In his attempt to counter Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) allegations of lawlessness in the state, Karnataka Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy ended up contradicting his own stand on the controversy around a Hindu boy, Paresh Mesta's death. While the case is still under investigation, Reddy deemed Mesta's death as an instance of communal violence. Mesta's inclusion in the list was, HM's office said, based on his father's statement deeming it a case of communal violence.
According to the statistics presented in the Karnakata legislative assembly by Reddy on Tuesday, 24 people have lost their lives to communal violence in the state in the last five years. While the Congress has been attempting to dislodge the BJP's argument of Paresh Mesta's death and the recent killing of Santosh as an attack on Hindu or Sangh Parivar activists, Reddy went ahead and deemed both cases communal, albeit pending investigation.
Ahead of Karnataka assembly elections 2018, the BJP in Karnataka has claimed that 23 "Hindu activists" have been murdered in cases of communal violence including Paresh Meshta- a teen from Honnavar whose putrefied body was found in a temple tank a day after he was reported missing. In a bid to counter the BJP's claims and clarify facts of the cases, Reddy told the house that at least 14 of the 23 cases referred to as communal by the BJP, were crimes committed for personal or political purposes.
Out of the 24 people killed in communal violence since 2013, 13 are Muslims and 11 are Hindus. The list also features the name of Paresh Mesta. The Congress including Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had vehemently rejected the BJP's allegation that Mesta's death was communal. The Home Minister's response in the house, however, contradicts the same.
"The government should not conclude that Mesta's case is communal. No such connection has been established so far. Even the cause of death is still unclear," said an officer involved in the investigation of the case.
Honnavar in coastal Karnataka witnessed violent protests over Mesta's death with the BJP deeming it a case of communal violence. While the Home Minister maintained that Mesta and Santosh's deaths were included in the list of 'communal violence' to give the BJP a "benefit of a doubt", the official record now gives strength to the BJP's claims while contradicting the Congress' stance on the issue.