In yet another hate crime in Karnataka, police officials in Gadag district arrested four persons including a Bajrang Dal leader in connection with the murder of a 19-year-old Muslim man on Tuesday, January 18. Sanju Nalvade, a Bajrang Dal leader and civil contractor, was arrested along with Mallikarjun alias Gundya Muttappa Hiremath, Channabasappa alias Channu Chandrashekar Akki, and Sakrappa Hanumanthappa Kakanur. The accused are all from Nargund in Gadag district and are part of the Bajrang Dal.
They were charged by the Gadag police with killing 19-year-old Sameer Shahapur who worked at a roadside eatery in Nargund. Shamsher Khan Pathan, who works in a photography studio and is a friend of Sameer, was also allegedly attacked and is currently receiving treatment for injuries.
Sameer and Shamsher were attacked by a mob of 15 men carrying weapons on January 16. "Sameer closed the hotel and went to the barber shop that night. He then picked up Shamsher from the studio and was returning home. I realised something was wrong when he didn't return home for a long time," Sahil, a relative of Sameer told TNM.
He later found Sameer and Samsher lying on the road near the State Bank of India building in Nargund. "They were assaulted by people who had weapons near the State Bank. We immediately rushed Sameer to Karnataka Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) Hubballi but he died due to his injuries on Tuesday morning," Sahil told TNM.
The incident comes after a series of communal altercations in Nargund. Speaking to TNM, the Gadag SP Shiv Prakash Devaraju said that the conflict goes back to November 2021 when one of the accused men was attacked by a group of Muslim men. "This is the third altercation since November. We made arrests in the first case and booked the men under section 307 (attempt to murder) of the IPC. Though Sameer and Shamsher were present in this altercation, they were not directly involved," the SP said.
"But on January 14, there was a protest by Bajrang Dal members in front of the police station about booking cases against more Muslim men. These members also went to a Muslim locality and started an argument," the SP added. The protest by the Bajrang Dal was led by Sanju Nalvade and in videos of this protest, he is heard berating the police for not taking up cases against men from the Muslim community. The police filed two cases against people from both Hindu and Muslim groups over the altercation on January 14.