At 11 pm on 20 February, L* woke up to the sound of stones hitting the roof of her house. Her family was not aware that a Bajrang Dal member named Harsha Jingade was killed just a few metres away from their home in Seegehatti, Shivamogga.
Soon after Jingade was hacked to death, violence broke out in the locality, predominantly populated by Hindus. When The Quint spoke to L, a Muslim woman who spoke on the condition of anonymity, she and her family had moved over 10 kilometres away from their home, fearing further rioting in the area. This, even as the Karnataka police has imposed curfew till 26 February in Shivamogga district.
In the aftermath of Harsha Jingade's murder, for which eight Muslim youth have been arrested so far, several Muslim households were attacked, residents alleged. Many Muslim families have moved away from Seegehatti, Bibi Street, Clarkpet, and Azad Nagar, they said. So far, the Shivamogga Police has taken cognisance of 14 cases of property damage and one case of assault.
While rioting had started on the night of the murder, 20 February, what gave a fillip to miscreants was the support that Karnataka Minister KS Eshwarappa had extended on 21 February to Bajrang Dal protesters, several Muslim residents told The Quint.
Assaults on Persons, Property Damage
In Bibi Street, just a few metres away from Seegehatti, a local journalist, Mohammed Rafi, was assaulted on 21 February. This was minutes after Minister Eshwarappa addressed a large gathering in Shivamogga where he had assured protesting Bajrang Dal members that "justice will be served" to Harsha Jingade's family. Eshwarappa had earlier blamed "Muslim goons" for Jingade's murder.
The minister had arrived in Shivamogga on 21 February to address a gathering in the town. Shortly after this public meeting, Bajrang Dal took out a funeral procession.
"Rafi was returning from Bibi Street when a mob returning from the hospital where Harsha’s body was kept found him on the road. They injured him with deadly weapons," said advocate Shahraz M Siddiqui, who is legally representing Rafi. Shivamogga Police has registered an FIR under Section 307 (attempt to murder) of IPC. So far, no arrests have been made in the case.
In another instance of violence, in Clarkpet, a pocket where Muslims live, homes were damaged, Siddiqui said.
Nisar Ahmed, a local social worker said that in areas through which the funeral procession had passed, miscreants had entered Muslim homes and damaged property. "Autorickshaws and bikes were burnt. In stone-pelting, homes were damaged," Ahmed said. L said that 20 Muslim families in Seegehatti have not returned to their homes. "Many of our neighbours are still staying in homes of their relatives. We fear that the police will not act if untoward incidents occur," she said.
'Police Allowed Riotous Mass Gathering'
Another Muslim resident of Shivamogga town who spoke to The Quint on the condition of anonymity said that the police should not have allowed large gatherings led by political outfits.
"There was sporadic violence on the night of the murder. Though police imposed curbs in the district the next day, political gatherings were allowed. Such gatherings turned violent overnight," the Shivamogga resident, whose bike was burnt by miscreant, said.
On 21 February, Minister Eshwarappa had further blamed the Congress for creating communal tension. The Indian National Congress' support of the protests for hijab-wearing in educational institutions caused rifts in the society, he had claimed.
"While political speeches were being made, Minister Eshwarappa did not condemn the violence that erupted after Harsha's murder. This gave rioters a freehand," Ahmed said.
Harsha Jingade was an active member of the Bajrang Dal and had been a part of saffron shawl protests that demanded a ban on hijab in educational institutions. "Several Muslim women who were leaving the place out of fear in burqas were heckled. One incident of violence was reported in Clarkpet, where a Muslim woman, Zareena Taj, was attacked in her home," Siddiqui said.
Shivamogga SP BM Lakshmi Prasad told The Quint, "All incidents of violence will be investigated. We have not identified miscreants as all the reported incidents were part of mob violence."
Several Unreported Incidents
In Azad Nagar, two homes were attacked, eyewitnesses said. "I was home when the procession passed by. Stone-pelting continued throughout the rally. All the windows in most homes are broken," Nisar Ahmed said. Advocate Shahraz Siddiqui said that of the 14 cases of property damage that have come to him, most cases pertained to damage to homes.
There were commercial establishments too which were attacked, he said. "I have one case where a small stationary store which had an Arabic name was attacked." Autorickshaw owners have also lodged complaint to get compensation, he added.
The Karnataka government has not announced compensation to affected families or business establishments.
L, meanwhile, said that she has not lodged a complaint yet. "I will lodge a complaint when I return to my locality," she said. Costs involved in giving medical treatment to those who were terrorised will not be reimbursed, she rued. "My mother's BP dropped that night. When we left the next morning, she had fainted. No one was there to help us," she added.
On 23 February, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad held rallies across Karnataka to protest Harsha Jingade's murder. Shivamogga, however, remained peaceful on account of the curfew.
(*name withheld to protect anonymity)