Kumta tense after BJP protest march turns violent

More than seven people injured; irate mob sets IGP Nimbalkar’s vehicle ablaze

December 11, 2017 11:28 pm | Updated 11:28 pm IST - Mangaluru/Bengaluru

 Up in flames:  Protesters burning tyres during a rally at Kumta in Uttara Kannada district on Monday.  Special Arrangement

Up in flames: Protesters burning tyres during a rally at Kumta in Uttara Kannada district on Monday. Special Arrangement

A protest by Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) activists at Kumta in Uttara Kannada district, over the alleged murder of a Sangh Parivar activist, turned violent with protesters resorting to stone pelting and setting a police vehicle ablaze on Monday. Over seven people were injured in the incident.

The incident comes a day after the State leadership of the party announced a series of protests in Bengaluru, Delhi, and Honnavar over the activist’s death in the constituency represented by Union Minister Anantkumar Hegde.

The BJP had given a call for bandh in Kumta and Karwar on Monday and took out a rally in Kumta. All shops and business establishments in the town were closed since morning. However, as the protest rally was nearing end, activists suddenly resorted to violence, setting fire to multiple tyres, said the police. When the firemen and police tried to control the crowd, they resorted to stone pelting, they added.

“The angry activists stopped a Bhatkal-bound KSRTC bus and began pelting stones at some of the commuters. We had to resort to caning the protesters to protect the commuters,” said a senior police official at the spot. The protesters then attacked the police with stones, apart from some shops in the locality.

Seven police personnel, including a woman assistant sub-inspector, were injured and were admitted to hospitals nearby. The protesters set ablaze the car of Inspector General of Police (Western Range) Hemant Nimbalkar, who was camping in the town since the last few days to oversee law and order. Several other vehicles, including a KSRTC bus, were also damaged.

Superintendent of Police Vinayak V. Patil said the situation in Kumta was under control. He said action is being taken against persons involved in rioting and injuring police personnel. Additional personnel have been deployed.

Bar on rallies

Uttara Kannada Deputy Commissioner S.S. Nakul has barred public meetings and rallies across the district from Tuesday to Thursday, invoking powers vested under Section 35 of the Karnataka Police Act, 1953.

Political slugfest breaks out

While Uttara Kannada district has been tense for the past five days over the death of a Hindutva activist in Honnavar, a political slugfest broke out between the Congress and BJP.

BJP State president B.S. Yeddyurappa, speaking on the sidelines of Parivartana Yatra in Shahpur, Yadgir district, alleged that the State government was trying repressing the BJP and pro-Hindu activists. Therefore, the party would give a “proper response” for the move, he said.

Paresh Mesta, 21, a resident of Honnavar, who went missing on December 6 following altercations between two communities over an accident involving an autorickshaw and motorcycle on Kumta-Honnavar Road, was found dead in a lake later in the day. BJP leader Shobha Karandlaje posted pictures of the body of Mesta on her Twitter account and alleged that the youth was murdered by “jihadis” who were supported by the Congress.

The Congress government shot back that the BJP was trying to “deliberately communalise the incident in the run-up to the polls.” Chief minister Siddaramaiah on Monday said “shockingly BJP decided it was murder even before the post-mortem report was out”. He claimed that with the Assembly polls round the corner, the BJP was trying to polarise votes and use any incident for their political gains. “It is unfortunate that the BJP is indulging in politics over the death of a man,” he added.

Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy said the BJP must wait for the autopsy report and added that if the autopsy concluded that it was murder, suitable action would be taken.

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