The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a ‘B’ report or closure report on its investigations into the mysterious death of 18-year-old Paresh Mesta in Karnataka’s Honnavar region on December 6, 2017, officials said.
The death was projected by the BJP, which was in the Opposition in Karnataka at the time, as the communal murder of a Sangh Parivar worker by a Muslim gang. The case was handed over to the CBI by the then Congress government headed by Siddaramaiah 10 days after the death amid the allegations.
“The CBI has filed a B report in the Paresh Mesta case,” said a senior police officer for the Karwar region. The report filed before a judicial magistrate in Honnavar will be taken up for consideration on November 14 by the court.
Following reports of the filing of the long pending closure report in the case, Siddaramaiah on Tuesday accused the BJP of manipulating the circumstances of the death of the youth for political gain. “The CBI report of the Paresh Mesta death being an accidental one and not a case of murder is a slap in the face of the Karnataka BJP. The BJP should apologise for the false allegations made against us,” Siddaramaiah said on social media.
“Behind every seat won by the BJP in 2018, there is the blood of innocent youth like Paresh Mesta. The blood of innocent people is stuck to the seat of power that is being currently enjoyed by the BJP in Karnataka,” he said.
Ahead of the 2018 elections in Karnataka, the then BJP national president Amit Shah visited the home of Paresh Mesta in Honnavar in February 2018 and promised to bring the culprits to justice despite preliminary forensic reports at the time suggesting a death due to accidental drowning.
Mesta died mysteriously in the aftermath of a clash between Hindus and Muslims in Honnavar town of Uttara Kannada district over a disputed site on December 6, 2017. His body was found floating in a nearby temple pond on December 8.
Images of the youth’s bloated and decomposed body, indicative of drowning, captured by locals when the body was recovered on December 8, led to speculation that Mesta was tortured and mutilated before his death.
Claims emerged on social media that he was a Sangh Parivar worker who was tortured and killed by Muslims despite early forensic evidence negating this theory and suggesting drowning as a possible cause. The district simmered with tension for days with right-wing mobs attacking minority establishments. Shah visited Mesta’s home two months later and later ordered a CBI probe into the case.
The Honnavar police had named Azad Annigeri, a local restaurant owner, as a possible suspect, but charges were dropped after several witnesses reportedly vouched for Annigeri’s presence at his hotel at the time of the communal clashes on December 6, 2017.
A forensic report from Kasturba Medical College in Mangalore stated that there were no signs of torture on the body of the youth. With the BJP threatening to intensify agitations over his death – despite the Karnataka police making progress in investigations – the Congress government handed the case to the CBI as demanded by the saffron party.
In 2018, when Amit Shah visited Mesta’s home in the state’s communally polarised coastal region ahead of the Assembly polls, he also went to the house of Deepak Rao, 25, who was killed in January that year in another alleged case of communal murder.
Rao was allegedly murdered by activists of the Popular Front of India (PFI) in Surathkal, Mangaluru. The BJP leader did not visit the homes of Muslim victims of communal murders or that of Hindus killed by Hindu communal gangs in the region.
Amid claims of Mesta’s Sangh Parivar links, his father Kamalakanth had reiterated that his son was not linked to any group. Shah’s visit to the fishermen colony in Honnavar where Mesta lived was seen as an effort by the BJP to rally the support of the numerically strong fisherfolk community in coastal Karnataka.