Vehicles were set on fire and isolated incidents of stone-pelting were reported as tension spread in Karnataka’s Shivamogga town after a 26-year-old member of right-wing outfit Bajrang Dal was stabbed to death last night.
State Home Minister Araga Jnanendra has said the investigation so far has not revealed any link between the murder and the raging hijab controversy. However, another minister’s remarks accusing Congress leaders of instigating the killing have sparked off a political war of words.
“The hijab issue has nothing to do with this incident and it has happened for different reasons. Shivamogga is a sensitive city,” Mr Jnanendra told the media. However, his office has said police are probing the crime from all angles.
After the incidents of arson, police have been deployed in large numbers and the administration has restricted public gatherings. Schools and colleges in the district will remain shut for now. Chief Minister Basavaraj S Bommai has said police have found clues and are working on them.
Karnataka’s Rural Development minister KS Eshwarappa has accused Congress’ Karnataka chief DK Shivakumar of instigating the killing with comments he had made at the height of the hijab protests.
Referring to Harsha, the Bajrang Dal member who also worked as a a tailor, the minister said, “He was a very good worker. He was a young man who was honest. Last night, Muslim goons murdered him. Recently, DK Shivakumar claimed that the national flag was replaced with saffron flag, and around 50 lakh saffron shawls were ordered from a factory in Surat for the anti-hijab protest. The goondaism has increased after he made these statements. We will not allow this goondaism to continue. We will extend all the help that we can to the murdered man’s family.”
Responding to the statement, Mr Shivakumar described Mr Eshwarappa as a “mad man” and demanded his resignation as minister.
Siddaramaiah, Leader of the Opposition in Assembly, has demanded that state Home Minister Araga Jnanendra must step down over the “failure” of law and order in the state. He has also pointed out that the murder took place in the constituency the home minister represents in the Assembly.
A police officer the NDTV spoke to has denied reports that the killing of Harsha is linked to the ongoing controversy over students wearing hijab on campus.
A case has been registered at Doddapete police station in Shivamogga district.
“We have found clues and are close to arresting the accused. This has nothing to do with the hijab controversy. Harsha and the gang of youths knew each other. This seems to be the result of an old rivalry,” the police officer said.
Police said Harsha was attacked by at least four persons around 9 pm last night. He was rushed to hospital with severe injuries but did not survive.
Soon after the attack, unidentified people set several vehicles in Shivamogga on fire.
Visuals from the city showed the burnt vehicles and heavy police presence. Equipped with riot control gear, police marched in the neighbourhood to prevent a flare-up over the attack.
Home Minister Jnanendra met with Harsha’s family members at the hospital this morning. Videos show him consoling his relatives.
The minister said 4-5 persons could be involved in the murder. “Police have found a clue and the reason behind the murder will come out after the investigation. We have no information yet on whether any organisation is behind this attack. Appropriate security arrangements have been made. Some protests took place last night but the situation is now under control.”
Speaking to NDTV over the attack on Harsha, Bajrang Dal state convenor Raghu Sakleshpur said, “We are not happy with the police action. He was our active member. We will soon decide the next course of action.”