Girl student's murder in Karnataka: father upholds BJP's 'Love Jihad' allegations

ABVP activists during their protest against the killing of BVB College student Neha Hiremath, in Hubballi. Photo: PTI

Hubballi (Karnataka):The murder of the daughter of a city Corporation Councillor on the campus of her college here has sparked widespread condemnation and protests. The ruling Congress government has landed in a tough spot as the father of the girl maintained that it is a case of love jihad upholding BJP's allegations.

The issue has snowballed into a political slugfest between ruling Congress and opposition BJP in Karnataka. While the ruling party has tried to project it as an incident with a personal angle, the saffron party suspects love jihad and has said that it shows the deterioration of law and order in the state.

BJP's student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and other organisations aligned to Hindutva outfits have staged protests demanding justice and calling for severe punishment for the accused.

Similar protests have been reported in various other places.

In a shocking incident, Neha Hiremath (23), daughter of Congress Councillor of Hubballi-Dharwad Municipal Corporation Niranjan Hiremath, was stabbed to death on the campus of BVB College on Thursday.

The accused Fayaz Khondunaik, who fled the scene, was arrested by police subsequently.

Neha was a first year student of Master of Computer Applications and Fayaz was earlier her classmate.

According to a senior police officer, Fayaz, who stabbed her multiple times, claimed during interrogation the two had been in a relationship but she had been avoiding him of late. "It needs to be corroborated and verified, but he was arrested immediately."

In Munavalli, Fayaz's hometown in Belagavi district, there is outrage and demonstrations have been held by various organisations condemning the murder.

Union Minister and Dharwad Lok Sabha BJP candidate Pralhad Joshi suspected that there was a love jihad angle behind the incident.

There is complete deterioration of law and order under Congress regime, he alleged, urging CM Siddaramaiah to stop minority appeasement politics and special treatment to a "particular community."

However, Home Minister G Parameshwara said there was no "love jihad" angle as of now.

"According to my information they both were in love with each other. The boy is said to have stabbed the girl as she tried to distance herself from him. The love jihad angle is not seen as of now. He might have feared her marrying someone else, the details are not known yet," Parameshwara said.

Speaking to reporters in Tumakuru, he said, when such incidents happen, the BJP routinely blames Congress, which is not right.

"The government will control such incidents in accordance with law, but viewing everything with a political angle at the time of elections is not right. They (BJP) cannot dictate to investigate in a certain way and to invoke certain sections. Based on evidence, police will put the sections," he added.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said personal reasons were behind the murder. "The law and order situation in Karnataka is good. It is the duty of the government to maintain law and order of the state, and we are doing it."

Calling this a shocking incident, BJP leader and former chief minister Basavaraj Bommai noted that as far as he could remember such a daylight murder on a college campus with a knife had never happened in Hubballi. He further said the government has to take this very seriously as "this is not an issue concerning any individual and that it concerns the entire state."

"A high-level inquiry has to be done, it cannot be done by the local police here, as everyone here in Hubballi-Dharwad including the commissioner is inactive. A SIT (special investigation team) should be formed," he said.

Hubballi-Dharwad Police Commissioner had yesterday said, the girl was stabbed as she rejected the accused's love proposal, but the Home Minister today says they were in love, Bommai pointed out, adding, "This shows that the government is trying to look at it with a political and vote-bank angle."

Siddarmaiah's statement that the murder was due to "personal reasons" and Parameshwara's comments that the two were in love, has elicited sharp reactions from Neha's family members and opposition parties.

State BJP chief B Y Vijayendra said since the Congress came to power last year, the law and order situation has completely deteriorated in the state.

"The Congress, the CM and Deputy CM have to take responsibility for such incidents increasing in the state...such incidents are repeatedly happening, there is no fear of law."

Reacting to the incident and BJP's allegations, Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar said the government is firm on taking action in accordance with law and no one can take law into their hands.

The government will not interfere in the investigation, the law will take its course, he said.

"During Bommai and other's time (as CM) too such incidents have happened due to personal reasons, but we are very firm in dealing with such types of criminals."

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