‘Withdraw case or else’: Family of lynched Karnataka Muslim youth faces death threats

Sameer Shahpur (19) was brutally attacked by Bajrang Dal members on January 17, hours after some local leaders of the outfit delivered anti-Muslim hate speeches to a crowd gathered inside the Nargund police station.
Karnataka youth Sameer Shahpur, who was lynched allegedly by Bajrang Dal members in January
Karnataka youth Sameer Shahpur, who was lynched allegedly by Bajrang Dal members in January
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The family of a Muslim youth lynched by Hindutva men in Karnataka’s Nargund taluk in Gadag district in January this year has been receiving death threats from men allegedly associated with the Bajrang Dal, a Hindu radical outfit. Sameer Shahpur (19) and his friend Shamsheer Khan Pathan (22) were brutally attacked by members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad affiliated Bajrang Dal when they were on their way to a barber shop on a bike on January 17. Shamsheer though grievously injured luckily survived while Sameer succumbed. The attack had come hours after some local Bajrang Dal leaders delivered anti-Muslim hate speeches to a crowd that had gathered inside the Nargund police station to protest against the cases being filed against Hindutva supporters in connection with communal incidents.

Sameer’s father Subhansaab Shahpur (52) told TNM that on Monday, August 15, he was waylaid by a group of men who asked him to withdraw the case against the accused in the murder of his son. “Your two other sons will face the same fate if you don’t take back the case,” Subhansaab said.

In January, eight accused including local Bajrang Dal leader Sanju Nalvade, who had made the speech targeting the minority community, were arrested. Among the accused, two juveniles are out on bail while the other six are behind bars. Their supporters are now allegedly threatening the family, which is fighting a legal battle to bring the perpetrators of Sameer’s murder to justice.

On August 13, Subhansaab was accosted by a group of men and warned to stop pursuing the case against their colleagues. “Few days back while I was on my way home from the market, some unknown people heckled me and threatened to kill me. But they left me unhurt,” he recounted while speaking to TNM. “When I narrated the incident to my family, they also got scared. I was afraid to speak about this to the police.”

Two days later, on Independence Day, Subhansaab faced a similar encounter when he was waiting for a bus outside his brother’s eatery to go home. “It was around 3.30 pm, three youths came running towards me and started to abuse me and my family badly. I couldn’t say a word because of fear,” he said.

“They were apparently drunk, they warned me that if the complaint against Sameer’s murderers were not withdrawn then they would finish off both my remaining sons,” he recalled the horrifying experience. He said that a few police officials on duty in the area intervened and detained two of the men while one managed to escape.

At 8.30 pm that day, he went to the police station to file a complaint against the culprits after discussing the matter with the Anjuman Committee (a local Muslim civil society group) heads and his family members.

Subhansaab accused the police of being soft on the culprits, alleging that when he reached the police station he saw only one of two detained men present in their custody. “When I was about to file the complaint, a senior police officer present there told me to file a complaint only against one person and not to include any other names,” he said. “I don’t understand why the police were behaving this way. If they investigated fairly, they would easily find out who the other culprits are. I was seeing those men for the first time in my life.”

He demanded that the court should reconsider the bail given to the two juveniles and arrest all the people involved in the murder and the subsequent threats.

TNM reached out to Nargund Deputy Superintendent of Police YS Yegangowda about the death threats to Sameer’s family. “The local police are being watchful, and doing whatever they can to protect Subhansaab and his family, but we haven’t received any orders from senior officers on providing them proper security,” he said.

When asked why only one person was arrested even though three men were involved in the assault at the bus stop, the DySP responded, “The incident took place when Subhansaab and the drunken miscreants had a fight. Even though the death threats were true, it was a normal issue yet the police have managed to arrest and produce the miscreants in court. Moreover, the complainant has given only one name so far.”

The FIR is registered against one person named Veerupax under IPC sections 506 (Punishment for criminal intimidation), 341 (Punishment for wrongful restraint), 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 323 (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt).

A Bajrang Dal poster with a photo of Veerupax is doing the rounds on social media. Even though TNM couldn’t confirm whether he actually belongs to Bajrang Dal, his photo post with the Bajrang Dal frame point to his affiliation to the radical outfit.

Meanwhile Sameer’s friend Shamsheer, who was injured in the January incident, said he was afraid of being attacked again after hearing about threats to Sameer’s family. “I work as a photographer and now I’m afraid to go out for work,” he said. “Till now I haven’t received any kind of threats, but if this can happen with Sameer’s father they can knock on my door too.”

Mohammed Irshad is an independent journalist based in Karnataka.

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