On 17 January, 19-year-old Sameer Shahpur, from Nargund, Gadag district of Karnataka, picked his friend Shamsheer Khan on his way to return home, hesitant to travel alone due to a Hindutva event in the neighbourhood.
But he never made it home.
Both the Muslim youths were attacked by armed Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh cadres near the municipality office of Nargund.
A CCTV visual from Nargund State Bank near Sangarwara shows how Shamsheer was chased and stabbed several times before he makes a narrow escape.
Though both were rushed to hospital, Sameer succumbed to injuries. Shamsheer is still in critical care at Karnataka Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS).
According to police, the attack was motivated by “hatred towards the Muslim community”.
Fayaz, a mutual friend of Sameer and Shamseer, says about a dozen RSS cadres were involved in the attack.
“Shamsheer was a pillion rider. He managed to escape from the mob but Sameer, who was riding the bike, was mercilessly stabbed in the chest,” Fayaz told Maktoob.
Sameer worked in a Biryani shop owned by his elder brother Zuber near the Nargund bus stop. Shamsheer was a photographer.
“My brother was a normal person just like any other person, he never had any enmity with anyone. We both used to work in my stall. Later that night, when he was attacked, I was in our home.
“It was him pleading for help he said “Bhaiya a mob have stabbed me please save my life”. I rushed to the spot I found him fallen on the ground,” says Zuber Shahpur, Sameer’s elder brother.
“My brother is innocent and he was mercilessly stabbed. We demand justice for my brother. I pray to God that no family should go through the sufferings we are going through right now. I know my brother is a shaheed —martyr— and he is in the heaven,” he lamented.
The incident has sparked massive outrage among Muslims in the locality. Hundreds attended Sameer’s funeral procession on Wednesday.
Series of Islamophobic violence
The attack wasn’t unpredictable. A slew of anti-Muslim violence has happened in Nargund, especially after a love jihad allegation last month.
“Muslim students were attacked in the school in the presence of the school staff, Muslims were even attacked for having a beard, wearing skull cap and Kurta,” claims Fayaz.
Muslims blame the police for colluding with RSS and taking no action for the attacks.
“They were 12-15 people who raided our home, pulled out my son and thrashed him inhumanly when my wife tried protecting they even hit her,” alleges the parent of one of the victims, who wants to remain anonymous.
“They were all associated with Sangh Parivar. They were raising anti-Muslim slogans too. When I complained about this to the police, instead of filing an FIR on the mob, they lodged an FIR against me. I still don’t know what was my fault and crime,” he told Maktoob.
On 24 December 2021, 17-year-old Nouseen Ahmed was assaulted on a Friday for wearing a skullcap while returning from the mosque.
“Five people, actively seen in the activities of the RSS, encircled me and ask me to take off my skull cap or else go to Pakistan. When I refused to do so they hit me and took off my cap and threw it away,” Ahmed told Maktoob.
“They alleged me for having a weapon in my bag and I was called anti-national. The college authority had called my Abbu. when my Abbu visited the college, the local Sangh Parivar members hit my Abbu in front of me,” says Javeed.
“But shockingly the police lodged an FIR against me and Abbu.”
That was not the only incident for Javeed.
“One day a mob encircled me and my brother while we were in the market, they called me anti-national and when my brother tried talking back to them they started hitting him and then we both were thrashed mercilessly in the midtown, no one stepped forward to help us at that time, I still fear going college,” added Javeed, a student of Siddheshwar PUC college, Nargund.
Even though Muslims were at the receiving end of these attacks, police kept booking the victims, says local community leaders.
“Police booked nearly 20 Muslim men in false cases,” says Zamir Nargund, a local Muslim community leader and social worker.
“When things got out of control, Muslim residents of Nargund decided to stage a protest against the Islamophobic violence, as the police were showing zero interest in providing protection”.
Following the protest, there was normalcy for some time.
Calls for violence against Muslims
But on 17 January, an event by Bajarang Dal called for violence against Muslims.
“That program resulted in a huge anti-Muslim violence in Nargund,” says Zamir Nargund.
Hindutva leader, Sanjay Nalwad was caught on video, calling for the murder of Muslims and vowed violence in a protest march in front of Nargund police station.
“It was around 8:30 pm I finished isha prayer and was heading back to my home along with my cousin. We were chased by the members of RSS. They were five people on bikes and they pushed us to the ground. But we somehow managed to escape,” recalls Fayaz.
“When my uncle enquired about them they started abusing my uncle and my family, within 30 mins approximately 200 people gathered in our locality, it is a Muslim locality.
They started knocking on our doors and raised islamophobic slogans like Desha grohigalanna deshadinda horage haaki (These anti-national needs to be exiled from this country). We then called the police. But they lathi-charged us and asked us to maintain while they [RSS cadres] were giving us death threats,” accuse Fayaz.
“The police also arrested my Abbu and Chacha. They were booked under section 307 but no member from the mob was either arrested or detained.”
Following the murder of Sameer, police have arrested four men belonging to Bajrang Dal and RSS including Sanju Nalvade. The other three are Mallikarjuna, Channabasappa and Sakrappa.
Six accused are absconding. The FIR, accessed by Maktoob, charged the assailants with IPC 341,143,147,148,149,307,323,324.
The police have also lodged an FIR against 15 Muslim youth following a complaint from the Hindutva group. Nargund Police refused to comment about the violence.
Abdur Razik Basrur is a law student from Udupi district in Karnataka. He is a freelance writer and a student activist.