Karnataka chief minister rejects ‘love jihad’ allegation in murder of Congress councillor’s daughter

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Friday dismissed allegations of “love jihad” in connection with the murder of a Congress councillor’s daughter in Hubbali district, reported Mint.

“Love jihad” is a Hindutva conspiracy theory that Muslim men lure Hindu women into romantic relationships in order to convert them to Islam.

The chief minister was referring to the killing of 21-year-old Neha Hiremath, who was stabbed to death by her former classmate, 23-year-old Fayaz, on the campus of KLE Technological University on Thursday. She was pursuing her masters degree in computer applications.

The victim’s father, Niranjan Hiremath, on Friday alleged that the murder may have been a case of “love jihad”, The Indian Express reported. Niranjan Hiremath is councillor from the Hubballi Dharwad Municipal Corporation representing the Congress.

However, the chief minister dismissed the father’s claim. “Whatever murder happened is due to personal reasons,” Siddaramaiah said. “The law and order situation is very good in Karnataka. It is our duty to maintain law and order and we are doing it.”

Fayaz, a resident of Savadatti in Belagavi district, was captured on CCTV camera stabbing Neha Hiremath several times before fleeing, the police said, according to The Indian Express.

On Friday, Niranjan Hiremath told reporters that his family was aware that Fayaz was harassing his daughter. “When my daughter was pursuing BCA [Bachelor of Computer Applications], he also enrolled in the same college but failed,” Niranjan Hiremath said. “He was pestering my daughter for a love relationship, but she refused.”

Fayaz, who was also injured in the attack, was taken to a hospital with his victim and subsequently arrested. The police on Friday produced him before a magistrate who sent him to 14-day judicial custody.

Niranjan Hiremath alleged that Fayaz continued to pressure his daughter after which she finally informed her mother. “My brother and others had warned him and also informed Fayaz’s parents about it,” said Niranjan Hiremath.

“The government has given priority to women’s education and jobs,” the councillor said. “If they are not safe, what is the point of all this? There must be a policy to hang such people.”

“If this can happen to the daughter of a corporator, how safe are the common people?” Niranjan Hiremath asked. “I do not know why youngsters are taking the wrong path…‘love jihad’ is spreading rapidly.”

On Friday, Fayaz’s father, Baba Saheb Subani, said that his son should be “punished in such a way that no man thinks of harassing a woman”, The Indian Express reported.

Subani, who is a school teacher, said that Neha Hiremath’s family had informed him eight months ago that his son was harassing her. He clarified that Fayaz and Neha Hiremath were in a relationship and that Fayaz had wanted to marry her. “But I refused it by folding my hands,” Subani said.

“I came to know about this [murder] around 6 pm on Thursday,” he said. “I was shocked. He [Fayaz] should be punished in a way that no one dares to do such a thing in future. Neha was like my daughter, I apologise to her family members.”

The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of Hindutva group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, organised protests in Hubballi demanding justice for Neha Hiremath. Members from the Muslim community also organised protests to demand that Fayaz be punished.

Karnataka labour minister Santosh Lad said that the murder should not be politicised, The Indian Express reported. He also said that the government should formulate a policy to “encounter” such individuals.

“It is an inhumane act and it is disheartening to see the parents,” he said. “I am requesting the state and the Centre to bring in a policy to encounter such criminals. We need to act to prevent such incidents from happening in future,” he said.

The Leader of the Opposition in Karnataka R Ashoka described the incident as “shameful”.

“The daughter of a Congress corporator has been stabbed to death,” Ashoka said. “Such an incident in the middle of [Lok Sabha] elections raises questions about law and order.”

Karnataka Bharatiya Janata Party chief BY Vijayendra criticised the state’s Congress-led government for “going slow on the case to appease a certain faction”.

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