disperse protesters. The protestors are alleged to have set bikes and goods carrier vehicles near a mosque on fire.
Addressing the media, Harsha’s family members claimed that he has been attached previously as well for his work with Bajrang Dal.
“There were a few minor incidents following the death of a young man, but the situation was brought under control quickly,” Dr R. Selvamani, Deputy Commissioner of Shivamogga told reporters Monday.
Prohibitory orders (to prevent unlawful gatherings, protests and agitations) were imposed under Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) Shivamogga Sunday, following the alleged murder and subsequent violence. A holiday was also declared in schools and colleges in the district Monday, as a precautionary measure.
However, despite prohibitory orders, dozens of people who gathered for Harsha’s funeral were caught on camera pelting stones at Muslim localities. Despite the police not revealing the identifies of the accused, the issue has taken a communal turn with leaders of the BJP saying the accused belong to the Muslim community.
“A hindu karyakarta, Harsha, was killed by a group of four or five men. The motive and the identity of the assailants is not known yet. The police will thoroughly investigate and apprehend the accused. Harsha too had a couple of cases filed against him. I appeal to everybody not to let emotions get the better of you,” Home Minister Jnanendra said, while addressing reporters in Shivamogga Monday.
Shivamogga is Jnanendra’s home town and the minister also visited Harsha’s family at the hospital Monday.
Meanwhile, senior BJP leader and Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, K.S. Eshwarappa, has accused “Muslim goons” of killing Harsha.
“These Muslim goons have killed a Hindu worker. They never had wagged their tails before in Shivamogga, but have been emboldened due to KPCC President D.K. Shivakumar’s statements on the National Flag row (a reference to a comment made by Sivakumar that the saffron flag had replaced the National Flag in a college in the state, which was later found to be fake news). We will not allow Muslim goons to get away with this,” Eshwarappa told reporters Monday.
BJP National General Secretary B.L. Santhosh said “Harsha was killed by jihadi fundamentalists”.
Harsha was killed by jihadi fundamentalists brutally in front of his home in Shivamogga for supporting #YesToUniform_NoToHijab . He was a marked man by anti Hindu forces . Tributes to Balidani Harsha . We will stand by his family in this hour of grief . 🙏🙏🙏 pic.twitter.com/Tb1GLINvv4
— B L Santhosh (@blsanthosh) February 21, 2022
Union minister Shobha Karandlaje sought an NIA investigation into the case while BJP MP Pratap Simha lashed out at his own government. “I feel ashamed that we have reached this state. Had the State government taken strict action against organisations like PFI and SDPI earlier, would such a situation arise? Will our karyakartas trust us anymore,”Simha told the media in Bengaluru.
Meanwhile, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has accused SDPI and PFI for the murder of its activist and sought action against the outfits.