The police in Mangaluru have arrested six people in connection with the murder of Muslim youth Fazil in Karnataka’s Surathkal on July 28. 23-year-old Fazil, a daily wage worker at Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), was hacked to death on the evening of July 28, in what is seen as a retaliatory attack in response to the murder of BJP youth wing worker Praveen Nettaru, who was attacked and killed on July 26.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, August 2, Mangaluru police commissioner Shashi Kumar said that the six people who have been arrested have been identified as Suhas Shetty (29), Mohan (26), Giridhar (23), Abhishek (21), Srinivas (23), and Deekshith (21). All of them were known to each other through common links, the police official said. In addition to these six persons, Ajith Crasta, the owner of the car used in the murder, was arrested by the police.
The police said that the accused people, led by Suhas Shetty, planned to attack Fazil, and that they had been observing him for some days before the attack. They also recce’d the area where he works, the police said.
Suhas Shetty, who coordinated the attack on Fazil, is a resident of Bajpe in Dakshina Kannada and has four prior cases against him, including previous assaults on Muslim men and a murder case from 2010, the police said. He discussed a plan to commit a murder on the night of July 26, the day BJP youth worker Praveen Nettaru was killed in Bellare village in Sullia taluk of Dakshina Kannada. Praveen’s murder followed the murder of Masood, a resident of Kalanja in Sullia taluk on July 21.
Giridhar, Abhishek, Srinivas and Deekshit are from Surathkal in Dakshina Kannada district and the police official said that it was them who planned the attack on Fazil.
According to the police, Suhas met Giridhar and Mohan Singh alias Nepali Mohan on July 27 and discussed the crime before meeting Ajith Crasta and promising him Rs 15,000 in exchange for borrowing his Hyundai Eon car for three days.
The police said that the accused persons got together on July 28 and followed Fazil in the Hyundai Eon car. Fazil, who was in Mangaluru city during the day between 12 pm and 6 pm, returned to Surathkal in the evening. He was standing in front of a clothes store — Bee Jays — when he was attacked. Police officials said that he was familiar with people who managed shops near this cloth store, in particular the owners of SK Mobiles and Bling, two shops close to the cloth store.
Around 8 pm on July 28, a group of three men arrived outside the store and attacked Fazil with a long knife. While Giridhar was driving the car, Suhas, Abhishek and Mohan got down from the car to assault Fazil as Srinivas stood guard. The assailants then fled towards the neighbouring Udupi district and abandoned the car in Inna village in Karkala taluk of the district.
Police officials said that the accused were arrested near Udyavara in Udupi district in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
The police commissioner denied that the attack was linked to a personal issue and debunked reports suggesting that Fazil was attacked by Muslim men over a love affair. He also denied that it was a case of mistaken identity and said that the police investigation showed that Fazil was targeted by the assailants.
Fazil’s murder came close on the heels of the murder of BJP youth wing member Praveen Nettaru, sparking tension in the district of Dakshina Kannada and prompting authorities to impose prohibitory orders to prevent a law and order situation. Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has said that he will visit the families of the three men who died recently — Masood, Fazil as well as Praveen. The murder of the BJP youth wing worker also led to protests by the BJP cadre against the BJP.