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Mangaluru: A 19-year-old Muslim man succumbed to his injuries in Karnataka’s Mangaluru on Thursday, July 21, two days after he was allegedly assaulted by members of a rightwing Hindutva outfit.
Masud, a painter by profession, and originally from Kerala had been staying at his grandmother’s house in Kelanje village of Karnataka for the last month. He has four siblings in Kerala. His father is no more.
Police have registered a case and arrested eight people, all of whom are members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad-Bajrang Dal. They have been identified as Sudhir, Sunil Kelanje, Abhilash Bellare, Jim Ranjith, Shivaprasad, Bhaskar, Ranjith, Sadashiva.
Posts circulating on social media have identified Abhilash Bellare as the Akhada Pramukh of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad-Bajrang Dal’s Valmikhi Shakha at Bellare, Sunil Kelanje as the ‘Gau Raksha’ Pramukh of the same outfit, and Ranjith as its Suraksha Pramukh. The Wire has not been able to confirm whether the three held these positions but has confirmed that all eight were indeed members of the rightwing outfit. The two organisations, VHP and Bajrang Dal, are understood to function as a single composite unit in the area.
Of the eight accused, Bellare, Ranjith and Kelanje have criminal history. Four out of the eight had been charged under section 107 (imposed on wilful offenders) during July 9-10, the weekend of Eid ul-Adha, in a different case.
A week before Eid, Masud had purchased a three-month-old calf, said 24-year-old Shanif, Masud’s friend since childhood. Upon having been tipped off, police visited their house to inquire into whether Masud intended to slaughter it. Masud, in fact, wanted to rear the cow, says his friend.
“Since then, Masud had been saying that his neighbour Sudhir had been giving him hostile stares and has attempted to intimidate him by keeping a watch on him whenever he took the calf out for grazing. He had told this to me and I had suggested that he ignore it and try to avoid contact with him,” said Shanif, who works in Bengaluru and had gone to Kelanje for Eid.
On July 19, Sudhir and Masud had a heated argument, in the course of which they both physically assaulted each other. Hours later, Sudhir lured Masud to a secluded spot in the village and severely beat him up along with seven others.
“All these people reached Kelanje at around 10:45 pm,” says Shanif, narrating how they managed to get Masud to the spot.
He says, the group began calling out to Masud from the streets.
“Listening to this loud shouts, I came out of my house and asked what was happening. They insisted that I bring Masud to the place. I initially refused to since I thought these people would attack Masud. But, Sunil promised me, swearing on the temple of Vishnu Nagar, that the goal was to solve the quarrel peacefully with mediation and said that they will not do anything to Masud,” he says.
Shanif says because Sunil swore at the temple and were neighbours whom he knew, he did not think that he would go back on his words. Now, he is wracked by remorse. “I have not been able to face Masud’s mother since,” he says.
Shanif, along with his cousin Nasir, reached Masud’s house at around 11 pm.
“I convinced Masud’s mother that we will resolve this once and for all and brought Masud to the spot where they were waiting for us. When we reached the place, the group attacked us ruthlessly with stones and bottles. I tried to protect Masud but I was also hit and injured,” says Shanif.
“Abhilash (one of the accused) then hit Masud’s head hard with a soda bottle,” he adds.
Masud eventually managed to flee. A police patrolling party soon arrived at the spot and drove away the attackers.
Shanif and his friends started looking for Masud but were unable to find him for more than two hours. They found him lying down near a well, unconscious. It was around 2 am then. They took him to a local hospital, which declared him serious and he was shifted to Mangaluru, around 50 kilometres away, for better treatment.
Three of the accused, Sunil, Shivprasad and Sudhir also accompanied Masud to the local hospital. They allegedly lied to hospital staff, saying Masud had been injured in a fall. The three left for home as Shanif and others took Masud to Mangaluru.
Masud’s family informed police soon after, and Sunil and others were arrested.
Doctors at Mangaluru, after examining Masud, informed his family that a brain surgery cannot be conducted as there is a blood clot.
Two days after the attack on him, Masud passed away at the hospital.
The FIR registered against the accused invokes various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including sections 143 (Being member of an unlawful assembly), 147, 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 302 (murder) and 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object).
Head constable of Bellare station, Balakrishna, told The Wire that all eight were arrested the day after the incident in the morning.
“Even the SI visited the spot on the night of the incident. Initially, along with other section, attempt to murder  was used, now it has been changed to 302 [murder],” he said.