Updated: February 22, 2022 5:07:12 pm
A 26-YEAR-OLD Bajrang Dal worker was stabbed to death in an incident allegedly triggered by previous enmity in Karnataka’s Shivamogga, leading to arson and stone-throwing in the city during the funeral procession on Monday afternoon.
Harsha Nagaraj alias Hindu Harsha alias Batte Market Harsha, an employee of a mobile service centre in Seegehatti, died after he was attacked by a gang of youths that waylaid him when he stepped out of his home in the communally sensitive area on Sunday night.
“We have arrested two persons in connection with the crime. One has been identified as Kashif and the other as Nadeem. They are locals from Shivamogga. In all, six people were involved in the murder,” Shivamogga SP B M Laxmi Prasad said.
A curfew has been imposed in Shivamogga for the next 24 hours, he said on Monday evening.
Karnataka | Body of the 26-year-old Bajrang Dal activist Harsha, who was allegedly murdered yesterday in Shivamogga, being taken to his residence amid Police security after postmortem.
Large numbers of workers of Hindu organisations join in. pic.twitter.com/6jllIkEZ0q
— ANI (@ANI) February 21, 2022
Although a social media post with derogatory references to Islam has been attributed as a possible motive for the murder, police sources described it as an “old issue” and said that a case had been filed against Harsha when the incident occurred in 2020.
“The motive behind the murder, according to one of the arrested accused, was a clash they had at a court around six months ago. All the persons involved in the murder have criminal records in Shivamogga,” a senior officer said.
According to local police records, Harsha was involved in multiple cases of violence, including an incident of rioting in December 2020, when merchants at a cloth market in the city were attacked by a mob of pro-Hindutva activists following a communal flare-up.
Over five FIRs were registered in the incident with several suspects, including Harsha, being named. In 2017, Harsha was named in a case for allegedly stabbing a Muslim youth in Seegehatti, and in 2019 for an alleged attack on two youths in the same area.
“He left home on Sunday night and did not return. He had gone out alone. We later heard that he had been stabbed,” Harsha’s father Nagaraj said.
On Monday, when the funeral procession passed through the city, with a large number of pro-Hindutva activists taking part, stones were hurled at buildings and vehicles in Muslim-dominated areas, and a few two-wheelers were set on fire.
Shivamogga city has seen a few incidents of communal violence in recent years with the growing presence of pro-Hindutva groups and radical Islam outfits like Popular Front of India.
“We will send out a clear message that such incidents will be dealt with in a strong manner. There is some information that there are a couple of cases against the victim as well,” Home Minister Araga Jnanendra said.
Karnataka ADGP S Murugan, who has been sent to Shivamogga to cool tensions, told reporters: “Four police teams have been constituted by the SP to investigate the case. We are in the process of arresting the main accused.”
Union Minister of State Rajeev Chandrasekhar “strongly” condemned the killing. “I pray that his soul rests in peace and urge the (state government) to investigate and ensure justice soonest. I appeal to all to remain calm and allow Govt to pursue this case,” he tweeted.
Describing the victim as “a worker of our organisation”, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said: “We are confident that all suspects will be arrested soon. We have instructed the police to ensure that no untoward incident occurs in the region. I appeal to the people of Shivamogga to maintain peace…legal action will be taken against those involved.”
The murder also triggered a political war of words with senior BJP minister from Shivamogga, K S Eshwarappa, blaming the Opposition Congress for the incident while his party’s state chief Nalini Kumar Kateel said the “murder occurred in the midst of the hijab controversy and is intended to disturb peace”.
“A good worker of our party has been killed in Shivamogga. It has been done by Muslim goondas. The Muslim goondas were never so emboldened in Shivamogga and there should be action against such persons,” Eshwarappa said.
The Congress demanded the resignation of Eshwarappa and Jnanendra, both from Shivamogga. The region is also represented in the assembly by former chief minister B S Yediyurappa. The Congress had already been demanding the resignation of Eshwarappa for “insulting the national flag” with his remarks about a saffron flag amid the hijab row.
On Monday, Eshwarappa claimed that “the murder has been caused by provocative statements” from state Congress chief D K Shivakumar. “Let them find the assailants and add my name also if I am involved in it,” Shivakumar said.
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The leader of Congress in the state legislature Siddaramaiah said the Home minister should resign on moral grounds since the murder occurred in his home district.
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