Violence over the mysterious death of a teenager in Honnavar last week spread to another town in Karnataka's coastal Uttara Kannada district today as the BJP stepped up its protest and sought an NIA probe in the case.
Police said they resorted to "mild" lathicharge and used tear gas to disperse the agitators as a section of them pelted stones at the forces, damaged vehicles and burnt tyres during a protest called by the BJP and others in Sirsi.
The saffron party has maintained that 18-year old Paresh Kamalakar Mesta was a "Hindu activist" killed by "Jehadi elements", and demanded a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Kumta in the same district also witnessed violence when the car of IGP (Western Range) Hemanth Nimbalkar was set ablaze yesterday amid protests seeking justice for Mesta, whose body was found on Friday. He was reported missing on December 6.
Mesta's family and locals have alleged that he was abducted and killed amid reports that the body bore marks of attack by sharp objects.
Police, however, rejected the claims, citing a report by doctors, pending the postmortem.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has accused the BJP of using the incident for "political gains".
Senior police and district administration officials said the situation at Sirsi was now under control and peace had been restored by dispersing the crowd.
Several people, including local BJP MLA Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri, were detained by the police.
Police said the situation in Kumta was also normal.
BJP and some other outfits had called the protest in Sirsi, demanding the arrest of those responsible for Mesta's death.
Meanwhile, a political slug fest has erupted between the ruling Congress and the BJP, as the two hold each other responsible for the incident.
"A desperate @BJP4Karnataka stoops so low as to use the unfortunate death of a youth Paresh Mesta in Honnavar for political gains...People are getting hurt by their irresponsible acts," Siddaramaiah said in a tweet.
Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy claimed such incidents were provoked "purposefully" by the BJP, keeping in mind the assembly elections, due early next year.
Stating that the BJP's intention was to disturb law and order, Reddy asserted, "We won't let that happen. We will take appropriate action as per law".
The BJP, which has termed the death as "the handiwork of jehadi elements", today petitioned Governor Vajubhai Vaila, demanding a probe by the NIA in the case.
BJP leaders led by K S Eshwarappa staged a protest march from Vidhana Soudha, state secretariat, to Raj Bhavan here.
Calling Mesta a "Hindu activist", Eshwarappa accused the government of turning Karnataka into Kerala, and claimed this was 20th such killing of a Hindu activist in the state.
He alleged police and doctors (involved in postmortem) had been "utilised" by the government to "close the case".
Another BJP leader R Ashoka said party leaders will also be meeting Union Homer Minister Rajnath Singh soon to apprise him of the situation in the state.
Meanwhile, the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Party (KPCC) accused the BJP of playing "politics of cadaver".
"We do not discriminate. Whether a Muslim, a Hindu, a Christian or a Parsi is killed, it is deplorable. Nobody can support it. But the BJP loves doing the 'politics of cadaver'.
It incites communal tension in the state for political gain," KPCC working president Dinesh Gundu Rao alleged.
Talking to reporters, he rubbished the accusations made by BJP leaders that the Congress-led state government had failed to contain murderous assaults on RSS workers.