Karnataka police have reportedly identified a ‘squad of hitmen’ who are on the run following murder of BJP youth worker Praveen Nettaru32 years old, in Bellare village of Dakshina Kannada district.
Despite the BJP State Government’s decision to hand over the Nettaru case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) following political pressure, Karnataka Police are trying to push the investigation to the point of key arrests before the transfer to avoid loss of momentum. due to a change in polling agency.
“We were able to identify the people involved in the crime, the place where the plot took place and the people who carried out the attack. We know the identities of the hitmen, but we need to catch them now. We are making every effort to catch them and I believe we will be successful soon,” Additional Police Director General (Law and Order) Alok Kumar told Mangaluru.
“We will see the progress and transfer the case to the NIA. Karnataka Police will not relinquish responsibility for tracking down the killers. Even though the whole case has not been solved yet, the Karnataka police will finish the job of finding the killers. We will solve the case…even if the final investigation is given to another agency,” ADGP Kumar said on Thursday.
Nettaru was hacked to death outside his chicken coop on the main road in the village of Bellare on the night of July 26 as he was leaving for the day. Dakshina Kannada Police have so far arrested four people who allegedly provided peripheral support to the murder. The accused arrested are Mohammed Shafiq, Zakir Savanoor, Saddam and Harris, all residents of Bellare and surrounding villages. Two of the defendants are linked to the People’s Front of India (PFI). The main attackers were said to have been sheltered and fed by Shafiq and Zakir for the days leading up to the murder.
Nettaru’s murder happened in the shadow of the killing of an 18-year-old Muslim boy in Bellare on July 20 by a gang of eight men, some associated with the Bajrang Dal.
Police are also investigating the possibility that religious animosity is playing a role due to passions running through the region over issues such as a call for boycotts of halal meat by Hindutva groups and issues such as the hijab ban in colleges.
Shortly after Nettaru’s murder, the BJP government of Karnataka decided to hand over the case to the NIA. Karnataka MP Shobha Karandlaje has written to Union Home Secretary Amit Shah demanding an NIA investigation into the matter. However, despite the government’s decision, the state police have yet to issue a transfer order.
“Even if the case is handed over to the NIA, the Karnataka Police will play a role in the investigation. We have not yet passed the case to the NIA. They are in contact with us and we are sharing information on progress. We are also in touch with the central agencies,” said ADGP Kumar.
The ADGP was dispatched to Dakshina Kannada on July 26 by the state police to bring the law and order situation under control amid rising tensions over the murder. It also followed the investigation into the Bellare murders and the subsequent killing of 23-year-old Mohammed Fazil on July 28 in the Surathkal area within the boundaries of Mangaluru town police station. Mangaluru town police have arrested a gang of six for the murder of Fazil.
Following the three community-tinged killings in the coastal region from July 20-28, the Karnataka police are also reviewing the policing measures used in the region to control the seemingly limitless proliferation of community gangs in recent years, which has resulted in several tit-for-tat murders that have occurred over the past two decades.
“An investigation is not just about arresting the accused. Sometimes even after arrests in major crime cases, prosecutions are not prosecuted properly, defendants get bail easily and cases lead to acquittals,” said ADGP Kumar. “We are conducting a tracing exercise for defendants involved in past community crimes in the region, we find out what these people are doing and what preventive measures have been taken, whether the Goonda Act has been invoked against serial criminals, and if actions like externation of goondas were ordered,” Kumar added.
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He said they were also looking at the trials of those cases. “The Deepak Rao murder case, the Sharath Madivala case, the Pinky Nawaz case, and there was a Vitala murder. We are looking at progress in all of these cases… We don’t want a situation where those who are released go back to crime,” said ADGP Kumar.
“We must break the cycle of violence. We have visited the prison and action needs to be taken regarding the activities of the prison. If there is an accused on the run, you have to find him or find him guilty, seize his property and use different laws to bring him to justice. There is a need to put in place stricter measures in the former Dakshina Kannada and Udupi region,” ADGP said.
He added that intelligence on organizations in the area needed to be strengthened and that the police had requested close monitoring of those involved in all organizations.
The polarized town of Mangaluru and the Dakshina Kannada region frequently witness murders involving gangs from both sides of the communal divide.