Neha’s murder: A rising number of men in Karnataka are killing women they feel entitled to

TNM takes a look at the number of men who have killed women for rejecting them. There were five in Karnataka this year alone.
Neha Hiremath and the accused Fayaz
Neha Hiremath and the accused Fayaz
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The murder of the daughter of a Congress leader in Karnataka’s Hubballi has snowballed into a controversy, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) raising the bogey of ‘love jihad’ and accusing the Congress of displaying a lackadaisical attitude.

Neha Hiremath (24), a first-year MCA student at KLE Technological University, was stabbed to death on April 18 on campus allegedly by her former classmate. She died as she was being taken to hospital. The police arrested the accused Fayaz within hours of the attack.

Neha’s father, Congress councillor Niranjan Hiremath, said his daughter was killed because she tried to resist conversion. Fayaz’s family, on the other hand, have said that they want the strictest punishment for their son.

Protests have erupted all over the state, with groups of all political persuasions condemning Neha’s murder. The BJP called a bandh in Hubballi on Monday, April 22, while Dharwad-based Anjuman-e-Islam urged Muslim businesses to remain closed as a mark of condolence. Members of the Anjuman also visited Neha’s family to express condolences. 

Neha’s murder follows at least three other incidents in the past month alone, where men have attacked, often fatally, former partners or women they try to initiate relationships with. Such violent responses to rejection reflect a sense of entitlement among men — empowered and nurtured by patriarchal belief systems — which allows them to think they have the right to silence women who reject their advances.

Just last week, a man named T Suresh stabbed his former girlfriend Anusha in a park in JP Nagar in Bengaluru. Anusha had complained to the police who let him off after giving a written undertaking. Anusha’s mother, who witnessed the murder, hit Suresh with a brick, which caused the latter’s death.

On April 14, police arrested Pradeep of Bengaluru, who killed Ruksana, a woman who worked in Mysuru. They even had a baby. He killed her and burned her body near Tumakuru. The baby was found abandoned in Bengaluru and handed over to the police. 

At the end of March, Girish of Bengaluru stabbed Farida Khatoon to death in a public place. Police said she turned down Girish when he asked her to marry him. Girish had converted to Islam and changed his name to Rehan Ahmed, but later changed his name back to Girish to get his sister married.

In February this year, Deepa of Chikkaballapur was missing for five days before her decomposed body was found in a rented house. Police suspect the involvement of a man believed to be her boyfriend.

In February 2023, Shrinivas killed Shivaleela, an 18-year-old paramedical student in Bidar. He had been stalking her for several months

In March 2023, Dinakar Banala stabbed Leela Pavithra Malavathi who worked in Bengaluru. Both of them were from Andhra Pradesh and were reportedly in a relationship. He killed her when she broke it off with him.

Praveen Arun Chougule, who worked with an airline, killed his colleague Ainaz and three members of her family at their home in Dakshina Kannada district in November 2023.

The politics over a murder

Several BJP leaders such as national president JP Nadda, Union Minister Pralhad Joshi, MLAs Mahesh Tenginakai, and Aravind Bellad have met Neha’s family, as have the heads of several Lingayat maths. 

The BJP has raised the issue of Neha’s murder along with other murders in the state, such as three people of a family being killed in Gadag, to question the ruling Congress about the breakdown of law and order. The BJP and right-wing groups have also used other instances in the state to whip up a narrative that ‘Hindus are not safe’ in Karnataka under the Congress. 

Minister for Women and Child Development Lakshmi Hebbalkar told the media that the BJP was using Neha’s murder for its own gains. “This is not the first time such a murder has taken place. However, the BJP has never protested. But eyeing sympathy votes, the saffron party is mixing politics with murder,” she said.

But her statement is lost amid her party members’ controversial remarks and the fact that few Congress leaders have visited Neha’s family. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah himself was severely criticised. Responding to questions from the media on the breakdown of law and order in the state, Siddaramaiah said, “Maintaining law and order is the government’s duty and it is doing it.” He said that Neha was murdered for “personal reasons”, which has upset Neha’s family and which the BJP has capitalised on. 

Photos of Fayaz and Neha standing next to each other have been circulating on social media. Two people have reportedly been arrested by the police for posting these photos after Hindu activists filed a police complaint alleging that the duo were trying to establish that Neha and Fayaz were in a relationship. The Hubballi-Dharwad City police have even formed a special team headed by North division ACP Shivaprakash Naik after Neha’s family complained that there are more people behind Neha’s murder. 

Hubballi-Dharwad, and 13 other seats in north Karnataka which go to polls on May 7, have a substantial number of Lingayats, the community to which Neha belongs.

Other stalker murders

Bengaluru has seen several more instances of men killing the women they feel ‘entitled’ to, including the caste murder of a Dalit woman in March 2022. Shivakumar Hirehala attacked his girlfriend Daneshwari and set her on fire, after allegedly arguing over her parents’ refusal to accept her if he married her. Shivakumar is a Lingayat

In July 2022, Bhojaraj Basavaraj killed his former girlfriend and beheaded her in Vijayanagar district. According to the police, they were together for some years but later broke up.

In many instances, men attacked their current or former partners with weapons and the women survived. A man named Ismail attacked his former girlfriend Asha D Agasara with a machete in the middle of a road in Hubballi in December 2020. He attacked her allegedly because she was in a relationship with someone else. 

In February 2019, a woman in Hassan district was attacked with a machete for rejecting him and marrying a Muslim man. In April 2022, a stalker attacked a woman with acid in Bengaluru. She suffered 30% burns. He harassed her for months, asking her to marry him.

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