A Muslim man was stripped, tied to a pole and flogged for more than an hour at a crowded marketplace for allegedly speaking to a Hindu woman in the communally polarised coastal town of Mangalore.
Policemen reached the spot after local cable television channels began beaming visuals of the man and arrested 14 of around 30 suspected Bajrang Dal activists who were taking turns to flog him.
The man is the manager of an accessories store in Mangalore and the woman works in the same store as a salesgirl.
According to the man’s complaint to police, the woman had asked him for a loan of Rs. 2,000. They were on their way to an ATM so that he could withdraw cash when a gang of men armed with knives and staves accosted them, the man said.
The woman escaped without much harm but she too was slapped for trying to come to her colleague’s defence.
Several brazen attacks involving groups such as the Bajrang Dal, Sri Rama Sene, Hindu Jagarana Vedike and the Islamist group, Popular Front of India, have been reported in the coastal towns of Mangalore, Udupi, Honnavar, Bhatkal and Karwar over the past decade.
Civil society activists blamed the BJP government that was in power in Karnataka from 2008 to 2013 for encouraging Hindutva groups to commit such crimes. However, statistics show the attacks did not reduce even after the Congress came to power.
The victim has been identified as Shakir, aged 30, resident of Kulur town in Mangaluru taluk. He has been admitted to a hospital.
The incident is said to have occurred around 5.30 p.m. near a supermarket in Attavar.
Sources said that on suspicion that the Muslim youth was travelling with a girl from another community, the Bajrang Dal activists allegedly waylaid the vehicle and attacked the man after humiliating the woman in the public.
Another source said that the victim was just talking to the girl from his car when the group accosted them.
The group thrashed the youth severely and even tied him to an electric pole. He was also stripped of his clothes and was beaten black and blue. The miscreants also captured his naked pictures and circulated on WhatsApp.
It is learnt that both man and woman were colleagues and work for a supermarket in Attavar.
Mangaluru South Police Inspector Dinakar Shetty said that the group comprised youth from Hindu outfits.
Cases of assault and attempt to murder have been registered against unknown persons, while unconfirmed reports said four youth have been taken into custody by the police.