Mobs threw stones at the homes of Muslims and ransacked their vehicles in Karnataka’s Shivamogga city after a member of Hindutva group Bajrang Dal was allegedly stabbed to death on Sunday night, locals told Scroll.in.
Harsha, 23, was allegedly attacked by unknown persons at Ravi Varma lane in the city’s Bharathi Colony.
State Home Minister Araga Jnanendra told reporters on Monday evening that three people have been arrested in connection with the case. Jnanendra said that a total of five persons were involved in the killing, ANI reported.
The violence against Muslims started on Sunday night soon after Harsha’s death and continued in various parts of the city till Monday noon despite the district administration’s orders prohibiting people from gathering in groups of five or more in public.
A 20-year-old local of Nalbandwadi locality, Saleem (name changed to protect identity), told Scroll.in that about 300 people armed with sticks and swords participated in a motorcycle rally soon after Sunday midnight. Four cars and two scooters were burnt in a lane in Nalbawandi where Muslims live, Saleem said.
Nalbawandi is located around 800 metres away from Bharti Colony where Harsha was stabbed.
“They were shouting Jai Sri Ram, and kicking the doors of the homes to try and open them,” Saleem said. “They wanted to attack us...They threw stones at our windows. Everyone is petrified here.”
He said that Muslims living in Nalbawandi have since shifted to another locality dominated by members of their community.
Stones were thrown at buildings and shops were also vandalised at Azad Nagar, a Muslim-dominated locality about half a kilometre away from Bharathi Colony, a witness told Scroll.in.
A local of the area, 22-year old Nadeem (name changed) said that the attack started around noon and continued for two hours.
“They had a tractor which was loaded with stones...They were chanting Jai Sri Ram, abusing us, and constantly throwing stones,” he told Scroll.in.
Stones were also thrown during Harsha’s funeral procession on Monday afternoon, due to which three people, including a journalist and a police officer were injured, PTI reported.
Meanwhile, in a tweet, Bajrang Dal said that the Vishva Hindu Parishad will take to streets on Wednesday to protest Harsha’s killing.
Deputy Commissioner Selvamani R said that orders prohibiting public gatherings under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure have been issued in the town, and that schools and colleges have been directed to remain shut.
Jnanendra said that police officials have been instructed to be alert for the next few days.
District Superintendent of Police BM Lakshmi Prasad said that the police have formed a task force to investigate the killing. “Our priority is to find them out and get them punished,” he said. “We request people to cooperate with us and not to act emotionally.”
Jnanendra had said on Sunday that the killing was not related to the ban on hijabs in educational institutions and the resultant protests, India Today reported. The minister said further investigation was necessary.
However, state minister KS Eshwarappa alleged that Harsha was killed by “Musalmaan goondas” (Muslim goons), ANI reported. He said that he was very disturbed by the killing.
“I’m going to Shivamogga now to analyse the situation,” Eshwarappa said. “We will not allow goondaism.”
Eshwarappa also accused Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar of “provocating the Muslim goons”, according to India Today.
Shivakumar, however, said that the killing had nothing to do with the recent protests regarding the state government’s ban on wearing hijabs in educational institutions. The Congress leader claimed that the Harsha was attacked out of personal enmity between two groups. He also denied having provoked anyone to commit a crime.
Former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah demanded Home Minister Jnanendra’s resignation, stating that he hails from the district where the killing took place.