Bengaluru: A protest by a Hindu group, led by a BJP MP, against the murder of a girl in north Karnataka’s Bidar district turned violent on Tuesday, with the protesters pelting stones on cops and setting a police jeep on fire. An SP, two constables and the MP, Bhagwanth Khuba, were injured in the incident.
The Hindu Hitharakshana Vedike had called for a Bidar bandh on Tuesday and sought permission to hold a bike rally through Ambedkar Chowk, the centre of the town, to protest the 20-year-old girl’s murder.
Pooja, a BA student, had been allegedly killed by a man from the Muslim community on January 27. She and the accused had been friends for three years, but later she distanced herself from the man fearing her family’s wrath.
According to police, the accused had been trying to initiate contact with her over the past month. CCTV footage from outside her house shows the two going somewhere on a bike. Pooja’s body was later found in a forest near Khanapur in Kosam village. The accused, 23, has been arrested, police said.
The murder had sparked outrage, with members of the ABVP calling it a case of ‘Love Jihad’. On Tuesday, the protesters wanted to submit a memorandum to the district deputy commissioner's office after holding a demonstration.
Although denied permission, the Hindu group started bike rallies from four to five different places in the city and around 2,000 members congregated at the Ambedkar Chowk. They were joined by Khuba and the BJP’s district president as well.
To pacify the protesters, the police then allowed the group’s leaders and the BJP members to speak for an hour there and then five of them could head towards the DC’s office to give their memorandum.
However, things turned ugly as the protesters demanded they be allowed to take their procession through the Old Fort Area, which is a Muslim-dominated area.
The police denied permission, but when the protesters did not budge, they took some of them into preventive custody.
This proved to be the trigger, as protesters started pelting stones on policemen and their vehicles. To control the mob, the police had to resort to lathicharge. In the clashes, an SP, two constables and the BJP MP were wounded.
Khuba said that the entire responsibility for the protests taking a violent turn rests on the police. “We did not force shops to close down. Police were arbitrarily lathi-charging,” he said.
Demanding a judicial probe into the case, he also alleged that “anti-social” elements from outside the district had come and police did not control them. This led to many protestors getting injured, he said.