The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Saturday handed over the case of the murder of a chemist in Amravati, Maharashtra, to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) after it was found that it allegedly had similarities with the June 28 murder of a tailor in Udaipur, Rajasthan.
“MHA has handed over the investigation of the case relating to the barbaric killing of Shri Umesh Kolhe in Amravati Maharashtra on 21st June to NIA. The conspiracy behind the killing, involvement of organisations and international linkages would be thoroughly investigated,” Home Minister Amit Shah’s office tweeted on Saturday.
Sources said since this murder has been committed for exactly the same reasons as the Udaipur killing, NIA will investigate if the same network had instigated both the groups to launch attacks and if this case too has any links with Pakistan.
Exactly a week before tailor Kanhaiyalal Teli was hacked to death in Udaipur, Umesh Prahladrao Kolhe, a 54-year-old chemist, was killed in Maharashtra’s Amravati district on June 21.
Investigators now believe Kolhe was allegedly killed in retaliation for a social media post supporting BJP’s Nupur Sharma who had made controversial comments on the Prophet in a TV debate.
Initial investigation by the City Kotwali police station in Amravati following a complaint by Kolhe’s son Sanket led them to arrest two persons, Muddsir Ahemad, 22, and Shahrukh Pathan, 25, on June 23. Their interrogation revealed the involvement of four more persons, of which three — Abdul Thoufik, 24, Shoaib Khan, 22, and Atib Rashid, 22 — were arrested on June 25. One Shamim Ahmed Firoz Ahmed is absconding.
The incident took place between 10 pm to 10.30 pm on June 21 when Kolhe was on his way home after closing his shop ‘Amit Medical Store’. Sanket, 27, and his wife Vaishnavi were accompanying him on another scooter.
In his complaint, Sanket told the police, “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.”
With help from passers-by, Kolhe was rushed to a nearby Axon Hospital where he died during treatment.
A senior police officer from Amravati city police said, “The five accused arrested so far have told us they sought the help of another accused who provided them with a car and Rs 10,000 to run away.”
The officer 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.
“During investigation, we learnt that Kolhe had circulated a social media post supporting Nupur Sharma on WhatsApp. By mistake, he posted the message on a group with Muslim members who were also his customers. One of the arrested accused said this was an insult to the Prophet and hence he must die,” a source said.
The police have seized the knife with which the murder was committed, mobile phones, vehicle and clothes used for the crime, and obtained CCTV footage from the scene of crime. “We have sent the seized electronic devices to DFSL, and scrutiny of technical evidence is in progress. The bank accounts of all arrested accused and their family members were obtained and scrutiny is in progress,” the source said.
When asked if his father’s murder could have been due to the social media post, Sanket told The Indian Express, “My father was a very cheerful person. He never spoke ill about anyone nor was he associated with any political party. I also heard that he was murdered over his social media post, but I checked his Facebook profile and did not find anything objectionable. Only the police can tell what the motive was. I am blank. But I can say for sure that he was not murdered for robbery.”