Journalist Rahul Shivshankar recently expressed outrage over an incident in Puttur in the Dakshin Kannada district of Karnataka. According to his tweet, a Hindu activist named Santhosh was allegedly beaten up for distributing Akshata (unbroken and uncooked rice grains offered to a deity during puja in Hinduism) ahead of the Ram Mandir consecration. Shivshankar took to Twitter to condemn the attack. “Is Hindumesia getting a wide berth because the will to curb it has softened in the face of expedient appeasement politics?”, Shivshankar asked. Whereas ‘Hindumesia’ is not a valid word, it is understood that Shivshankar wanted to use the word ‘Hindumisia’ which is sometimes used as an alternative for the word ‘Hinduphobia’. (Archive)

Other users like verified handles @HateDetectors and @indiaglobaltalk also tweeted about the incident. “Which mentality people’s are they, it’s terrible”, said the latter.

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Fact Check

We found several local reports that stated that Dakshina Kannada SP Ryshyant had refuted the claims that Santhosh had been assaulted for distributing Akshata ahead of Ram Mandir Pran Pratishth. In a press release, SP Ryshanth stated that the fight between the neighbours had, in fact, resulted out of a civil dispute. A complaint and a counter-complaint were filed in the matter. The SP urged the public not to fall for false news or misleading messages.

Alt News accessed the FIRs filed by both parties. In Santhosh’s complaint to the police, he stated that after returning from a meeting regarding the Mantrakshate (ritual offering of grains), he had parked his scooter near his garden and was walking home when the accused persons stopped him and assaulted him. Santhosh’s mother Savitha, who came out after hearing the commotion, was also assaulted. In his complaint, Santhosh alleged that the accused were jealous of him since he had the privilege of distributing the Akshata. Hence, they attacked them. According to his complaint, the attackers took away Santhosh’s phone and wallet containing Rs 25000 in cash. Their complaint named Keshava, Jagadish and Dhananjaya as the accused.

In the counter-complaint filed by Keshava Naik, he accused Santhosh, his wife and a third person named Sandeep of starting to pull down the wire fence that had been put up around his garden. Upon being questioned by Keshava, the accused verbally abused him and threatened to kill him. Santhosh’s parents, Koragappa Nayak and Savitha, too, allegedly abused the complainant verbally. When Keshava was leaving for the police station with cousin Dhananjaya to file a complaint against the destruction of their property, Santhosh and Koragappa Nayak allegedly hit him on the head. Keshava’s mother who came to the spot after hearing the commotion was also allegedly assaulted. The complaint named Santhosh (32), his father Koragappa Naik, his mother Savitha and two other persons as the accused.

Santhosh held a press conference at the Puttur press club on January 17 along with his family. According to him, the two families have been at loggerheads for years. He accused the other group of having a grudge against them for distributing the Akshata of the Ram Mandir. A group of people including Santhosh had been given the responsibility of distributing the Akshata to the houses in Mundur village in the Puttur Taluk of Dakshin Kannada district. In the meantime, the accused trio, who belong to another Hindutva organisation Puthila Parivar, allegedly took the Akshata away from the Mundur temple and distributed it. They emptied the Akshata container and kept it in the temple. The next day Santhosh’s group kept that vessel at the house of a local person. He accused Dhananjay, Keshav and Jagdish of attacking Santhosh in this connection, while he was returning from a meeting related to the distribution of the Akshata. He accused Arun Puthila of Puthila Parivar of the attack. Santhosh also accused his rival group of blocking the access road to his house. At the press conference, Santhosh’s family verbally attacked Arun Puthila saying, “What! Are we Muslims? Are we not Hindus?”

Puthila Parivar is a local political organisation led by Hindutva activist Arun Kumar Puthila in 2023. He formed the party after losing the assembly polls in the Puttur constituency to Congress candidate Ashok Kumar Rai.

It is clear that both the parties involved in the tussle belonged to Hindutva organisations and neither of them wanted to stop the distribution of the Akshata as a result of ‘Hindumesia’. Journalist Rahul Shivshankar and several other users presented the incident in a way that implied that Santhosh had been attacked in an attempt to stop the distribution of the holy grains. In reality, the two families involved in the incident have been at loggerheads for years over a civil dispute, and according to Santhosh’s testimony at the press conference, there was an altercation over who would distribute the Akshata.

The injured persons were identified as Keshava Naik (35) and his mother Jayanthi (55) from one group and Santhosh BK (29) and his mother Savitha (50) from the rival group. They had been admitted to a private hospital in Puttur.

The facts of this incident were corroborated by several local media outlets, including Vartha Bharati and reports by Headline Karnataka and Daiji World. Former BJP MLA Sanjeeva Mathandur also visited Santhosh at the hospital. Speaking later, he said that this was a politically motivated attack and urged the government and the police department to arrest the perpetrators immediately.

Misleading Reports

The incident was reported by several media outlets with sensational headlines and incomplete facts. For instance, Times Now published a report titled, “Hindu Outfit Activist Attacked in Puttur While Distributing Ram Mandir Akshat, BJP Calls It ‘Politically Motivated”. It quoted Santhosh as saying, “…Since I have taken the responsibility of distributing Akshata, they are against me. So they were targeting me. I have been covering distribution for the last two weeks, but they don’t want to distribute. I was assaulted by Dhananjay, Keshava, and Jagadisha when I was returning home using a mobile torchlight.” Nowhere in the report is it mentioned that the families of Santosh and the accused trio had been embroiled in a conflict for years. Here is an archive of the report.

In a similar fashion, India Today published a similar report merely stating that Santhosh was reportedly attacked by his neighbours who opposed Santhosh’s distribution of the Akshata. Republic World published a report titled ‘Activist Distributing Akshat Ahead of Ram Temple Opening Attacked in Karnataka’s Puttur’ and stated that Santhosh had been attacked by the accused, Dhananjay, who opposed the distribution of ‘Akshata’. Media outlet Free Press Journal also published a similar report claiming that Santosh had been assaulted for distributing the ‘Akshata’.

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About the Author

Student of Economics at Presidency University. Interested in misinformation.