Tension prevailed at Honnavar town in Uttara Kannada district after the body of a missing Hindu activist was found in a lake on Friday night. The recovery of the body comes two days after the small town near Karwar witnessed violence on Wednesday.
Twenty-one-year-old Paresh Mesta’s body was found floating in the Shetty Lake located near a temple on Friday night.
Paresh’s relatives, however, suspect foul play, and told the media that he was an expert swimmer as he belonged to the fishing community. Adding to the tension in the are were rumours that there were injury marks on his body. An autopsy report, however, is still awaited.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje demanded a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into Paresh’s death.
Calling it a “brutal murder”, Shobha accused the police of a cover-up. She alleged, “The murder was covered up because Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was touring the Uttara Kannada district when the stone pelting incidents were reported.”
The Udupi-Chikkamagaluru MP said that Paresh was at the temple which was being attacked when he tried to escape. “There were prohibitory orders in place. Despite this, stones and shoes were hurled at the temple. CCTV footage shows that uniformed police personnel are standing still and not doing anything about the mob armed with weapons,” Shobha Karandlaje alleged.
Several BJP and RSS leaders visited Paresh’s house on Saturday. Union minister Anant Kumar Hegde, MP Shobha Karandlaje, Vishweshwar Hedge Kageri, Shivanand Naik and others visited Paresh’s house.
Hundreds of people, led by BJP leaders, took out a funeral procession carrying Paresh’s body. Union Minister Anantkumar Hegde, who was also part of the procession, accused the state government of indulging in partisan politics.
Security was beefed up after Paresh’s body was recovered. More than 1,000 police personnel from different districts have been moved to Honnavar to maintain law and order.
It all began on Wednesday when an altercation between an autorickshaw driver and a motorbike rider flared up into a communal clash.
“An altercation began between a motorbike rider and autorickshaw driver over a small accident. This became a major fight and snowballed into incidents where mobs wielding machetes and wooden sticks attacked houses and shops belonging to a particular community,” Inspector General of Police, Hemanth Nimbalkar said.
A few hours after the stone pelting incident, Paresh Mesta went missing after he reportedly tried to escape the stone pelting.
Rumours, however, that Paresh had been abducted added to the tension in Honnavar.
According to IG Nimbalkar, stone pelting incidents were also reported in rural areas of Honnavar taluk on Thursday.
So far, police have been arrested 40 people, including the former president of the Honnavar town panchayat, in connection with the incidents of stone pelting.