Hindu activists murdered with impunity in Karnataka
by Shriram Luktuke on 24 Nov 2018 7 Comments

Investigations into the murder of activist Gauri Lankesh have long dominated the media, with details of how the alleged killers planned it carefully, how saffron terrorism is growing and so-called free thinkers are in peril. The Karnataka Government invoked the most stringent criminal law in the State, The Karnataka Control of Organized Crime Act, against the accused, with the result that the arrested persons may remain in police custody for a month as opposed to a maximum of 15 days in regular criminal cases.


The leftists are demanding a ban on Hindu organisations. Sanatan Sanstha offers a juicy target, and hence the unending attacks and television debates all over the country. It is alleged that four murders are connected with Sanatan Sanstha, namely, Dr. Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M.M. Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh. Though no investigation has alleged any link in the M.M. Kalburgi case, the investigating agencies in Karnataka are expected to indict the organisation.


While murder is a crime that cannot be defended, the selective enthusiasm of the Karnataka Police reminds me of a series of murders that happened in just one district of Karnataka over a period of around eight years.


Murders without investigations


The Karnataka police wound up a case of attempt to murder of V. Giridhar and his friend on July 3, 2009 without a proper investigation.


There was a life-threatening attack on Giridhar and his friend during riots following the destruction of an unauthorized mosque in Mysuru district, in July 2009. A mosque was allegedly under construction on land belonging to a temple, and the said construction was vandalised. Three persons died in the riots that followed. Next day, Giridhar, a Hindu activist, and his friend, Wajid, were attacked while sitting in his car and chatting in front of his house on BT Mill Road. Four masked men riding motorbikes surrounded the car and smashed the windows with clubs. A bandh was called by Hindu Jagarana Vedike and Sriram Sene to condemn this communal violence at Kyathamaranahalli, which was reported by the media.


The police, however, claimed that the incident was due to “old rivalry” and had no link with the violence at Kyathamaranahalli (The Hindu, July 4, 2009). There was virtually no investigation, no one was arrested for the assault, and the police ultimately filed a ‘C’ summary report (filed when the Police are not able to come to any definite conclusion).


Confession by an accused in the murder of one K. Raju, forced the police to re-investigate the Giridhar case. In the Raju murder probe, accused Mujamil and others accepted their role in the deadly assault on Giridhar, and many other crimes. It became necessary to form a Special Investigation Team to investigate all these crimes and to invoke the Karnataka Control of Organised Crimes Act in the said assault.


The Siddaramaiah Government, however, allowed a shoddy investigation. Mujamil was arrested in the V. Giridhar assault case on July 7, 2016 and kept in police custody till July 13, 2016 (just six days as compared to the normal duration of 14 days for regular crimes and 30 days for crimes under KCOCA). The short custody accompanied news that an organised gang was out to kill Hindu activists and leaders. To make a show, provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act were applied to the case, but the stringent provisions of the Act were never used in the investigation. Giridhar and Wajid being eye-witnesses, police could have carried an identification parade of the arrested accused persons to augment the case.


Instead, the investigating officer deliberately slept on this issue so that the bail applications of the accused were allowed by the Court. While granting bail to Mujamil, the Sessions Court observed that the investigating officer did not conduct an identification parade. Mujamil got bail in December 2016, despite UAPA made applicable. Thereafter, the charge-sheet was filed in which the provisions of UAPA were dropped quietly. Thus, accused Abid Pasha also got bail.


Thus, an offence committed in 2009 was investigated in 2016, and at the time of writing this article only charges have been framed. The case may drag on for another three-four years, but is certain to result in acquittals. The Hindu Vidhidnya Parishad has written letters to the Home Secretary, Inspector General, Mysuru Police, and Director of Public Prosecution, Karnataka demanding action against the investigating officers and prosecutors of this case. These have been forwarded to the prosecutors by the authorities.


Another case pertains to the attempt by the Government to save the accused in case of attempt to murder Bharatiya Janata Party leader, Ananda Pai, and his companion, Ramesh, in 2009.


Abid Pasha and his gang also attacked BJP leader, Ananda Pai, on the night of June 9, 2009, when Anand Pai and Ramesh were travelling on a motorbike. Ramesh, who was driving, died in the attack; Anand Pai survived. The Police did not investigate the matter and filed a ‘C’ summary report on May 2, 2011 (closing investigations).


Investigations began only after confessions in the K. Raju murder case. The Police did not invoke KCOKA despite proof that this was a gang which was already charge-sheeted in some murder cases. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was invoked for formality and bail was not opposed even on terror charges.


