The murder of a 26-year-old Bajrang Dal activist in Karnataka’s Shivamogga district brought the city to a boil with large scale protests erupting on 22 February, followed by demonstrations across the state.
The deceased man, known as Harsha Hindu, was reportedly stabbed by a group of five assailants on 21 February in Shivamogga, which is about 250 kms away from Bengaluru.
This incident comes at an especially charged up moment in the state with several districts witnessing hijab vs saffron shawl protests. In this little town too, 58 students were suspended from a local college just recently for demanding to be allowed to attend classes.
Expectedly, the incident soon turned into a political slugfest, with BJP leader Kapil Mishra calling this a new form of jihad and Goa CM Pramod Sawant blaming “anti-Hindu fundamentalists”.
Karnataka Rural Development Minister and BJP leader KS Eshwarappa went onto openly accusing “Muslim goons” for this act while BJP National Secretary CT Ravi calling the murder a conspiracy.
Though Harsha had been a part of the protest demanding a ban on hijabs held on 7 February outside a college in Shivamogga, the reason behind the killing has not yet been ascertained.
Despite the prompt action by the police –which made its first arrest in the case just hours after the incident – thousands of Bajrang Dal activists took to the streets the very next day to take out a funeral procession.
This too soon turned violent, with reports of vandalism, including several vehicles being reportedly torched by the activists resulting in police lathicharge and tear gas shells being fired. A curfew has also been placed in the city till 25 February.
But how did this incident become so communally charged in a small town in Karnataka? Where does the investigation stand now?
To unpack this, we speak to Nikhila Henry, The Quint’s South Bureau Chief.