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New Delhi: A 54-year-old chemist was stabbed to death in Amravati city of Maharashtra, with police suspecting that he was killed for sharing a social media post allegedly in support of now-suspended Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Nupur Sharma, whose remarks on Prophet Mohammad led to nationwide protests and global condemnation.
The chemist, Umesh Prahladrao Kolhe, was killed on June 21, and five persons have been arrested so far in this connection, according to a police official.
On Saturday, July 2, a Union home ministry spokesperson tweeted that the probe into the case relating to the “barbaric killing” of Kolhe would be handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
The anti-terror probe agency has already begun its probe into the killing of the Udaipur tailor, Kanhaiya Lal.
“The federal probe agency would thoroughly investigate the conspiracy behind the killing and involvement of organisations and international linkages,” PTI quoted the official as saying.
The incident occurred a week before two men hacked to death Kanhaiya Lal, a tailor in Rajasthan’s Udaipur, with a cleaver at his shop before posting videos online saying that they were “avenging an insult to Islam”.
“Five persons have been arrested in connection with the murder of the chemist and a search is on to trace the prime accused Irfan Khan (32), who runs an NGO,” Amravati commissioner of police Dr. Aarti Singh said on Saturday, July 2.
“Kolhe ran a medical store in Amravati city. He had allegedly shared a post on some WhatsApp groups in support of Nupur Sharma for her comments. He even mistakenly shared the post in a WhatsApp group in which some Muslims were also members, including his customers,” an official of the City Kotwali police station said.
After that, Irfan Khan allegedly hatched a conspiracy to eliminate Kolhe and roped in five persons for it. He promised to give Rs 10,000 to them and a safe escape in a car, he said.
The incident occurred between 10 pm and 10:30 pm on June 21, when Kolhe was going home on a two-wheeler after closing his shop, he said, adding that his son Sanket (27) and wife Vaishnavi were accompanying him in a different vehicle.
“When all of them reached near Mahila College’s gate, two motorcycle-borne men came from behind and blocked Kolhe’s path. A youth alighted from the motorcycle and stabbed Kolhe on his neck with a sharp weapon and escaped from the spot. Kolhe collapsed on the road in a pool of blood. Sanket rushed him to a hospital, where he died,” the official said.
Based on Saket’s complaint, a first information report (FIR) was registered and five persons – identified as Muddsir Ahemad (22), Shahrukh Pathan (25), Abdul Thoufique (24) Shoaib Khan (22) and Atib Rashid (22) all residents of Amravati and daily wage workers – have been arrested.
According to Indian Express, Kolhe’s son, Sanket, in his complaint said, “We were moving from Prabhat Chowk and our scooters had reached the Mahila College New High School’s gate. Two men on a motorcycle suddenly came in front of my father’s scooter. They stopped my father’s bike and one of them stabbed him on the left side of his neck with a knife. My father fell and was bleeding. I stopped my scooter and started shouting for help. Another man came and the three fled the spot on the motorcycle.”
The police added that said one of the absconding accused had assigned the other five specific tasks for the murder. He had asked two of them to keep an eye on Kolhe and alert the other three when he left the medical store. The other three obstructed Kolhe and assaulted him. An FIR was registered by the City Kotwali police station following Saket’s complaint.
The police have seized the knife used in the crime and obtained the CCTV footage that captured the sequence of events.
Police commissioner Singh said the “exact reason behind the murder is being ascertained”.
The BJP had on June 5 suspended its national spokesperson Nupur Sharma and expelled Delhi BJP media head Jindal after their alleged derogatory remarks against the Prophet led to an outrage in India and Gulf countries.
The Supreme Court on Friday, July 1, came down heavily on Sharma for her controversial comments, saying her “loose tongue has set the entire country on fire” and that “she has single-handedly responsible for what is happening in the country.”
Refusing to entertain Sharma’s plea for clubbing of first information reports (FIRs) lodged in various states against her for the remark, the bench held that the comment was made either for “cheap publicity, political agenda or some nefarious activities.”
“She actually has a loose tongue and has made all kinds of irresponsible statements on TV and set the entire country on fire. Yet, she claims to be a lawyer of 10 years standing… She should have immediately apologised for her comments to the whole country,” the court had said.
(With PTI inputs)
Note: This copy, first published at 2:10 pm on July 2, was subsequently updated on the same day with additional details.