A Mercedes Benz car crashed into a tea stall on Monday near a petrol pump in Karnataka’s Hampi killing two people and injuring three others. Pictures of the red Mercedes’ hood in a completely mangled state went viral on Thursday after media reports emerged that the car was driven by Karnataka Revenue Minister R Ashoka’s son, Sharath.
According to a report by Kannada newspaper Prajavani, the local police did not mention Sharat’s name in the FIR though he was driving the car, in a clear bid to shield him. The report also stated that Sharat fled the scene of the crime soon after the accident occurred in another car.
The car with license plate number KA05MW0357 was speeding along the national highway at around 2.45 pm on Monday. Ravi Nayaka had gone to the puncture shop located near the Durga petrol pump in Mariyammanahalli village. Ravi and Laxman Nayak were waiting for the punctured wheel of a two-wheeler to be repaired and were drinking tea at the Tippa Nayak Tea Stall when the speeding car rammed Ravi.
The Ballari police have denied this allegation, however eyewitnesses have told news channels that Sharath was in the car. Two men who witnessed the crash told Public TV, “The car tried to maneuver around a lorry that was parked on the side of the road but the driver lost control and rammed into Ravi. It dragged him for some distance and also toppled a board. An ambulance came later and took Ravi’s body. The car passenger’s body was taken by a new SUV that came to the scene later.”
The reporter showed the men a picture of Sharath, and they both identified him as one of the people in the car.
The FIR, which TNM has a copy of, states that Rahul, a 29-year-old resident of Bengaluru’s Jalahalli was behind the wheel. The impact of the accident has grievously injured fellow passengers Shivakumar, Rakesh and Varun. Another passenger in the car, who was sitting in the front seat named Sachin died while he was being taken to the hospital at around 3.30 pm.
Soon after the allegations were made, Congress in Karnataka demanded that action be taken against Sharat. Congress National campaign in-charge Srivatsa said in a tweet, “This 18-yr old Dalit boy Ravi Naik was killed in the accident which is being hushed up by the Karnataka BJP to protect the Minister's son. Why is a VIP’s son being protected?”
The Ballari police too are denying Sharath was in the car. Ballari Superintendent of Police (SP), CK Babu said that the investigators visited the scene of the accident and that Sharath was not involved in the crime. “There were only four people in the car. The minister’s son was not in it. We conducted a preliminary probe too when there were allegations but it is not true,” he added.
The car is registered to National Public School in Bengaluru. However, TNM was unable to get a response from the school.
R Ashoka, who spoke to the media after the photos of the car went viral, neither confirmed nor denied his son’s role in the accident. “There is no one above law and let the investigation continue. Whoever is wrong here, let action be taken,” he said.
Speaking about the allegations that the police are shielding Sharath, Ashoka said,“The fact that I am a minister has no connection to this. Law is the same for all. As a minister, I should not react that that the incident happened in this way or that, when the investigation is still on. It is not respectful of the law and action will be taken on whoever it may be. The innocent people who died in the accident died between 3:30 and 4 pm.”
When R Ashoka was asked why his son’s name came up with regards to the accident, he gave no clear answer. “I don’t want to intervene during an investigation. There is no connection between the car and me. There is no connection between that organisation and me. Investigation is on and I should not say “for” or “against”. If my son is hurt, it will be clear upon investigation.”
Reporters repeatedly asked R Ashok whether his son was there during the accident, and where he is now, but he refused to disclose his whereabouts, or comment on whether his son was involved in the accident.
“Repeatedly I am saying: when the investigation report comes, we will know. The media is saying my son is involved, let me not comment on it. Investigation is on. FIR has been registered from the family of the deceased. But it does not have my son's name. I have not claimed to any media person that my son is involved. That is not true,” he said.
A video of the distraught grandmother of Ravi Nayak was shared on social media. In the video, she is heard wailing and asking “Ravi, where did go? When will you be back?”