It was rare for Shambhulal Regar to use his surname. He liked to be addressed as ‘Shambhu Bhawani’ — the power of lord Shiva and goddess Parvati fused into two words, as his friends would say. For most of his neighbours, it was a common sight — the 36-year-old going to a nearby lake with his mentally challenged daughter and nephew in tow.
“He practised yoga near the lake and often posted photos on Facebook,” says Nitesh Mali, who owns a gym at Rajsamand and is an active member of the Hindu Jagran Manch. He adds that Regar was not associated with any religious outfit. Regar had hacked to death a Muslim labourer and filmed the act, before recording several videos in which he launches a long anti-Islam diatribe.
A dried garland of marigold flowers hangs near the entrance of his house, the door bolted from inside. Following the killing, the family has been withdrawn, unwilling to talk to people. “Ab batane ke liya bacha hi kya hai (What is left to say now)?” says his brother Nirmal Regar (34), sitting in the narrow lane in front of the house. Nirmal works at a clinic as a lab technician. He came to know about the incident through phone calls from acquaintances. Their younger brother Lokesh (32) owns an iron furniture shop.
“My elder brother had a thriving business of marble trading and always fulfilled his responsibilities in the house. We cannot comprehend why he did this,” Nirmal tells The Indian Express. Neighbours say that Regar’s business was closed as a result of losses sustained following demonetisation.
“For the past year he would roam around, dancing at Ganesh Chaturthi programmes or visiting temples and uploading images on social media under the name Shambhu Bhawani,” said Rakesh Regar, a resident of Regar Mohalla in Rajsamand. Regar would often take his daughter and teenage nephew with him. “He was a doting father and had a picture of his daughter holding a globe tattooed on his chest,” said a neighbour.
Regar stopped studying after failing Class X but, according to acquaintances, he was learned. “He always had a tilak on his forehead and took part in religious functions and processions,” added Rakesh. Regar was the admin of ‘Shambhu Bhawani Group’, a WhatsApp group he created. After killing Mohammed Afrazul, he uploaded several videos including one of the murder to this group. Sources said that almost all participants exited the group after the gruesome crime came to light. One of the uploaded videos was shot from a temple of Baba Ramdev, the folk deity of the Regar community.
“For several days, I would see Regar coming to the temple, at times with two children. On December 6, I saw him enter the temple and record a video,” said Kansan Devi, from the family of the temple priest. Inside Regar Mohalla, a settlement of mostly Scheduled Caste families, most earn their living as labourers or by doing odd, menial jobs. “Their family is comparatively well off, with all three brothers working until recently. He would speak with everyone in the locality and we never got the impression that he was mentally disturbed,” said Rakesh.
Regar was known for his devotion to Hinduism, as is reflected from his self-styled name, appearance and social media posts which made him prominent in his locality. Regar’s Facebook profile is replete with photos of him posing with saffron flags and other religious rituals. His family is undecided about hiring a lawyer, and his brothers stare blankly with sleepless eyes when asked about the motive of the murder.
Regar’s eight-year-old son and teenage daughter, who studies in a government school, are not venturing out of their house. “The police brought the girl back late last night. Since then she is crying, wanting to see her father. I saw Shambhu grow up and knew him as a nice, religious man,” said an elderly woman from Regar Mohalla. In the neighbourhood, people are seen reading newspaper reports of the incident and groups of youths discussing it. “We didn’t know him,” is the staple answer to questions about Regar.