Days ago, 20-year-old Dhanyashree was driven to suicide following threats from pro-Hindu outfits for speaking to a Muslim man. On Thursday, the Mudigere police in Chikkamagaluru district arrested the prime accused in the case, a 20-year-old man called Santhosh.
On Thursday, Santhosh was picked up from Bengaluru by the Mudigere Police as he had absconded after Dhanyashree’s death. He is accused of abetting Dhanyashree’s suicide.
Santhosh is a native of Badagakajekar village in Bantwal taluk and works as a lift mechanic.
According to Chikkamagaluru Superintendent of Police K Annamalai, Santhosh had sent messages to Dhanyashree on WhatsApp and also threatened her parents.
“He had circulated screenshots of his conversation with the woman in different groups, therefore abetting her suicide. A team of police officers led by Mudigere PSI M Rafeek arrested him in Bengaluru today (Thursday),” SP Annamalai said.
The police have already arrested MV Anil, President of Mudigere town unit of BJP’s Yuva Morcha, in this case.
Santhosh had allegedly called Dhanyashree and identified himself as a member of Bajrang Dal. He had allegedly objected to her friendship with a Muslim man. “Santhosh assumed that she was friends with a Muslim man. Hence, he began harassing her. Later he had shared the screenshots of his conversation with many groups. A few members of pro-Hindu outfits had also visited the woman’s place and threatened her and parents. The woman committed suicide on January 6,” SP Annamalai said.
A senior police officer involved in the investigation told TNM that at every stage in the investigation members of certain pro-hindutva groups were trying to derail the probe.
“The father was drunk when the Mudigere Police took down his statement following Dhanyashree’s death. We have learnt that these members of pro-hindutva groups had influenced him. The father had not revealed the reason for the woman’s death. Later, women police officers visited the mother of the woman and recorded a video statement in which she has said that the members of right-wing groups had harassed her daughter and family, due to which she had committed suicide,” the senior police official said.
Meanwhile, on January 10, an unverified audio of a journalist claiming to have been questioning Dhanyashree’s mother was doing the rounds on WhatsApp. The investigating officers, on Thursday, issued summons to the journalist and have asked him to appear for questioning.
In a press conference conducted on Thursday, SP Annamalai has warned members of pro-hindutva groups of stringent action if they interfere in the probe.
“This is a peaceful district. Do not try to incite violence here. It is everyone’s right to free speech but one should be mindful of not inciting hatred or violence. It has come to our notice that several members of certain groups have been furnishing false information to the media to influence perceptions and create hatred. Such elements will not be spared and strict action will be taken,” SP Annamalai said.
The senior police officer also warned the media and said that unverified information and information amounting to violating the privacy of the victim’s families will not be tolerated.
Trouble started when Dhanyasree chatted with a friend of hers. The friend, Santosh, questioned her about her friendship with a Muslim man, and she replied saying 'I love Muslims.' A screenshot of this reply was widely circulated among groups in the district, especially Sangh Parivar groups.
Unable to take the harassment, Dhanyashree committed suicide around 10 pm on January 7. Police officials in Mudigere recovered a suicide note at the home of the victim which alleges that a group of five men questioned her friendship with a person from another community.
“In the suicide note we have found that a group of men had gone to the woman’s home in the evening and got into a fight with her and her mother. They accused her of roaming with a person from another community thereby raising issues of love jihad,” said K Annamalai, Superintendent of Police, Chikkamagaluru.
The police have also identified a photograph of the woman with the man that was circulated on social media and are looking to question everyone who has passed comments about it. “There was a photo in which the woman is with a man from another community and a lot of people have circulated this photo casting aspersions on the woman, so we are also trying to find whoever has sent the photo to this woman by making any comment which would have hurt her, forcing her to take this extreme step,” said Annamalai.
“We are getting deep into social media accounts to try to understand whether anybody from outside has given some kind of comments or a threat from outside,” he added.