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Karnataka Bajrang Dal activist murder: Police says victim Harsha had two cases; Six arrested so far

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Bengaluru, Feb 22: BM Laxmi Prasad, Superintendent of Police of Shivamogga district on Tuesday said that six youths have been arrested in connection with Bajrang Dal activist Harsha's murder.

Karnataka Bajrang Dal activist murder: Police says victim Harsha had two cases; Six arrested so far

Addressing a press conference, Shivamogga SP told reporters that six accused have been arrested in connection with the murder of the 28-year-old on February 20 night.

"We have arrested Mohammed Kashif, Syed Nadeem, Ashifullah Khan, Rehan Khan, Nehal and Abdul Afnan in connection with the case. All are aged between 20 to 22 years, except Kashif who is 32. They are all residents of Shivamogga," Superintendent of Police B M Lakshmi Prasad told reporters.

He said these people were earlier staying together but were now living separately. Kashif has some criminal cases against him.

According to Prasad, a few more are involved in the case and a manhunt has been launched to track them. "We are getting lot of information. We are checking the veracity of the claim before making part of our investigation," the officer said. He also said that four of the accused were directly involved in the case while two others were part of the conspiracy.

The police officer said 12 more people were detained and questioned but their role did not come to light. Harsha also had cases pending against him, including for rioting, he said.

Meanwhile, the victim's sister rued the "brutal" manner in which Harsha was killed and appealed to people to give up fanaticism. She also wondered if there was no value for humanity.

Ashwini said she has been receiving photos and videos from unknown mobile phone numbers of her brother lying dead in a pool of blood.

"My brother always used to chant 'Jai Sri Ram' and is now no more. Is this the brutal way a person should be killed. Don't they have family members at home. Isn't there any value for humanity," she told reporters. Ashwini asked people to give up fanaticism.

"My brother is now there (in the cremation ground) because he always spoke about Hindu-Hindutva. I appeal to all my brothers and sisters, to the Muslims and Hindu-- that you should be good children of your parents and do not indulge these things," she said without elaborating.

Harsha was allegedly stabbed to death by unknown assailants Sunday night at the Ravi Varma lane in Bharathi Colony, they said.

Following Harsha's killing, the city witnessed violence, arson, stone-pelting and damage to the properties during the funeral procession on Monday that left at least three persons, including a photo journalist and a policewoman, injured.

The town, around 250 km from the state capital Bengaluru, had recently seen disruption in some colleges over the hijab row.

However, the reason behind the Sunday killing is not immediately known.

After the incident, some supporters of the deceased man came out on the streets and vented their anger. Television footage showed them pelting stones but it was not clear what their target was.

Additional Director General of Police C Pratap Reddy said a few vehicles were burnt in Tunganagar on Tuesday morning, despite prohibitory orders which have been clamped under section 144 of the CrPC. "Following the murder of Harsha, there was a very tense situation in the city and certain surrounding areas. Additional forces were rushed to Shivamogga and lot of arrangements were made by the deputy commissioner and the superintendent of police to ensure that the fallout of the murder does not spread further," Reddy said.

The official said 14 different incidents of arson and violence took place in the city after the murder, which would require filing of FIRs. In three cases FIRs have been registered, he said, adding, the police were trying to trace those who lost their motorbikes and properties in the arson and violence. Regarding the arson and violence that ensued following the murder, Prasad said it is also part of investigation. According to him, so far 18 vehicles have been damaged.

Earlier, a few BJP leaders including Karnataka Minister K S Eshwarappa and Union Minister of state Shobha Karandlaje claimed a conspiracy behind Harsha's murder, and demanded NIA probe into it. Eshwarappa, who is from the district, alleged "Musalman goondas" were behind the activist's murder. BJP National General Secretary (Organisation) B L Santosh alleged Harsha was killed by jihadi fundamentalists for his opposition to Hijab at educational institutions. Karnataka Revenue Minister R Ashoka said the murder has a link with the ongoing Hijab row in the state.

"This murder happened when the Hijab controversy started. It is evident that there is a link between this murder and the Hijab row," Ashoka said.

A few Muslim girls from Udupi had approached the Karnataka High Court when they were allegedly denied entry to the classes with their Hijabs or the Islamic headscarves on. In reaction to the girls wearing Hijab, some Hindu students started coming to college wearing saffron scarves. The trend of Hijab versus saffron scarves gradually spread to other parts of the state leading to communal tension in some educational institutions.

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