In recent days, incidents of communal violence in Dakshina Kannada district are resulting in the tensed atmosphere across Karnataka. With Assembly elections due in coming May, the ruling Congress leaders are arguing that the main opposition BJP party as resorting to religious polarisation tactics to garner the support of Hindu voters.
On January 3, a BJP supporter named Deepak Rao was hacked to death in Katipalla town near Mangalore in Dakshina Kannada while he was on his way to his work. Responding to the information given by eye witnesses in the incident, Mangaluru Police have arrested four suspects – Pinki Nawaz, Rizwan, Mohammad Naushan and Mohammad Irshan, by chasing them when they were allegedly trying to escape from the spot of the crime.
On the same day, two Muslim persons – Abdul Basheer and Mohammad Mubashir were brutally attacked by pro-Hindu activists in two different places in Katipalla. While Mubashir survived the attack, 47- year old Basheer succumbed to his injuries in a private hospital in Mangaluru on Sunday, January 7. It has emerged that both of them are not related to Rao’s death in any manner nor are they part of any organization. Based on CCTV footage which captured the attack on Basheer, Police have arrested four persons - PK Srijith, Kishan Poojary, Dhanush Poojary and Sandesh Kotian. Police have confirmed to media that the arrested persons have confessed that they attacked Basheer in “retaliation to Deepak Rao’s Murder”, but did not reveal to which organization they belong to.
Who is behind Deepak Rao’s murder?
As soon as the news on Rao’s murder came out, BJP leaders claimed that members of Popular Front of India (PFI) were behind his death and Hindutva groups’ gave a call for Rao’s funeral rally. However, the state police did not allow for the same in order to control the already tense situation in Katipalla. On the other side, Congress leaders have accused members of the BJP as behind Rao’s death. Mangaluru North MLA Mohiuddin Bava told Times of India newspaper that one of the accused in Rao’s murder, Pinky Nawaz, is the brother of Ladin Ismail, a BJP worker in the state. According to sources, it was revealed that large sums of money have been transferred to Nawaz’s bank account before the crime incident took place.
Giving a new twist to this case, former state Chief Minister and Janata Dal (Secular) leader H.D. Kumarswamy today accused that a BJP corporator has given “supari” to murder Deepak Rao but did not reveal the corporator’s name.
Karnataka Police are yet to find out the real motive behind 32-year old Deepak Rao’s murder, who was a sales executive in a small mobile shop and not an active member of BJP.
The state government has announced financial assistance of Rs 10 lakh each to both the families of Deepak Rao and Abdul Basheer.
Dakshina Kannada district is considered to be a communally sensitive zone in the state. While Muslim population in the state is about 13 percent of total population, in Dakshina Kannada alone, Muslims form about 25 percent, highest in the state. Political experts are arguing that this region has a history of communal tensions leading to violence for decades. According to People’s Union of Civil liberties data, between 2005 and 2015, 911 incidents of communal violence were reported in the district.
Last month in Karnataka’s Uttara Kannada district, the mysterious death of 18-year-old boy Paresh Mesta had resulted in communal tension in the state. The BJP leaders claimed Mesta to be their supporter (though his family denied this), and alleged that PFI members were responsible for his death. BJP MP Shoba Karandlaje has been booked in one of the cases of communal violence and CBI is currently probing into Mesta’s death.
Civil rights activist and doctor H. S. Anupama, based in Karnataka said that the political parties in the state are resorting to “cheap politics” since the elections are approaching. She said “small villages and town level BJP supporters are falling to rumours since their leaders are fostering them leading to dire consequences”. She said that “now it is the responsibility of the state’s Congress government to prevent the fueling communal tensions and take up presumptive measures.”