After violence in Karnataka’s Shivamogga over the killing of a member of the right-wing Bajrang Dal, the state government today blamed the local administration for the decision to allow his funeral procession, during which violence erupted in the city. A minister also said the murder would be investigated from “all angles including the hijab row”.
Twelve people are being questioned in custody and three of them have been arrested over the murder of 26-year-old Harsha, who was stabbed on Sunday night by a group that came in a car.
The Karnataka government had yesterday ruled out any link to the row over hijab restrictions in schools and colleges, but state Home Minister Araga Dnyanendra said: “Organizations behind the hijab row are also under the scanner, their role is also being looked at. Legal action will be taken against those who engaged in stone pelting yesterday.”
Violence and arson broke out when Harsha’s body was being taken for last rites in a procession. Over 5,000 people had joined the 8-km funeral procession. Cars were set on fire and stone-pelting was reported. At least three persons, including a photo journalist and a policewoman, were injured. Several two-wheelers were either damaged or burnt.
The police had to fire teargas shells and use lathis to control the crowds. Schools and colleges were declared shut and large gatherings were banned.
The Karnataka government, facing questions over the procession being allowed in a volatile situation, distanced itself from the decision.
“Seeing (that there were a) lot of people visiting, the body was taken for last rites. It is the decision of the district administration,” said the Home Minister, appealing for peace.
“We appeal to people not to allow any room for disturbing peace. The government will certainly arrest the criminals and get them punishment appropriately,” said Mr Dnyanendra.
“These kind of murders should stop and it should end with Harsha’s murder. This is the commitment of the government and the police department. We are taking this case to the logical end,” the minister added.
The motive, he said, “will come out shortly”.
The police had maintained that Harsha was killed over “personal enmity”.
“As of now, we strongly believe this has happened with regard to previous enmity. Further investigations are on,” said police officer Dr K Thiyagarajan.
Several BJP leaders, including Karnataka Minister KS Eshwarappa and Union Minister of state Shobha Karandlaje, have alleged a conspiracy behind Harsha’s murder and have demanded a National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe.
Mr Eshwarappa on Monday controversially blamed the murder on “Muslim goons” and accused Congress’ Karnataka chief DK Shivakumar of instigating the killing with comments he had made at the height of the hijab protests.
“He was a very good worker. He was a young man who was an 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 was 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 man’s family,” Mr Eshwarappa told reporters.