Supporter of Karnataka MLA killed by other supporters over which song to play at his felicitation

The Kuruba shepherd community in the Tarikere constituency had organised the felicitation for newly-elected Congress MLA GH Srinivasa.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Jun 05, 2023 | 8:37 PM Updated Jun 05, 2023 | 8:46 PM

At the event, 22-year-old Varun Kumar was stabbed to death over his insistence that a Kannada film song be played.

The Kurubas — a shepherd community in the Tarikere Assembly constituency in the Chikkamagaluru district of Karnataka — had made meticulous plans to felicitate their newly-elected MLA in a peaceful manner.

The gathering was expected to be of like-minded people, with nary a chance of difference of opinion.

Yet, two groups had exactly that, and ironically, 22-year-old Varun Kumar was stabbed to death over his insistence that a Kannada song that epitomises bonhomie and friendship be played on the occasion!

Varun was the son of a farmer and a resident of the Chowdeshwari Colony in Tarikere Town in Chikkamagaluru, the police said.

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The felicitation

The Kurubas meticulously organised the felicitation event for the newly elected Congress MLA GH Srinivasa on the night of Saturday, 3 June.

The stage was set, the chairs were arranged for the audience near the Yellamma Temple at Revannasiddeshwara Circle in Tarikere town, and at least 1,500-2,000 people were expected to attend the event.

Police personnel were deployed at the event as it was the MLA’s felicitation function, for which permissions had been already obtained by the organisers, who were predominantly from the Kuruba community.

Srinivasa, it may be noted, defeated rival DS Suresh of the BJP by a margin of 12,131 votes in last month’s Karnataka Assembly elections.

The MLA’s felicitation function began with a sermon from a priest who spoke about the good work of the lawmaker. Several others followed suit.

The orchestra arranged for the conclusion of the event — around 9-9.30 pm — played the song “Kurubaro Naavu Kurubaru” repeatedly.

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The clash

Varun Kumar and his friends Sanjay and Manjunath, who were a part of the audience, were not amused by the repeated playing of the song.

Varun told the orchestra team to instead play “Kuchiku Kuchiku Kuchiku, Neenu Chaddi Dost Kano Kuchiku”, a famous song from the Kannada movie Diggajaru, starring late actors Vishnuvardhan and Ambareesh — both legendary in their own right in Sandalwood.

Another group, comprising around 12 members, forced the orchestra team to keep playing “Kurubaru” and warned them not to sing “Kuchiku Kuchiku”.

Heated arguments ensued between the two parties, who hurled abuses at each other, and this was the first stand-off between Varun’s group and the gang of 12 members.

The police personnel deployed at the function were alerted to the quarrel and intervened. They pacified Varun and his friends while reprimanding the dozen-strong gang.

Around 10 pm, when the orchestra had almost concluded and everyone started walking back, the gang — headed by one Vedamurthy and associates Naveen, Nithin, Eashwar, Danush Keerti, Digambar, and Gagan in two — armed themselves with cricket wickets and daggers, and stabbed Kumar.

The gang also hit Manjunath on his head and Sanjay on his leg, grievously injuring them.

As there was a huge crowd, there was confusion all around, and the assailants used the crowd cover to their advantage to flee the spot.

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The police action

A few members of the general public from Tarikere town helped injured Varun, Manjunath, and Sanjay reach a nearby hospital, from where they were shifted to the McGann Hospital in the Sagara city in the Shivamogga district as their injuries were serious in nature.

Varun was declared dead on arrival at the hospital at 10.30 pm, while his friends were admitted for treatment, a senior police officer said.

Soon after he was declared dead, the Tarikere police registered an FIR, booking the 12 accused for one count of murder, two counts of attempt to murder, assault using dangerous weapons, rioting, and unlawful assembly, among other sections under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

They subsequently arrested seven of them involved in the crime.

A senior police officer told South First that the gang members planned to kill the trio that night.

According to the police, the accused and the victims knew each other very well as they all belonged to Tarikere town and were all supporters of Srinivasa in the constituency, the officer told South First.

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