Bengaluru: A 20-year-old Muslim youth in Karnataka’s Gadag district Tuesday succumbed to stab injuries received during an assault on him and his friend by a group that allegedly included members of the Hindutva outfit Bajrang Dal.
The deceased, Sameer Shahpur, and his friend Shamseer Khan Pathan, were allegedly attacked Monday, police sources in Gadag told ThePrint.
The sources claimed that the assault was preceded by a “hate speech” delivered the same day by Bajrang Dal members, right outside the district’s Nargund police station. According to police, the suspected hate speech and the attack followed approximately two months of alleged communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims in the area.
“Communal skirmishes between Hindus and Muslims in Nargund have been reported for the past two months, with both communities using youngsters studying in schools and colleges to incite each other,” Gadag Superintendent of Police (SP) Shivaprakash Devaraju told reporters at a press conference Tuesday.
“Multiple FIRs against individuals from both communities have been filed since November last year owing to these incidents. We suspect that Monday’s assault was also a result of this communal flare-up.”
Police sources said, on Monday morning, Bajrang Dal members arrived at the police station to protest against cases being filed against the outfit’s members for the communal clashes. During the protest, Sanju Nalvadi — a Bajrang Dal office-bearer — made inciteful speeches, sources in Gadag police said.
“An FIR has been registered for the hate speech as well,” SP Devaraju told reporters. The Nargund police have also arrested four persons in connection with the assault case that resulted in Shahpur’s death, he said.
He identified them as 20-year-old Mallikarjun Hiremath, 19-year-old Channabasappa Akki, 19-year-old Sakrappa Kakanoor, and 35-year-old Sanju Nalavadi (who made the alleged hate speech). SP Devaraju said police are on the lookout for several others in the case.
Speaking to ThePrint Wednesday, Suryanarayana, all-India co-convenor of the Bajrang Dal said, “We are still in the process of collecting information. We are aware that petty fights were taking place between our workers and Muslims in Gadag. We need to collect more details before we add anything else. I am speaking to our members in Gadag.”
Following the attack on the two, peace meetings were held between the two communities Tuesday and additional police deployment has been made in Nargund to prevent communal flare-ups, said police sources. Police flag marches were also held in Nargund Wednesday.
‘My brother didn’t even know his assaulters’
Hours after the incident at the police station Monday, a group of seven-eight people waylaid Shahpur and Pathan near the town council office around 7.30 pm, while the two were on their way home on a bike, said a police statement issued to the media Tuesday.
“The group blocked them and started assaulting them. Praveen and Mallikarjun Hiremath (two of the accused in the incident) stabbed the duo grievously injuring them,” the statement from Nargund police added.
Alleged recordings from CCTV cameras posted in the area — purportedly showing the attack — are also being shared on Whatsapp. ThePrint has a copy.
“My brother didn’t even know the assaulters,” Mohammed Zubair, Shahpur’s brother, told ThePrint Wednesday.
He added: “Two months ago there was a tiff between a Muslim man and a Hindu man over a girl (an alleged love-triangle). Since that incident, RSS-Bajrang Dal members have been attacking Muslim youths whenever they can. My brother had nothing to do with that incident or the people who killed him.”
Devaraju, too, added that so far no connection has been established between the victims and the accused. The police statement on the assault also claimed that it was being suspected that the accused targeted the victims because of anger revolving around the communal incidents witnessed in Nargund since November.
According to police records, the deceased ran a tea stall, while Pathan owned a photo studio in Nargund.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)