Demand to shut WhatsApp group reason for atheist’s murder, say police

Three investigation teams are on the lookout for four persons believed to have hacked to death the 31-year-old atheist activist on Thursday night near Coimbatore.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai | Published: March 20, 2017 3:19 am
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Police officers investigating the murder of H Farook have said his killers wanted the atheist to shut down a WhatsApp group that had about 400 Muslims members, mostly inspired by rationalist Periyar ideology. Three investigation teams are on the lookout for four persons believed to have hacked to death the 31-year-old atheist activist on Thursday night near Coimbatore.

Tamil Nadu police have said the four accused were well within the limits of Coimbatore’s suburbs. Police said Farook’s refusal to shut down the atheist WhatsApp group he ran for like-minded Muslims across various districts of Tamil Nadu and his visible stand in the social media declaring his decision to raise his children as atheists had angered the suspects.

The WhatsApp group, called Allahu Murdhath, has about 400 members from different Tamil Nadu districts. Many of the members are Muslims. The accused had demanded that Farook shut down the group. On Sunday, The Indian Express reported that one of the reasons that could have led to Farook’s murder was a photo the rationalist had posted in the WhatsApp group 15 days ago, in which one of his children was seen holding a placard with the handwritten slogan “Kadavul illai, Kadavul illai, Kadavul illai (No God, No God, No God)”.

According to an investigator, the assailants “did meet him and requested him once to stay away from anti-religious activities”. “There were both personal meetings and multiple phone calls from them as a request and a warning. He (Farook) ignored them and went ahead. Still, they… threatened him. Finally, it was his public statement of raising his children as atheists had provoked them. More than his rational arguments, they felt that taking such public positions using children was a threat to Islam,” said the officer.

“A senior commissioner is currently coordinating three teams and searching for a total of four culprits. Our information and evidence show that the culprits were not violent or threatening initially. But Farook’s popularity in social media and Muslim followers in his WhatsApp group disturbed them,” he said. According to officers, there is no evidence yet to link the suspects to any terror outfit or external agency.

They said those who killed Farook were “daily wage labourers or mechanics. The only suspicious link is that two of the four culprits are relatives of a Bangalore bomb blast accused currently in a Karnataka prison,” the officer said. “We are in the initial stage of inquiry. So far, there is no evidence to prove a direct link of the blast accused in this murder,” the officer added. Saddam Hussain, one of the prime accused in Farook’s murder, is already a murder accused and the brother-in-law of the Bangalore blast accused. He works in a mechanic’s shop and repairs flat tyres.

Another accused, Shamsuddin, who is a relative of the blast accused, is a daily-wage labourer. Akram and Munaf, two other associates of Hussain and Shamsuddin, played key roles in the murder and are also daily-wage labourers.

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