All over caste and honour: Karnataka man fatally traps daughter and lover, gets bodies dumped in river

What began as a cursory probe into an abandoned backpack takes police on a trail of love, caste pride, betrayal and twin murders.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Oct 20, 2022 | 8:00 PM Updated Oct 20, 2022 | 9:36 PM

Representative Photo

Ashok Nelagi of Bevinamatti village in Karnataka’s Bagalkot was surprised, but not unduly worried when he received a call from the Nargund police on October 1.

The police had the previous night found a backpack abandoned near the Nargund bus stand in Karnataka’s Gadag district. They dialled a phone number that was found in the bag and reached Ashok.

The construction worker-cum-farmhand travelled to the Nargund police station and identified the bag. It belonged to his 22-year-old son, Vishwanath Nelagi, he told the police.

Ashok knew his son, a construction worker in Mangaluru, used to frequently travel to other districts as part of his work. But he used to inform his family before embarking on a trip.

Attempts to reach the young man over the phone failed. At times Vishwanath’s workplace won’t have an effective mobile network. Ashok decided not to bother the police with a man-missing complaint. The police, too, did not pursue the matter because no complaint was lodged.

Little did Ashok then know that he would never see his son alive again. A few hours earlier, caste pride had killed him for falling in love with a girl from another community.

Ashok lodges a complaint

Ashok knew that news and rumours fly thick and fast in the village, often with additions and deletions. Yet, a rumour he heard left him uncomfortable and worried.

Vishwanath Nelagi (22)

Vishwanath Nelagi

Three days after he had identified his son’s bag, Ashok approached the Nargund police and lodged a complaint, saying Vishwanath had been missing.

He told the police about his son’s affair with a girl from their village, and her family’s opposition to their relationship.

The opposition was reportedly over Vishwanath’s caste. He belonged to the Valmiki caste, a hunting and martial tribe, whereas the girl, aged 17, belonged to the Kuruba community, and traditionally engaged in farming and cattle rearing.

“Since Nelagi’s family belonged to the Dalit community, the girl’s parents were against their affair ever since they learnt about the relationship four months ago,” a senior police officer attached to the Bagalkot rural police station told South First.

The plot thickens: Case of missing girl

As the news of Ashok’s complaint spread in Bevinamatti, the girl’s father, Parasappa Karadi, went to the Bagalkot rural police on October 7 and complained that his daughter had been missing for a week. The police registered a case of kidnapping since she was a minor, and initiated a probe.

Investigators, who were already aware of the two missing youngsters’ love affair, learnt that the girl’s relatives had thrashed Vishwanath four months ago, asking him to sever all ties with her. The police said no complaint was lodged.

The police also came to know that the lovers had been planning to get married once the girl turned 18. Further investigation, however, revealed a gruesome tale.

A brief rendezvous and two murders

The accused (clockwise from top left): Bheerappa, Hanumantha, Basavaraj, Thimmaiah, Siddappa, and Parasappa Karadi (Supplied)

The accused (clockwise from top left): Bheerappa, Hanumantha, Basavaraj, Thimmaiah, Siddappa, and Parasappa Karadi (Supplied)

Faced with stiff opposition from the girl’s family, the lovers decided to meet at Nargund, police said. They chose Friday, 30 September, for the rendezvous since it was a weekend and Vishwanath could reach there from Mangaluru.

As planned, the girl made an excuse and left home for Nargund and met Vishwanath near the bus stand in the evening. Unknown to the young lovers, Karadi, the girl’s father, too, was aware of their plan.

Police said he contacted the girl over her phone and asked them both to wait at the bus stand. He offered to pick them up and discuss their wedding plans on the way back to Bagalkot. The couple agreed.

Six men soon arrived at the bus stand in two vehicles. Among them were the girl’s cousin Ravi Hullanawara, and uncles Bheerappa Dalavayi and Bagappa Hanumantha Malladada. Police said Karadi was not among them.

The men took Vishwanath in one of the vehicles, a Mahindra Bolero. The girl was made to board the other vehicle, along with two men identified as Neelappa Deddanavara and Thimmaiah Basappa. Suspected henchmen of the girl’s relatives, Bagappa Malladada and Basavaraju, and Ravi and Bheerappa, travelled in the Bolero, the police said.

The men allegedly smashed Vishwanath’s head with a stone, while Basavaraju, a fruit vendor in the village and Karadi’s aide, drove the vehicle, investigators said.

Meanwhile, in the other vehicle, the men had allegedly strangled the girl to death with her dupatta.

After ensuring both were dead, the men drove the vehicles to a secluded place by the River Krishna, a few kilometres from the Alamatti reservoir, around 2am on Saturday, 1 October. Police said the men tossed the bodies into the crocodile-infested waters after removing the clothes. Later, they returned to Bagalkot.

How did Karadi come to know of the lovers’ clandestine meeting at Nargund? “The girl might have confided their plan in a close relative,” an investigator told South First.

Police crack the case

Informers told the police that Karadi and others used to meet at Basavaraju’s fruit stall and discuss the girl’s “unwanted” affair. Based on the tip-off, police picked up Ravi.

Based on his statement, the Bagalkot rural police registered a case of two counts of murder, kidnapping, criminal conspiracy, and causing the disappearance of evidence, among other sections, against Karadi and six others.

“We have arrested Ravi, Bheerappa and Bagappa on Tuesday (18 October). The others, including prime suspect Paerasappa Karadi, are absconding. Our men are searching for them,” investigation officer and Circle Inspector of the Bagalkot rural police Bheemanna Suri told South First.

Hoping against hope

The police and personnel from the Fire and Emergency service are now searching the river and its banks for the bodies.

While a team is searching the river from the location from where the bodies were dumped to Alamatti reservoir, two teams of 10 policemen each on foot are inspecting both banks.

“The river becomes stagnant when it reaches the Narayanpura dam. It is less likely to get their bodies from the river with crocodiles. The water level will dip in summer and we might find some mortal remains that could be used as evidence. But we will continue searching until we get something,” Suri said.

Even if the body parts are not found, investigators said it will not affect the outcome of the case. It will proceed based on circumstantial evidence, eyewitness accounts, and confessional statements of the accused.

Incidentally, police said criminals dump 10-15 bodies into the river annually in the about 100-km stretch.