Karnataka: Murder of Bajrang Dal member triggers anti-Muslim riots

Following the murder of Harsha, a 23-year-old Bajrang Dal member, riots have broken out in various pockets of Shimoga district in Karnataka. The specific target of the riots seems to be localities where chiefly Muslims reside.

While there is no clarity on who killed Harsha, Bajrang Dal cadres and BJP leaders in the state seem to believe that Muslim individuals were responsible for the murder.

After the murder, several vehicles in the area were set on fire, and police were compelled to deploy heavy artillery to prevent the situation from escalating. The administration has imposed curbs on public gatherings and ordered that schools and colleges will stay shut.

Despite the police response, a video that has garnered steam on social media bears proof of the starting of a riot. Bajrang Dal members can be seen pelting stones at Muslim houses in the Azad Nagar area of Shimoga.

Who was Harsha?

Harsha was a 26-year-old Bajrang Dal member who was employed as a tailor. He was stabbed repeatedly by unidentified persons and despite medical assistance, Harsha succumbed to the wounds. The police have arrested three people in connection with the murder case.

Reactions to the murder

Bajrang Dal state convenor Raghu Sakleshpur, speaking to NDTV stated that he was unhappy with the police action in the case. He further argued that Harsha was an active member and they will soon decide what the next course of action should be.

Karnataka’s rural development minister KS Eshwarappa has claimed that the state Congress chief DK Shivakumar was instigating the killings. He further alleged that “Muslim goons murdered Harsha.”

No connection with the hijab row

NDTV quoted a police officer as saying that the attack seems to have been carried out by four people. Denying reports linking the murder to the hijab row, the officer said Harsha knew the assailants and this seems to be the result of an old rivalry.

State Home Minister Araga Jnanendra has said the probe so far has not revealed any link between the murder and the hijab controversy. He further said that the violence could have arisen out of different instances.

“The hijab issue has nothing to do with this incident and it has happened for different reasons. Shivamogga is a sensitive city. The incident has taken place on the main road and the police are on high alert. We have clues, shortly they will be arrested. I appeal to the people to maintain calm. All measures have been taken, people should not get provoked. The government will give justice to the deceased person. Special teams have been formed to nab the murderers, shortly we will give updates on it,” Araga Jnanendra explained.

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj S Bommai has said police have found clues during their investigation and are working on them.

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