In the Gauri Lankesh case, the accused were given the maximum Police custody, but these accused who had links with the Popular Front of India (PFI), were given minimal Police custody. Safir Ahmad was held for two days, and Tabrej Ahmad Khan, K.T. Sameer Babu for just one day. The period for filing charge-sheet under UAPA can be extended to 180 days, but that facility was not availed. Custody can be taken for 30 days; but was not sought by the Karnataka Police. And again, the provisions of UAPA were dropped at the time of filing the charge-sheet.


No Narco-test was sought for these accused in any of the cases. As such, the case is certain to result in acquittals. This will allow minority leaders to allege that their youth are falsely implicated by the Government.


The third case with serious lapses in the investigation pertains to the attempt to kill bookshop owners and brothers, Harish and Satish, for selling RSS literature. On November 12, 2009, in Mysuru, the brothers were assaulted with sharp weapons, resulting in the death of Harish died. Again, the police did not investigate the crime and filed a ‘C’ Summary report.


This case, too, was re-opened due to the K. Raju murder case. Again, custody was taken and provisions of UAPA applied initially and dropped at the time of filing the charge-sheet. The identification parade papers were not made available so as to give the accused the benefit of bail. The charge of conspiracy to murder was not applied by the police and not insisted on by the public prosecutor. Mujamil was not taken into Police custody for even one day, but was immediately sent to judicial custody. The charges have not been framed to this day.


A fourth case relates to the murders of Thyagaraj Pillai and two students. Thyagaraj Pillai had allegedly given a loan of Rs. 15,000/- to Gouse Khan who had not repaid it. Then, suspecting that Pillai has become intimate with Gouse Khan’s sister, Abid Pasha, Gouse Khan and others clubbed him to death with iron rods, on May 21, 2010. The Police did not arrest the accused.


The accused also abducted two students, Veeghnesh and Sudheendra (brothers), from Mysuru for a ransom of Rs. 5 crore. After relatives contacted the Police, the accused killed both brothers in cold blood and threw their bodies at a remote spot.


The double murder rocked the State, forcing the Police to arrest some of the accused persons, who confessed to the murder of Thyagaraj Pillai. But the confession was not recorded before a Magistrate and had no legal sanctity; nor was sufficient evidence gathered to prove the case. Abid Pasha went underground and surfaced only after the case against the remaining accused had ended in acquittals.


Abid Pasha filed an application in the High Court saying that as the other accused were acquitted, there was no reason to continue the trial against him and he should be acquitted. The High Court allowed his application and he was acquitted on January 11, 2018 by Justice Phaneendra.


Another murder is of Parveen Taj, on July 7, 2015 for allegedly luring Muslim girls into prostitution. Again, there was no investigation and only after confessions in the K. Raju murder case were the Police forced to investigate this case. It ran the same trajectory – formal arrest followed by no investigation, no KCOCA, no UAPA. All accused are out on bail, and the case will never end in a conviction.


As for K. Raju, he was a BJP and VHP activist, who had taken the lead in constructing a temple; he died after a lethal sickle attack. The party called a bandh to protest the murder in Mysore city and there were violent protests at several places. Police Commissioner, B. Dayanand, was heckled by the angry protesters. But the motive behind the murder is still not clear; was it because Raju had played a key role in building a temple at Kyathamaranahalli.


BJP’s State President Prahlad Joshi and VHP urged the Police to conduct a speedy probe and arrest the culprits. But here again one saw the sad sage of no Special Investigation Team, no monitoring by political bosses as is happening in the Gauri Lankesh case. There is no media coverage of the family members of K. Raju.


It is significant that K. Raju was a witness in a double murder case against this gang; they may have wanted to eliminate him as a warning to other witnesses. It was the duty of the Siddaramaiah Government to provide protection to all witnesses in these cases, but it did nothing of the sort. As a result, the prime witness in Thyagaraj Pillai Case turned hostile. Though a charge sheet has been filed in the K. Raju murder case, there is no KCOCA, no UAPA, no Special investigation Team, no Special Court, no extended time for filing the charge sheet, no proper custody of the accused, and obviously no proper investigation. All the accused are bound to be acquitted and will feel emboldened to attack more Hindu activists.


There are glaring links between the murders and the Popular Front of India (PFI). Initially, this gang operated under the name of Karnataka Forum for Dignity, which was banned by the Government. So these criminals merged with the PFI. Besides these murders, the PFI activists are involved in the murder of Rudresh, who was killed in broad daylight. Yet there is no move to ban the PFI and invoke strict laws against terrorists.


For now, there is no level playing field for Hindu activists.


The author is a social workers and member, Hindu Janjagruti Samiti

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