3 more held for Udaipur tailor’s killing, NIA probing case
Preliminary probe revealed that arrested Mohammad Riyaz Akhtari and Gaus Mohammad, and others were self-radicalised but at least one of them may have links with a Pakistan-based Islamic organisation, which purportedly propagates extremism, a counterterrorism official said, requesting anonymity.
Rajasthan police on Wednesday detained three more men over Tuesday’s brutal murder of Kanhaiya Lal, a 47-year-old tailor, by two Muslim men who filmed the act and posted a celebratory video, while the NIA (National Investigation Agency) initiated a probe into a possible international conspiracy behind the crime as preliminary leads suggested a Pakistan link.
The two attackers, Mohammad Riyaz Akhtari and Gaus Mohammad, were detained on Tuesday. Chief minister Ashok Gehlot, who called an all-party meeting on Wednesday evening to discuss the fallout of the incident and steps to ensure peace, corroborated the suspected Pakistan link and said an incident so gruesome could not occur without the involvement of “radical elements” at a larger level.
Taking over the case from Rajasthan police on the Centre’s directive, NIA invoked charges under the anti-terrorism law — Sections 16, 18 and 20 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), Sections 153A and 153B (pertaining to promoting enmity on grounds of religion, race, etc.), 295A (acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 302 (murder), 452 (house trespass with a motive to assault) and 34 (a crime committed with common intention) of the Indian Penal Code — against Akhtari, Gaus and others.
Preliminary investigations revealed that Akhtari, Gaus and others were self-radicalised but at least one of them may have links with a Pakistan-based Islamic organisation, which purportedly propagates extremism, a counterterrorism official said, requesting anonymity.
A team of NIA sleuths is stationed in Udaipur and is jointly questioning Akhtari and Gaus about their links within India. “Subsequently, the accused are being asked whether they were self-trained or travelled somewhere outside India to learn killing by beheading, a method often used by global terrorist outfits such as the Islamic State to create fear in the minds of people,” said another officer, who also requested anonymity.
Earlier, while announcing the decision to hand over the probe to the NIA, Union home minister Amit Shah tweeted on Wednesday: “MHA has directed the NIA to take over the investigation of the brutal murder of Kanhaiya Lal Teli (the tailor) committed at Udaipur, Rajasthan. The involvement of any organisation and international linkages will be thoroughly investigated.”
A statement issued by the NIA said after inflicting multiple injuries with sharp weapons, the accused also circulated a video of the act on social media claiming responsibility for the murder in order to trigger panic and strike terror among people across the country. “NIA teams have already reached Udaipur and requisite action for expeditious investigation of the case has already been initiated,” the agency added.
Rajasthan police said their investigations showed that Gaus Mohammed travelled to Karachi in Pakistan in 2014.
On Wednesday morning, Gehlot said, “We are taking the incident very seriously. This is not a minor issue and it cannot happen until there is a link with radical elements at the national and international level.”
State DGP ML Lather admitted to police lapses at the local level and said a case had been lodged against Kanhaiya Lal on June 10 for allegedly hurting religious sentiments through a social media post, based on a complaint by an individual named Najim. While Lal was arrested and released on bail on June 11, the DGP said, four days later he filed an application at the police station saying that four to seven people were keeping a watch on his shop and had threatened him.
“The SHO failed to assess the gravity of the situation and effective action was not taken. The issue was resolved between the two parties. The assistant sub-inspector was suspended yesterday, and today the SHO has been suspended for negligence,” Lather said.
Even as internet has been curtailed and Section 144 imposed across the state, there were sporadic protests in Rajasthan on Wednesday, including one which saw violence in Rajsamand district. In Bheem town, a police constable was injured after he was attacked with a sword during a protest march. Lather said locals gathered in Bheem to protest Lal’s murder and were being prevented from moving towards a mosque, which led to the police using tear gas. “Someone from the mob hit a policeman with a sword. The injured policeman has been admitted to a hospital but the situation is under control,” he added.
There were market shutdowns in other parts of the state, including in Dungarpur, Sojat, Bhinmal, Sanchore and Reodar. Hindu groups in Anupgarh organised a protest march and chanted Hanuman Chalisa outside the SDM’s office.