A 28-year-old BJP worker died and his friend was injured in the coastal Karnataka district of Udupi on Wednesday night after they were beaten up by a group of alleged cow vigilantes linked to the Hindu Jagaran Vedike (HJV), a Sangh Parivar affiliate.
The incident occurred at around 8.30 pm, near Kadike village of Brahmavara taluk in Udupi, when the victim, Praveen Poojary, and his friend Akshay Devadiga, 22, were getting ready to transport four calves in a minivan to Thirtahalli in neighbouring Shimoga district as part of a contract with a Thirtahalli-based cattle dealer, identified as Ramesh.
According to K T Balakrishna, SP (Udupi), a group of nearly 30 people, led by local HJV leader Arvind Sherigar, surrounded the minivan and attacked Poojary and Devadiga with iron rods.
Police were informed of the incident by the gang, who initially tried to pass off the death as an accident. Poojary and Devadiga were sent to Mahesh Hospital in Brahmavara for treatment, where Poojary died at around midnight, the SP said.
“Around 18 people from the HJV have been arrested so far,” Balakrishna said. Among those arrested is the Brahmavara taluk leader of HJV, Arvind Sherigar, who owns a petrol station.
Poojary is a member of Billavas, a backward caste community, and used to earn a living by renting out his minivan, Inspector General of Police (Western Range) Arun Chakravarthy said.
“The motive for the attack is yet to be ascertained and the accused is being questioned. We are looking at whether the attack was due to a personal or business rivalry, or whether it was related to the transport of the calves,” Chakravarthy said.
Police claimed that the attackers had not intended to kill Poojary and said their intention was to attack the youth and then inform the police about “cattle smuggling”. Poojary died due to internal injuries suffered in the beating, police said.
“HJV activists are not involved in this incident. They are trying to frame the local HJV leader. If he was involved why would he return to his petrol station today. We condemn the incident,’’ said senior HJV leader Satyajit Surathkal, who was recently appointed as the BJP’s backward classes unit leader in the region.