Karnataka district tense after BJP worker is hacked to death
Praveen Nettaru, who was an active member of the BJP Yuva Morcha and was district committee member, was walking to his home after shutting his shop in Bellare when he was attacked
A 32-year-old leader from the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) youth wing was hacked to death by unidentified assailants while on his way home late Tuesday night in Karnataka’s Bellare village, sparking waves of angry protests across the state and ratcheting up communal tensions.
Praveen Nettaru, who was an active member of the BJP Yuva Morcha and was district committee member, was walking to his home after shutting his broiler chicken shop in Bellare when three bike-borne men approached him and attacked him with sharp weapons, said the police.
Investigators said the death may be connected to the recent murder of another young Muslim man in Bellare. The death triggered protests across the state, especially in the communally sensitive Dakshina Kannada district and coastal Karnataka.
A case has been registered under section 302 of IPC for murder.
In Puttur, thousands of workers and Hindu group members thronged the streets. Many surrounded the car of state BJP chief Nalin Kumar Kateel. Others shouted slogans against the BJP government.
Chief minister Basavaraj Bommai appealed for calm. “People are outraged when an innocent person is killed. I appeal to everyone to stay peaceful and patient. Instruction has been given to arrest the murderers as soon as possible,” he said.
Instances of stone-pelting and lathi charges by police were reported with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (the BJP’s ideological mentor), demanding a bandh in Puttur, Kadaba and Sullia taluk. Stones were hurled at government buses, with one bus plying from Puttur to Mangaluru getting damaged at Bolwar, police said.
Police said multiple teams were formed for investigation, which is currently focused on border villages of Kerala, as the inputs suggest the attackers came from the neighbouring state. “We have detained some persons,” said Additional Director General of Police, Alok Kumar, refusing to share more details. Bellare is located 60 km from Kerala border.
The murder sparked outrage in coastal Karnataka, with tensions running high in some areas and authorities forced to ban large gatherings in Puttur. Kumar said prohibitory orders on movement were imposed in Bellare and Puttur till Friday.
“The barbaric killing of our party activist Praveen Nettaru from Dakshina Kannada district is condemnable. The perpetrators of such a heinous act will be arrested soon and punished under the law. May Praveen’s soul rest in peace. May God bless his family with the strength to bear this pain,” tweeted Bommai.
Karnataka home minister Araga Jnanendra said Karnataka Police are in touch with their counterparts in Kerala. “The man (Praveen) was murdered while he was on his way home after closing his shop. A few men who came on a motorcycle attacked him. There were no street lights and it was dark, it is what I am told by the police,” he said.
“Such incidents are taking place often in coastal Karnataka and these villages are on the Kerala border,” he added. The home minister said miscreants operating between the border districts of Kerala and Karnataka are a matter of concern.
A senior officer in Dakshina Kannada told HT that police suspect Nettaru’s murder was linked to another murder that took place in Bellare on July 19. Masood, 18, a daily-wage earner from Kasaragod in Kerala who stayed with his grandfather in Bellare, was murdered by a group of men. Eight men were arrested in the case. “We are investigating the link with Masood’s killing as the Masood was from Kerala and the bike used by the attackers had a Kerala registration. We suspect it is a retaliation. The investigation is underway, ” said a police officer, as the motorcycle used in killing of Nettaru had Kerala registration number.
Meanwhile, SDPI accused police of raiding homes and arresting innocent Muslim youth on Tuesday night in connection with the murder of Nettaru.”Police instead of arresting those involved in the murder of Praveen have arrested innocents in order to please the BJP government,” SDPI District Secretary Shakir Alake Majalu alleged.
The murder comes months after another member of the right-wing group Bajrang Dal was reportedly killed by a gang. 26-year-old Harsha was fatally stabbed on the night of February 20 in communally sensitive Shivamogga town. His killing came during a time of heightened communal tension across the state due to a controversy over barring Muslim students from wearing hijab in some educational institutions. Ten people have so far been arrested and charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the case. The case was handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) by the state government for further probe.
On Wednesday, BJP Yuva Morcha workers were seen chanting slogans against their own party for failing to provide security to its leaders, adding to the disenchantment of saffron groups who believe that its own government has not stood by its core support base.
Preetam Hebbar, the media coordinator for the BJPs Yuva Morcha in Chikkamagaluru, resigned from his post saying that a government which had come to power based on the support by Hindutva groups had failed to protect pro-Hindu workers.
“Whenever a murder happens, you assure to take stern action but this has remained just an assurance,” he said in his letter on Wednesday.
He added that the government should not insult a party built by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani and other great leaders and that he tenders his resignation to protest the lack of strict laws to protect Hindus and party worker.
Congress leader and former chief minister Siddaramaiah condemned the murder and demanded strict action in the matter. “I condemn the murder of Bajrang Dal leader Praveen Nettaru in Dakshina Kannada. Police should immediately arrest the murderers & prevent unrest in the region. Police should take action against the perpetrators without any biases,” he tweeted.