On January 3, a member of the BJP’s IT cell in Dakshin Kannada, Deepak Rao, was waylaid and murdered allegedly by four Muslim men. Even as the police arrested the men, and amidst the simmering tension at Katipalla town, known rabble-rouser and Bajrang Dal leader Sharan Pumpwell was attempting to make Deepak one of his warriors. Local BJP leaders have however clarified that he was only a volunteer with the BJP.
"It’s been less than a year since he joined BJP. Because he was tech-savvy, I made him part of my team and assigned him the role of handling social media," local BJP President Lokesh Bollaje says. Lokesh also denied that Deepak was a member of the Bajrang Dal, or any other radical organisation. "He was a very gentle person. He does not have any criminal cases against him. Like a regular Karyakartha (volunteer), he might have attended the programs of like-minded organisations, but there is no way he could have been involved with the fringe elements," Lokesh says.
Dismissing the theory that Deepak's involvement in a recent incident with the local Muslim community might have cost his life, Lokesh said, "He was a bystander on that occasion. He had no active role in it. To assume that Deepak was killed because of that, is absolutely silly."
Lokesh says that it wasn’t Deepak's behaviour that got him killed, but the fact that he was a ‘Hindu’.
“Anyone at that time and place would have become a victim of the attack if they were Hindu. Unfortunately, it happened to be Deepak who was there at that time. But we do now believe that those arrested for the crime had clearly monitored Deepak's movements and targeted him to create communal violence," he says.
At the funeral of Deepak Rao.
Sole breadwinner of the family
Having lost his father at an early age, Deepak was the sole breadwinner of his family. At his home in Ganeshkatte in Katipalla, he lived with his 55-year-old mother and 24-year-old brother, who is mute. "Deepak finished his 12th grade (2nd PUC) at Govinda Dasa College and then had to discontinue his education to meet his family's financial commitments," Rakesh Kumar, a friend says.
For the past seven years, Deepak was employed with a local mobile dealer at Katipalla. Deepak's work required him to distribute SIM cards to the retailers and collect cash. "He was more like a friend to me. In my absence, he used to pick up my children from school. That was the amount of trust I had in him," Abdul Majid, his employer says.
Deepak's nature of work required him to frequent Muslim-dominated areas in Krishnapura, and his fluency with the local Beary dialect made him an indispensable asset for his employer. "That's the only language he used to speak with me and even I could not distinguish. Everyone respected him for his dedication and I can’t imagine someone harbouring vengeance against such a person," says Abdul Majid, as he breaks down.
On Wednesday afternoon, Deepak had given his daily collection to Majid and had barely driven away, when he was intercepted by his attackers, who came on a four-wheeler and hacked him to death with sharp edged weapons.
It was Majid, who, on hearing the commotion outside, alerted the people and later called for an ambulance. However, he was declared dead on arrival at the hospital.
Several other residents of Krishnapura say that Deepak was a gentleman who was mercilessly murdered for no fault of his. On being asked by one of the media outlets about Deepak's alleged Bajrang Dal ties, a local asks, "If he was a Bajarang Dal activist, why would he be working under a Muslim?”
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