It is "not wrong to shoot" Tablighi Jamaat members who are "purposely evading" screening to check for signs of COVID-19 infection, a Karnataka BJP MLA told reporters on Tuesday.
In a shocking statement the MLA also accused Tablighi Jamaat members - who have been linked to over 1,400 cases of novel coronavirus nationwide after a religious gathering in Delhi's Nizamuddin held last month despite social distancing protocols - of "anti-national" activities and called them "traitors".
"... one thing is true, some of those who had been to (the) congregation at Nizamuddin, despite appeal made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and (Delhi) Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, are purposely evading citing religious reasons," MP Renukacharya was quoted by news agency PTI.
"... those who attended the congregation and have not come out for treatment and escaped, government should not protect them... it is not wrong to shoot them with a bullet," he declared.
In his fierce tirade against the Jamaat Mr Renukacharya also charged the members with "anti-national" deeds and said it was correct to say they were participating, indirectly, in terror activities.
MP Renukacharya, who is also Political Secretary to Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, claimed he was not blaming all Muslims.
"I request them to come voluntarily to the doctors and district magistrates. Not all minorities are terrorists, not all of them are anti-nationals," he was quoted by news agency ANI.
His comments came a day after the Chief Minister warned of action against those blaming the entire Muslim community for isolated incidents.
In January the same MLA caused a controversy after accusing Muslims of storing lethal weapons, including swords, knives and soda bottles, in mosques across the state.
"Instead of offering prayers (namaz), Muslims are storing weapons and their priests (khazis) are giving fatwas instead of sermons," he claimed at a pro-citizenship law rally in his constituency.
Mr Renukacharya wasn't the only BJP leader from the state to call for action against missing Jamaat members. BJP Karnataka General Secretary Arvind Limbavali said: "Enough time has been given... those who have not come out, arrest them in 24 hours".
"There is no question of any religion. This is a matter of health of the society and state," he said.
Across India there are more than 5,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection, with at least 1,445 of them linked to the Tablighi Jamaat. In addition, more than 25,500 people - either local workers of the group or those who came in contact with them, have been isolated.
The Nizamuddin neighbourhood in which the gathering was held - in a 100-year-old mosque complex - has been declared a coronavirus hotspot (one of three in Delhi) and a containment zone.
By the time the scale of the crisis was realised late last month - after Indonesia nationals who had attended the event tested positive in Telangana - thousands had dispersed across the country.
States had been instructed to identify and isolate them in their respective territories.
In Karnataka around 920 Jamaat attendees have been identified so far, the state government has said. Of these 27 tested positive for the virus and 623 are negative. Results for the rest are awaited.
The Karnataka government has urged Jamaat members yet to be traced to voluntarily identify themselves, be screened for signs of infection and go into quarantine, if necessary.