Twenty-four hours after a young Muslim teacher was shot dead in Piro town of Bihar’s Bhojpur district, the police had made no breakthrough, and election-season politics hung darkly over the case.
The family and relatives of 28-year-old Mohammed Akbar Khan said he had no enemies. He was a popular man with significant goodwill, who taught a large number of students — many, both Muslim and Hindu, for free.
There was tension in Piro soon after Khan was shot dead in his office around 8.30 pm on Friday, and some half a dozen shops were looted and torched. Police faced protests in their attempt to take the body away for an autopsy, and extra forces were deployed in the town. On Saturday, Khan’s family said they did not know the protesters.
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The first politician to show up at Khan’s home in Piro’s Milky village was R K Singh, the former union home secretary who is now the BJP candidate for the Ara Lok Sabha seat. He told a large crowd of Muslims in the village on Saturday that “some people” were out to create trouble, but they must “exercise restraint and maintain peace”.
Singh assured the family that the “samaj ke dushman” (enemies of society) who had killed Khan would have to pay for their crime. As he left, he held the hands of Khan’s distraught uncle Zulfiqar Khan and promised, “We will follow this up.”
Singh, who joined politics recently and is still not widely recognised in the area, was identified by local residents as a “man from Modi’s party”. A Muslim youth who lives close to Khan’s home said, “(Narendra) Modi ke partywale neta the… sabse pehle wahi aaye. (That was a leader from Modi’s party; he was the first to show up.)”
Singh told The Sunday Express, “I came to know how popular he (Khan) was because of his profession. Yeh samaj ke dushman ka kiya hua hai. Jin logon ne tod-phod ki hai woh bhi samaj ke dushman hain. Woh jhagda karwana chahte hain. (Those who killed him are enemies of society, as are those who indulged in the looting afterward. They want people to fight.)”
Akbar Khan, the eldest of six brothers and the principal breadwinner for his family, ran a popular coaching institute, Marshal Coaching Centre, less than a kilometre from his home. The coaching centre provided tuitions to some 900 students from Classes 5 to 12.
On Friday evening, Khan had given a test to a batch of Class 12 students, and was arranging the papers before winding up for the day when two men entered his office, one of whom shot him in the chest. Khan managed to get up from his chair and stagger to the door, but collapsed before he could raise an alarm.
The Bhojpur SP and area DIG reached the spot late at night, and have been camping there with adequate forces since then. A forensic team from Patna picked up samples on Saturday afternoon.
Police were not sure whether the assailants had a vehicle or had walked to Khan’s office. The area had no power at the time of the murder.
Shaukat Khan, an area resident, said, “Police have been floating the theory that Khan might have been killed by extortionists whom he resisted. That is unlikely… Khan had been running the coaching centre since he was only 17 years old, and charged only Rs 50 per month from students.”