One person has died and three injured following stone-throwing in Madikeri town, Kodagu district over Tipu Jayanti.
Kuttayya (50), the organising secretary of the VHP’s Kodagu district died in the district hospital on Tuesday morning. The total number of injured is unclear.
Initially, it was thought that Kuttayya had succumbed to injuries sustained due from stone-pelting. However, the police have denied this.
Kodagu SP Vartika Katiyar told The News Minute, “There are rumours that the VHP leader died due to a bullet he was shot. But he died after he fell off a building of 15 feet, he had scaled it as the pelting started.”
Video footage telecast by television channels and photographs show the body of a person lying amid shrubbery and people carrying the person, asking if a stretcher is available. Health workers then take the person to an ambulance.
Madikeri was peaceful by around 2 pm and that the situation was under control.
The VHP however has denied the police's version and allege that stone pelting started as their procession clashed with a Muslim procession supporting Tipu Jayanti.
VHP had called a bandh on Tuesday to protest the state government’s move to organise Tipu Jayanti celebrations in the state. A large crowd had gathered in Thimmayya Circle in Madikeri town, to protest the district administration’s celebration of Tipu Jayanti. Another set of people had come from various parts of the district to attend the celebrations.
It is still unclear how events unfolded, but towards evening, Karnataka police chief Om Prakash told to BTV News that Kuttayya’s death was an “accident”, and not due to injuries from stone pelting.
He said that VHP activists who were demonstrating near a hospital close to the Town Hall, did not heed police instruction to stop. They continued towards Town Hall, where the government had organized Tipu Jayanti celebrations, forcing the police to lathicharge.
“Meanwhile the (now) deceased Kuttappa ran towards the hospital and climbed up to the first floor of the hospital. The hospital has two compartments where one building is for hospital and other for quarters for hospital staff. While running he lost his balance and fell of from about 20 feet height. When we shifted him to hospital, he was declared brought dead. The police or the Pro Tippu people are not responsible for anything,” Om Prakash said.
He also clarified that another death in the hospital was not related to the day’ events. A man named Raju had died on Tuesday after being hospitalised for liver damage two two days ago.
“Another injured person Sohail has not received any bullets. There is not even a single bullet wound found in him. He was injured during lathi charge. I request in the people of Karnataka not to listen to any political conspiracies. We should encourage communal harmony and peace. And police will take control over the situation.”
He said that the police had already deployed more companies of District Armed Reserve, Rapid Action Force, Karnataka State Reserve Police. He added that Additional Director General of Police Alok Mohan was also on his way to Madikeri.
On its website, Samvada, the RSS had issued a statement in the morning, claiming that Kuttayya had been hacked to death by miscreants.
The VHP’s Organising secretary for Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Gopal had told The News Minute on Monday that the parishad had called for a Kodagu bandh on Tuesday, to protest the state government’s decision to observe Tipu Jayanti on November 10. The BJP too had said that it would protest against the state goverment’s decision to officially observe Tipu Jayanti on November 10 henceforth.
In Bengaluru, the government of Karnataka observed Tipu Jayanti as scheduled in the bandquet hall in Vidhan Soudha, with several writers and intellectuals besides government officials participating in the event.
Both the Congress and BJP have been taking barbs at each other over this issue.
Historians and intellectuals too have taken sides, with some calling Tipu “anti-Hindu” and others saying that a section of historical writing about Tipu had been distorted to project him as “anti-Hindu”.
In Mangaluru, seven Bajrang Dal activists have been arrested for attempting to forcibly enter the Dakshina Kannda Zilla Panchayat building to stop the official event. As the day wore on, clashes were reported from Afzalpur in Kalaburgi district and protests were reported from Chikmaglur and Tumakuru districts.
(This story has been updated during the day as more details emerged.)