The arrest of an Anti-Naxal Force constable over the killing of a Muslim youth on April 19 at a check post in Chikamagalur district has not resulted in a halt in the operations of the ANF, home minister K J George and senior officials of the Internal Security Department said here on Saturday.
The Chikamagalur police on Friday arrested ANF constable Naveen Naik for shooting 23-year-old Mohammed Kabeer, suspecting him to be a Naxalite – after the youth and four of his associates were stopped in the pre-dawn hours of April 19 at the Thanikodu checkpost on the Sringeri-Karkala route while they were ferrying cattle in a pick-up truck.
The constable opened fire from a loaded AK-47 after the youths allegedly tried to run away after they were questioned regarding the cattle they were transporting. The ANF has claimed that its personnel thought the youths were Naxals.
Naik, a recipient of the 2012 President’s Gallantry medal for anti-Naxal operations, was arrested on Friday and handed over by a local court to the CID, who have been assigned the investigation of the case by the home minister.
The state police had initially delayed filing a case against the constable due to fears that it would demoralize the ANF, which believed that the firing incident was a mistake that occurred in the line of duty. However, the constable had to be arrested after civil rights groups increased pressure on the government for action and sought a CBI probe. The State
Human Rights Commission also sought an action report from the government.
K J George and internal security division chief Amar Kumar Pandey on Saturday sought to brush aside any possibility of the ANF personnel stalling their activities in protest against the arrest of their colleague.
The home minister denied reports that the ANF went on a strike on Saturday in protest against Naik’s arrest. He said the ANF continues to be involved in its activities in the Western Ghats region where the force is deployed.
“It is our responsibility to continue with our duties. Nothing has been stalled,” the Internal Security Division’s additional director general of police Amar Kumar Pandey said.
The Karnataka government has meanwhile also asked the Chikamagalur Deputy Commissioner to conduct a magisterial probe into the firing and submit the findings within 45 days.
The case of the shooting of Mohammed Kabeer has taken a communal and political turn with the BJP and the Sangh Parivar demanding the release of the arrested ANF constable and withdrawal of a compensation of Rs 10 lakh awarded by the Congress government to Kabeer’s family with the allegation that Kabeer and his associates were involved in cattle smuggling – a key issue among right-wing Hindu groups in the region that seek to protect cattle as part of the Hindutva agenda.