Four days after Kamlesh Tiwari, former working president of the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, was killed at his Lucknow home, the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad arrested the two prime suspects, Ashfaq Hussain Jakir Hussain Shaikh (34) and Farid alias Moinuddin Khurshid Pathan (27), near the temple town of Shamlaji on the Gujarat-Rajasthan border Tuesday.
Gujarat ATS DIG Himanshu Shukla said: “Both accused will be handed over to UP Police in the coming days as the case had been registered with Lucknow Police. They confessed to us about their involvement in the murder of Kamlesh Tiwari last Friday.”
The ATS, in a press release, said preliminary questioning of the two men revealed that they committed the crime “in retribution to purported statements by the deceased”.
A controversial leader who founded the Hindu Samaj Party three years ago, Tiwari had been arrested in 2015 for a remark he made about the Prophet that triggered protests and violence. The Lucknow Police had also invoked the NSA against him but it was set aside a year later.
In Lucknow, UP DGP O P Singh said his Gujarat counterpart had informed him about the arrest of the two men. “We will take them into custody and bring them to UP,” he said.
With this, five persons have so far been arrested — all from Gujarat — in connection with Tiwari’s killing. Rashid Pathan, Faizan Sheikh and Maulana Mohsin Sheikh, who were arrested from Surat, were produced before a court in Lucknow Tuesday evening. The court sent them to police custody for four days, Lucknow Police said in a statement.
Ashfaq Shaikh worked as a medical representative for a Mumbai-based pharmaceutical company and had joined Tiwari’s Hindu Samaj Party, posing as Rohit Solanki, a colleague in the same company whose Aadhaar card he had forged. Moinuddin Pathan worked for a food supply company.
The Gujarat ATS said the two men ran out of money and approached family members and acquaintances for financial help. “Technical surveillance and physical surveillance was mounted by ATS Gujarat on the relatives and acquaintances of the absconders. On the basis of actionable intelligence obtained through surveillance, ATS successfully apprehended them from the Gujarat-Rajasthan border near Shamlaji,” the ATS said.
The two men, ATS said, had fled to Nepal and returned to Shahjahanpur in UP where they were tracked on Sunday, and were proceeding towards Gujarat.
The swiftness in cracking the case has been helped by a long trail of clues, from Lucknow and Kanpur to Surat, left behind by the suspects. This sloppiness is glaring given that police found a lot of planning had gone into the killing. It has made some in the police suspicious that the perpetrators may have wanted their identities known.
The clues that police found:
* On the day of the killing, Ashfaq Hussain and Moinuddin visited Tiwari. They carried with them a local Gujarati sweet from a shop in Surat, with its cash memo. Tracing the memo back, police linked the murder to Surat.
* At Tiwari’s house, the two met his wife Kiran and associate Swarastra Deep Singh. Kiran has told police she can identify both of them if they are brought before her.
* Before meeting Tiwari, Ashfaq and Moinuddin kept in touch with him using a SIM card purchased a day earlier from Kanpur, with one of them giving the shopkeeper a photocopy of his original ID proof. Police recovered CCTV footage from the shop, and matched it with other CCTV images of the alleged assailants. The Gujarat Police revealed their identities.
* Ashfaq and Moinuddin went on to use the same SIM to call up associates, leading to arrests. Police say the “co-conspirators” had corroborated that Hussain and Ahmed were the killers.
* During their Lucknow stay, Ashfaq and Moinuddin booked a room in a hotel three kilometres from Tiwari’s residence, located in a busy area of Lucknow. They gave their actual names and addresses in Gujarat. A hotel staff said, “The two gave me their original Aadhaar cards when asked for identity proof. I got a photocopy done and returned the original copies to them.”
* After the killing, Ashfaq and Moinuddin returned to the hotel and, before disappearing, left behind the knife allegedly used in the crime and their kurtas, both with bloodstains.
* The hotel’s CCTV footage has the suspects entering and exiting the hotel and talking to the staff at the reception, with no attempts to hide identity. The staff said the two had said they were from Surat and asked the way to the Baba Abbas Mazaar.
A senior staff member said when he told them he did not know where the mazaar was located, they asked for direction to the Chowk. “I later came to know the mazaar was in Khurshed Bagh area. Kamlesh Tiwari’s residence is near the mazaar.”
* Police also collected CCTV footage from near Tiwari’s residence which shows the two men moving about on a road without covering their faces. Police say the two persons caught in separate CCTV images are the same.
* On the run, Ashfaq and Moinuddin continued to use the SIM card purchased from Kanpur, helping police keep tabs on their location.