With investigations pointing to similarities between the two killings in Udaipur and Amravati — like the tailor in Rajasthan, the chemist in Maharashtra is also suspected to have been targeted for his social media post supporting BJP’s Nupur Sharma — the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Saturday handed over the Amravati case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
As reported by The Indian Express, Umesh Prahladrao Kolhe, a 54-year-old chemist, was killed in Maharashtra’s Amravati district on June 21, allegedly for circulating a social media post supporting Nupur Sharma on WhatsApp.
While five persons were arrested earlier, police on Saturday confirmed the arrest of two more suspects – Irfan Khan, 35, the alleged mastermind who runs an NGO, and Yusuf Khan, 44, a veterinary doctor.
While Irfan was arrested from Nagpur on Saturday night, Yusuf was picked up from Amravati on Friday night.
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Police said Irfan is the convenor of a registered NGO that runs a helpline called “Rahebar”. The Facebook page of the NGO says that it works to “rehabilitate differently able(d) people from the underprivileged segment”.
Confirming Irfan’s arrest and identifying him as the “mastermind”, Arti Singh, Police Commissioner, Amravati City, said, “We are checking his NGO’s banking transactions.”
Police said at least four of the five arrested earlier were Irfan’s friends, and volunteered with his NGO. Irfan is alleged to have planned the killing, assigned specific tasks to the suspects, and provided logistical support like vehicle and cash.
Yusuf, the veterinary doctor who has been arrested, is alleged to have acted as the “instigator”. “He had put up a post on a WhatsApp group against Kolhe, (saying) that he (Kolhe) was circulating posts supporting Nupur Sharma. This provoked the accused against Kolhe, and they decided to kill him. So, Yusuf instigated the others,” said a police officer. Yusuf has been sent to police custody till July 4.
“The motive behind the murder was to seek revenge for the post made by him (Kolhe) in support of Nupur Sharma,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police, Amravati, Vikram Sali.
“During investigations, 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 police source told The Indian Express on Friday.
In Delhi, sources said the NIA, which is already probing the Udaipur killing will investigate if both the attacks were instigated by an outfit, and if there were any links with Pakistan.
“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 earlier in the day.
Kolhe was returning home on a scooter, between 10 pm and 10.30 pm, when he was killed. According to a complaint filed by his son, Sanket, 27, who was accompanying him on another scooter, “Two men on a motorcycle suddenly came in front of my father’s scooter. They stopped my father’s scooter and one of them stabbed him on the left side of his neck with a knife”.
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