20 Apr 2024

Karnataka Student Murder: Protests erupt while Cong, BJP spar over love jihad connection in crime

The tragic murder of a Karnataka Congress corporator's daughter has ignited a fierce political confrontation between the Congress and the BJP. The victim, Neha Hiremath, 23, was fatally stabbed multiple times by a former college classmate, Fayaz Khondunaik, in Hubbali, Karnataka. Law enforcement officials suspect that Khondunaik committed the crime due to Neha's rejection of his advances. Meanwhile, protests demanding justice and stringent punishment for the accused have erupted across the state.

Neha, a first-year Master of Computer Applications student, reportedly had a prior relationship with Fayaz, who confessed during police interrogation that Neha had been avoiding him lately. This incident has spiraled into a political battle between the ruling Congress and the opposition BJP. While the Congress attempts to project it as a personal tragedy, the BJP sees it as indicative of law and order deterioration in the state.

Union Minister and BJP candidate Pralhad Joshi raised the specter of "love jihad," alleging a religious dimension to the crime. He criticized the Congress for what he perceives as a failure to maintain law and order, urging Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to refrain from minority appeasement policies. However, Home Minister G Parameshwara denied any connection to "love jihad" at present.

Victim's father also labeled the crime as a Love Jihad

Adding to the complexity, the victim's father, Niranjan Hiremath, who belongs to Congress party, also labeled the crime as a 'Love Jihad' case, claiming that the assailant intended to "trap his daughter." He denounced the notion of it being a personal matter, emphasizing the wider societal implications.

An angry Hiremath lashed out at his party brass saying his daughter was killed for turning down the accused's proposal.

Meanwhile, Union Minister Meenakshi Lekhi lambasted the Congress, associating the party with corruption, criminality, and communal violence. In response, the Congress defended its governance record, asserting the state's robust law and order framework and accusing the BJP of attempting to impose Governor's rule.

Protests erupt

Protests demanding justice and stringent punishment for the accused have erupted across the state, particularly led by right-wing activists. 

BJP's student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, also protested, ensuring closure of schools and colleges in Hubballi-Dharwad, while demanding justice and calling for severe punishment for the suspect. Similar protests were reported in other districts, including Belagavi and Bengaluru.

Accused's mother apologizes for her son's actions

Meanwhile, Fayaz's mother publicly apologized for her son's actions, expressing remorse and seeking forgiveness from the victim's family and the people of Karnataka.

"On behalf of my son, I seek forgiveness from all people of Karnataka. I seek forgiveness from the parents of the girl as well. She is also like my daughter. I am not differentiating here at all. I know how they must be grieving. I am equally sorrowful.  What my son did is wrong. No matter who it is, what is done is wrong," Mumtaz, Fayaz's mother, said.

Neha Hiremath was a first-year Master of Computer Applications student at the BV Bhoomaraddi College of Engineering and Technology in Hubballi. Officials said she had known her attacker, Fayaz - who also studied with her at the college, but later dropped out - for some time.

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