The Bengaluru district president of Popular Front of India (PFI), a pro-Muslim group that emerged 10 years ago, was arrested Wednesday night in connection with the murder of RSS leader R Rudresh. Asim Sheriff was produced in court, which remanded him in police custody till November 16. He has been questioned by several top police officers in the past 24 hours.
Sheriff, who owns a paint shop, has been PFI’s Bengaluru district president for the past eight years. He is the fifth person to be arrested in the murder case. Rudresh was hacked to death on Kamaraj Road in Bengaluru by two motorcycle-borne men. The murder occurred shortly after an RSS march in the area. Aided by CCTV footage, police on October 27 arrested four locals.
Additional Commissioner of Police (East Zone) P Harishekharan said interrogation of the four men revealed the PFI district president’s role in the murder. One of the four suspects had revealed during questioning that it was Sheriff who had asked him to plot the attack on the RSS leader, sources said, adding that the four accused were offered Rs 6 lakh to kill Rudresh.
Police suspect Sheriff was acting on the direction of others who are yet to be identified. Police sources said Sheriff was in the city on the day of the murder, but later went to Tamil Nadu and Kerala for a few days. He was reportedly in touch with two of the locals who have been arrested in the case.
Following his arrest, the PFI issued a statement, saying that Sheriff was arrested due to pressure from the BJP, which is in the opposition in Karnataka. PFI’s general secretary in Karnataka Yasir Hasan said: “We have faith in the judicial system and the police. A free and fair investigation will prove his innocence.” He said the BJP and RSS had started blaming the PFI for the murder even before police took up the case. “We don’t support violence or murder. The four accused are not linked to our organisation. Police arrested Sheriff only to link PFI to the murder case,” Hasan said.