Seventeen suspected workers of the Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS) have been charged with the murder of IT professional Mohsin Shaikh, who was beaten to death with hockey sticks in Pune during a protest over morphed photographs of late Bal Thackeray and Chhatrapati Shivaji.
A total of 25 men, including HRS chief Dhananjay Desai, have been arrested since Tuesday for the protests that erupted in the Maharashtra city after doctored images of the two state icons went viral on social network sites. Desai has not yet been charged with murder.
Shaikh, 28, sporting a beard and green Pathani kurta, was returning home on Monday evening. Around 25 men — allegedly associated with the HRS — came on bikes, blocked his way in Hadapsar on the outskirts of Pune and hit him on the head with hockey sticks and stones.
Shaikh's death sparked tension in the area, forcing the police to clamp a curfew for 12 hours. Shaikh's cousin, who was accompanying him, escaped unhurt, while two others — Ameen Shaikh, 30, and Ijaz Yusuf Bagwan, 25 — sustained injuries.
Two of the 17 accused of killing Shaikh are juvenile. The others are mostly college students.
The police are also trying to compile details about the HRS in order to send a proposal to the state and central home departments to ban the organisation, said Pune police chief Satish Mathur on Thursday.
"You have to compile documents backed by enough evidence before the proposal is sent (to ban any group). It is in process," Mathur added.
Police investigation showed that after Shaikh's death, some of the accused had circulated a message saying "Pahili wicket padli (The first wicket has fallen)". This prompted the police to probe whether the attack was planned in advance.
Pune police commissioner Mathur said Shaikh's killing was a fallout of the protests linked to morphed images of Thackeray and Shivaji.
Shaikh, who was anative of Solapur and working in a textile firm in Pune, was no way connected with uploading the images, he added.
Following the protests since Friday, the police have arrested 180 people in the state. Besides Pune, other cities such as Mumbai, Satara and Kolhapur have also witnessed protests.
"We are trying to find out why Pune witnessed protests on a large scale," said Mathur.
Hadapsar limps back to normal
Almost 72 hours after Shaikh's death, normality is yet to return to Hadapsar, the scene of crime. Tension still prevailed in the area on Thursday, even though shops were open and commercial activities were normal. But no one was ready to utter a single word about the incident.
"We were all tense that night (Monday) when news of Shaikh's murder reached us. Thankfully, the police handled the situation effectively," said Pralhad H, a local resident.
A retired police officer said the news of Union rural development minister Gopinath Munde's death shifted the focus. "(Otherwise)… things may have gone awry," he said.
Deputy commissioner of police Manoj Patil told HT on Thursday that the situation was under control, though there was still "police presence in the area".
A pall of gloom has descended on Shaikh's family. His father Sadiq Shaikh said, "My son was killed brutally by a mob. He was the sole breadwinner in our house."