On October 9, 29-year-old Prashant Poojary, a flower seller, Bajrang dal member and a Hindutva activist from Moodabidri, a town in Dakshina Kannada district in Karnataka, was stabbed by six motorcycle-borne men. The only witness to the controversial murder, Vaman Poojary allegedly committed suicide six days after the death of the right-wing activist.
In the last few days, as the country debated intolerance and communalism, especially in connection with the Dadri lynching, there has also been a lot of talk about the murder of Prashant Poojary.
During almost every conversation about the atrocious murder of Mohammad Akhlaq Saifi by a mob in Bisri village for allegedly slaughtering a cow and storing beef, many belonging to the right-wing would immediately argue that Prashant Poojary's murder was not being talked about enough.
The Poojary case till now
The police have arrested eight people so far for playing a role in the brutal murder of Poojary.
The News Minute has confirmation that the people arrested by the police are members of the Popular Front of India, a radical Islamic Organisation that is quite active in Karnataka.
On his death bed, Poojary allegedly named four people who were involved in the attack, while talking to his father.
On October 21, police arrested two out of the four people he had allegedly named.
Police arrested Mohammad Sharif and Mohammad Mustafa (both named by Prashant), Kabir and Mustafa Kavoor.
Prior to this, police had arrested Mohammud Haneef (36) and Mohammud Ilyas (27), Ibrahmin Liyaqat (26) and Abdul Rasheed (39) on October 18.
Speaking to The News Minute, Mangaluru police commissioner, S Murugan said,â€ť A case of murder has been registered against eight people who were arrested. While we are still looking for other two accused named by Prashant, we are also investigating their role in the murder. All the people we arrested are members of Popular Front of India (PFI) and Mohammad Sharif is the president of local unit of PFI in Bajpe in Dakshina Kannada district.â€ť
Did Poojary's role in stopping illegal cow slaughter result in his murder?
According to media reports and the Bajrang Dal itself, Prashant Poojary was actively involved with pro-Hindu groups and their activities. He participated in campaigns against cow slaughter and was even successful in the closure of a slaughterhouse in Moodabidri region.
Murugan confirms that an attack arising out of a communal grudge is one of the angles the police are looking at.
Asked about Vaman Poojaryâ€™s death, Murugan said, â€śWe are investigating Vaman Poojaryâ€™s suicide too. It is a case of unnatural death.â€ť
Bajrang Dal goes on the offensive, asks for PFI ban
Sharan Pumpwell, state president of Bajrang Dal accuses the media of double standards. â€śWhile Akhlaq was killed by a mob for cow slaughter, Prashant was working against illegal cow slaughter. He was an innocent flower seller who took interest in Hindutva movements. Neither national nor state media has given the kind of attention that they gave to Dadri lynching, to Prashant Poojaryâ€™s murder,â€ť he says.
â€śWe are aware that PFI members have been directly involved in many incidents of communal violence in the state in the last five to six years. In the case of Poojary's murder, the PFI's involvement is clear. We are demanding that the government should ban PFI,â€ťhe added.
However, state president of PFI, Mohammed Shahid said that the eight people, who were arrested for Prashantâ€™s murder have been framed.
"Sangh Parivar wants to deviate the media by highlighting the murder in Moodabidri by hijacking the agenda behind killing of Kalburgi and Akhlaq", Shahid said.
â€śThere is a significant pressure from the whole Sangh Parivar, including BJP on Mangaluru Police who are investigating the murder. In fact before the first set of arrests happened, Ilyas, local leader of PFI at Moodabidri, was called to the station two days after Prashantâ€™s death. They kept him in spite of his parents telling the police that Ilyas was no way involved. Later they arrested him too. It is clear that the police is unable to catch the culprit and are instead targeting PFI members,â€ť he added.
â€śAccording to what we have heard, Prashant would pick up quarrels with local butcher regularly, create problems for Muslims in the area and was directly involved in moral policing. He even forced a closure of a slaughter house. Anybody could have been involved in the murder,â€ť he said.
Shahid claims that nine months ago, a Hindu man connected to Sangh Parivar was killed after a communal clash in Shivamogga. "Police arrested more than 10 PFI members at that time. But later investigations revealed that the Hindu man was killed because of some property dispute in the family. The same could happen in this case too,â€ť he added.
â€śThere is something fishy in Vaman Poojaryâ€™s death. Why did the only witness kill himself? Initially there were people saying he had been getting calls from international numbers but later the police denied that he received any international calls,â€ť he countered.
Shahid even made a blanket denial. â€śI wonâ€™t accept that just because somebody carried a PFI flag on their vehicles he is a PFI member. More than 30,000 people come to our programmes. Some of them could have come to our programme.â€ť