Muslims bear brunt of misplaced Hindutva vengeance

New Delhi, February 22 (KMS): Shivamogga town in the Indian state of Karnataka came in the grip of communal conflagration with unruly mobs going on the rampage in Muslim localities attacking homes and properties. Tensions had started brewing in the town soon after the news of the murder of a 26-year-old member of Bajrang Dal, a Hindu extremist outfit, came in.

Harsha was killed by unidentified persons near Ravivarma Street in Bharathi Colony. According to local sources in the know of the situation, Muslims’ homes, shops and vehicles were damaged in stone pelting by the youths who were part of the funeral procession of the slain man, Harsha, who was killed at around 9 pm on Sunday.

What was ironical about the violence is that it has been carried out against Muslims to avenge the murder of the Hindu youth whereas there is no evidence to suggest the involvement of any Muslim in the case. “Even though Muslims have no role in the murder, these people are attacking their homes,” lamented Mansoor.

Though Hindutva supporters and some media reports linked the murder with the Hijab row, state Home Minister Araga Jnanendra said the murder has nothing to do with the Hijab issue. It was Minister for Panchayat Raj and RD K S Eshwarappa who tried to give a communal colour to the murder when he said, “We will not allow this Muslim goonda-giri in the state.” Mansoor contended that if not for the statements of the minister, the attacks would not have targeted against Muslims.

On Monday morning, when the funeral was close to the Nalbandwadi locality, the policemen asked local Muslims to stay indoors, Mansoor, a local from Shivamogga town disclosed while speaking to media. “The crowd then attacked our homes and vehicles. They (the crowd) pelted stones on Muslim establishments, damaging homes and parked vehicles. One house has been completely burnt.”

As per initial reports, Muslim localities such as Azad Nagar and Nalbandwadi were targeted by the mob.

Here are some of the first-hand account of the violence and arson unleashed by Hindtwa activists on innocent Muslims…

Talking to the media, a Muslim woman, whose name was not revealed, said that around 300 people chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ entered in her area and started attacking their properties.

“They were uprooting our flags and set everything on fire. They even barged into our houses. They set on fire four vehicles and targeted four houses. They pelted stones after climbing on the houses,” she said.

According to Indian media, locals approached the police, but they reached the spot well after the violence and arson was over.

Another Muslim woman said that her bike was burnt down so in such manner that it is unrecognizable. “What happened (with Harsha) was wrong. But what was our crime…the police was always present around the area earlier. But when the arson happened, the police was not present,” she lamented.

Nikhila Henry, a journalist, shared a video clip of a mob with saffron flags torching and pelting stones at the shops belonging to Muslims in the presence of police. The police can be seen standing there as mute spectators.

Video of a rally broadcast by a local TV channel clearly shows mobs holding saffron flags in their hands pelting stones on the houses.

Another video of stone pelting mob emerged from Azad Nagar, which is said to be Muslim area.

In Shivmogga’s Shigahetti, a religious place of Muslims has been completely damaged.

A Muslim driver was also attacked in Shivamogga. He could hardly speak about what happened to him with blood stains on his chin as proof of attack on him.

Meanwhile, the police initiated an investigation into the murder of the Bajrang Dal member and detained three people so far. Their identities have not been made public as yet.

The murder and the ensuing violence came amidst the ongoing hijab row which has gripped the state while sweeping the national scene. However, ruling out any link between the murder and the hijab row, the Karnataka Home Minister said, “We’ve not yet received final report related to the arrests (in the murder case). We’ve taken some people into custody.  Inquiry is on, we hope to get some leads in the case very soon.”

The minister visited the family of the deceased in Shivamogga. He disclosed that five men are apparently involved in the murder, but it was not yet known of whether any organisation was behind the murder.

The police imposed restrictions on the gathering of people invoking section 144 after the news of the murder spread. Schools and colleges have been shut in view of the soaring tensions in the town.

Meanwhile, leader of the Opposition and former chief minister of the state Siddaramaiah continued to maintain his position in support of the Muslim girls as he reiterated that hijab row is a conspiracy of the BJP to prevent Muslim girls from getting education.

“The code of uniform should have been prescribed at the beginning of the session. Doing that in the month of January-February was deliberate and intentional,” he said.

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