Maharashtra: Afghan Refugee Preacher Shot Dead, Police Suspect Property Dispute

The police have reportedly identified five suspects in the case, all known to the preacher, Ahmed Zarif Chishti, and have apprehended one of them.

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New Delhi: Ahmed Zarif Chishti, an Afghan Sufi preacher living in India, was found murdered in Maharashtra’s Nashik district on Tuesday, July 5.

Five suspects have reportedly been identified in the case, which police claim appears to have been triggered by a property dispute.

Chisti, popularly known as ‘Sufi Baba’, was an Afghan refugee who reportedly fled the country fearing execution at the hands of the now-ruling Taliban. 

He is thought to have been living in India for the past four years after having been granted refugee status by the government. He has lived in Karnataka and Delhi in the past, and was living in Nashik at the time of his death.

Also read: ‘Asking for Our Rights’: Afghans in India Protest Outside UNHCR Office, Demand Refugee Status

While some news reports note that he was 28 years old, others put his age at 35.

According to an Indian Express report, one of the identified accused has been apprehended and is currently being questioned by the police. While a property dispute is the suspected motive behind the preacher’s murder, the police told the newspaper that they were investigating other possible angles as well.

Chisti used to run a popular YouTube channel where he posted videos of his sermons, which the police believes was his primary source of income, in addition to donations he would receive from the public.

Further, authorities suspect that the preacher held property worth Rs 3 crore in India, however, since he is an Afghan national, he cannot legally own property in his name and as such, the properties were purchased by Indian nationals he was acquainted with.

The police said that the incident took place around 7:30 pm on Tuesday in a forested area of the MIDC industrial zone in Nashik’s Yeola area. According to them, he was lured to the secluded area by individuals known to him under the guise that they wanted him to perform rites there. However, once he performed the rights, four or five unidentified individuals shot him multiple times.

The police further told the newspaper that Chishti had recently purchased 15 acres of land in Yeola, as well as a car, and that they suspected that the people who killed him were the ones in whose name the Yeola property had been purchased and that they fled the scene of the crime in Chishti’s car.

Another Afghan national was reportedly staying with the Sufi preacher, who claimed to be his wife. However, authorities claim that they were unable to find any record of the marriage. Further, the police have found nothing to implicate her in Chishti’s murder.