Soon after killing a Muslim youth unconnected with uploading indecorous morphed pictures of late Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray and Maratha icon Chhatrapati Shivaji on Facebook, his alleged killers, belonging to a Hindu extremist outfit, exchanged an ominous message on their mobiles. The message said, ‘Pahili wicket padli’, which means: The first wicket has fallen.
This message was circulated by members of the Hindu Rashtra Sena who have been accused of killing 28-year-old IT graduate Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh during Monday’s protests over the morphed pictures, which were taken off the social networking site on Friday.
“The message was circulated immediately after about 25 members of the Hindu extremist outfit allegedly bludgeoned Shaikh to death,” said Pune joint commissioner of police Sanjay Kumar.
Considering the content of the message exchanged by the accused and the weapons they were carrying, the police are probing whether the attack was planned in advance.
Shaikh, sporting a beard and green Pathani kurta, was returning home in the evening when the accused blocked his way in Hadapsar on the outskirts of Pune, took him off his bike and hit him on the head with hockey sticks and stones.
This sparked tension in the area, forcing the police to clamp curfew for 12 hours. Shaikh’s cousin, who was accompanying him, escaped unhurt after he fled from the spot while the two others, Ameen Shaikh, 30, and Ijaz Yusuf Bagwan, 25, sustained injuries.
The police said the protesters had gathered in the area following rumours that Shivaji’s statue had been desecrated and a Hindu girl had been raped.
Within 24 hours of the killing, the police arrested 13 persons of whom seven have been charged with murder. Among those arrested but not yet charged with murder include Hindu Rashtra Sena chief Dhananjay Desai. The police first recovered one of the bikes used in the attack, based on which the other accused were arrested.
On Wednesday, a local court remanded all the accused to police custody till June 9.
Rashtra Sena chief Desai has a criminal background, with cases such as rioting and extortion registered against him in different police stations in the city. The organisation he heads has been in existence for a decade.