The Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in Puttur of Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka issued a statement distancing the student organisation from the five men accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old student in the town.
The incident came to light on Tuesday when a video of the sexual assault was circulated after which police officials approached the woman to file a complaint. Five men, Prajwal, Kishan, Prakyath, Gurunandan and Sunil, who are all 19 years old and studying in the same college as the victim, were arrested by Dakshina Kannada police later in the evening.
The five men have been charged under section 376 D (gang rape) of the Indian Penal Code, and sections under The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
Following the arrests, speculation was rife that the five arrested men belonged to the ABVP and were actively involved in the organisation. However, the organisation's secretary in Puttur has now issued a statement attempting to distance itself from the arrested men.
"Regarding this investigation, miscreants are alleging that they are ABVP workers and this misinformation has come to our notice. The accused in this case have no connection with the ABVP. They are not even members of our organisation. In spite of this, the names of the accused are being linked to the name of ABVP in a case of misinformation," read a statement by Shivaprasad KP, Secretary, ABVP, Puttur.
The statement further asks the police to apprehend the miscreants spreading this information and to block their social media accounts.
"The police department should immediately apprehend those spreading this false news and misinformation and take action against them and we request that the social media accounts of such people should be blocked," the statement says.
Police officials in Dakshina Kannada said that they will investigate the political affiliations of the accused if it becomes relevant to the case. "It is being investigated at the moment. In case the police needs to look at their (accused men) affiliations, we will definitely look into it. We have not found any relevance of that in this case right now," BM Laxmi Prasad, Dakshina Kannada Superintendent of Police, told TNM.
According to Muneer Katipalla, State President of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), the social media accounts of the accused men suggested they were part of the ABVP.
"There are photos uploaded on social media in which they are seen taking part in activities of the Sangh Parivar. Regardless of their political affiliations, this is an incident that needs to be taken seriously. I request both the coalition government in the state and BJP leaders like Nalin Kumar Kateel and Shobha Karandlaje to focus on crime against women in Dakshina Kannada," Muneer said.