Eighteen-year-old Paresh Mesta’s body was found floating in the Shettykere lake on Friday night.

As Uttara Kannada erupts in protests forensic expert denies Hindu youth was tortured before death
news Crime Monday, December 11, 2017 - 20:15

It is a death that has shaken the Honnavar town in Karnataka’s Uttara Kannada district. A death that has evoked such strong emotions that doctors at the Taluk Hospital did not even want to be part of the post mortem.

The autopsy of eighteen-year-old Paresh Mesta was finally done by three doctors from Kasturba Hospital in Manipal who were brought to the taluk hospital.

Though the post mortem report is not officially out, word has spread in the town about how the Hindu activist was reportedly tortured before his body was found floating in the Shettykere lake on Friday night.

On Monday evening, IGP Western Range Hemanth Nimbalkar categorically denied that any assault or torture had taken place. Nimbalkar also released a letter from Dr Shankar M Bakkannavar, Associate Professor at the Department of Forensic Medicine at the Kasturba Medical College, Manipal. The forensic science expert has answered 19 questions in which he has asserted that there was no external or internal injury, no torture and no strangulation or haemorrhage. The report however mentions two injuries, and that one could have been caused by blunt force. 

In the answers to the questionnaire submitted to the police, the forensic expert says that, "There are no evidences of injuries caused by weapons over the body of the deceased."

A picture of Paresh's dead body, with his blackened face, had been widely circulated on social media. When asked whether the change  in colour of the face was due to assault, the expert said that it was only due to putrefaction (process of decay of a body). The report also denies that a tattoo on the deceased's body was removed. It says, "There is a  tattoo mark present over the front of right forearm, 7cm above the wrist, depicting a picture of Shivaji and Maratha written in Hindi." It categorically states that the tattoo has not been destroyed. 

Earlier, BJP District President KG Naik had alleged, “He had a ‘Jai Shri Ram’ tattoo on his hand, and the skin had been ripped off." 

The report also denies that Paresh was attacked using hot water or any chemicals like acids. The report also denied other rumours that people had been urinated into his mouth and that he had been castrated. The doctor says that there were no injuries present over the ears, no evidence to suggest that a rope or any other material was tied over the limbs of the deceased, no traces of strangulation, and no assault over his head. It also says that Paresh's fingers and toes were in normal condition.

The report adds that a blackish semi-solid material was found in Paresh's oral cavity, trachea and lungs, and it has been preserved for chemical analysis. 

Initially, local police had suspected that Paresh may have fallen into the lake while escaping from the mob. But his family had rejected the theory immediately and said that he was an expert swimmer and there was no way he could have drowned.

A police source told TNM that a case of murder has not been booked yet as they were yet to receive the post mortem report officially.

“The police have promised to file a case of murder as soon as possible,” said KG Naik.

But hundreds of protestors belonging to various pro-Hindu groups have lost their patience and went on a protest spree in the district. Burning tyres and dividers, blocking roads, the protesters have asked for immediate arrest of those behind Paresh’s death.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje demanded a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into Paresh’s death.

Calling it a “brutal murder”, Shobha accused the police of a cover-up. She alleged, “The murder was covered up because Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was touring the Uttara Kannada district when the stone pelting incidents were reported.”

The Udupi-Chikkamagaluru MP said that Paresh was at the temple which was being attacked when he tried to escape. “There were prohibitory orders in place. Despite this, stones and shoes were hurled at the temple. CCTV footage shows that uniformed police personnel are standing still and not doing anything about the mob armed with weapons,” Shobha Karandlaje alleged.

Background

It all began on December 6, when an altercation between an autorickshaw driver and a motorbike rider flared up into a communal clash.

“An altercation began between a motorbike rider and autorickshaw driver over a small accident. This became a major fight and snowballed into incidents where mobs wielding machetes and wooden sticks attacked houses and shops belonging to a particular community,” Inspector General of Police, Hemanth Nimbalkar said.

"Paresh was with his friends till 11 pm on the night of December 6th. He had parked his bike opposite to a ‘GoodLuck’ hotel, he was attacked when he went to collect his bike. The hotel run by Muslims has had a constant problem about parking space with the authorities of a temple opposite.  There had been tension in the evening and in the days prior to that. Paresh became a victim of this tension. He was targeted only because was near the temple. He was killed, wrapped in a plastic and thrown into the lake,” KG Naik alleged. 

 

 

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