Udaipur killing: Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot meets tailor’s kin amid protests

Updated on Jul 01, 2022 01:42 AM IST

On Tuesday afternoon, Riyaz Akhtari and Gaus Mohammed walked into Kanhaiya Lal’s tailoring shop and murdered him with sharp knives because the man had backed controversial comments by Bharatiya Janata Party member Nupur Sharma on Prophet Mohammed.

Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot meets the family members of Kanhaiya Lal, who was killed by two men in Udaipur, on Thursday. (ANI)
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot meets the family members of Kanhaiya Lal, who was killed by two men in Udaipur, on Thursday. (ANI)
ByShiv Sunny, , , Udaipur/jaipur

On the fringes of Udaipur is the Muslim-dominated locality of Khanjipeer. Cramped one-storey houses hug the hillside, the alleys get narrower as one walks up the slope, and cement pipes jut out of unfinished buildings. On ordinary evenings, groups of young men hang out in the melee of parked autos and motorcycles, their boisterous voices ringing out. Now, however, there is stunned silence as the 6,000 people -strong neighbourhood struggles to come to terms with the fact that two of its residents brutally hacked to death a 47-year-old Hindu tailor in their city.

On Tuesday afternoon, Riyaz Akhtari and Gaus Mohammed walked into Kanhaiya Lal’s tailoring shop and murdered him with sharp knives because the man had backed controversial comments by Bharatiya Janata Party member Nupur Sharma on Prophet Mohammed. Akhtari and Mohammed have since been arrested, their houses locked and cordoned off, and their families whisked away by investigators.

The brutal murder has left the city shaken and seething.

Also Read | ‘Killed him like cowards’: Grief, rage shroud Udaipur after murder

On Thursday, chief minister Ashok Gehlot visited Lal’s family and assured all help. Gehlot said the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the case now, should file a charge sheet as soon as possible and that trial should be done in a fast-track court. “Those who murdered made a video of their own and thus they themselves have become eyewitnesses,” he said.

“The way the incident has happened, it has shaken the country. The accused were caught and the police and Special Operations Group (SOG) did a good job,” he added.

The CM said the state police will cooperate with NIA. Asked about the alleged failure of the police in providing security to Lal, the CM said it will become clear in the NIA investigation whether there was a failure.

Lal’s elder son Yash demanded police protection for the family. “I have spoken with the chief minister. He has provided us with financial help too. He has also assured me of a government job,” he said.

Thousands of people also took out a rally in the city, shouting slogans against the murderers and demanding the death penalty.

Curfew remained clamped in seven police station areas. But police relaxed restrictions with the organisers -- the Sarv Hindu Samaj -- saying they planned to hold a “silent march”. But, as they marched from the Town Hall to the Collectorate, some protesters raised slogans. Minor scuffles were reported from the event but police said it was largely peaceful.

In Jaipur, markets remained closed following a ‘bandh’ call given by a traders’ body and the Vishva Hindu Parishad. Apart from markets in the walled city, those in Khatipura, Vaishali Nagar, Rajapark, Tonk Road, Bajaj Nagar, Malviya Nagar, Sanganer and other areas were closed. Similarly, markets remained closed in the morning in Kota district’s Kanwas town.

RESTLESS NEIGHBOURHOOD

Back at Khanjipeer, though, disbelief hung in the air. Residents recalled how when they first saw the video made by Mohammed and Akhtari on Tuesday, they thought it was a spoof. “We initially thought it was a doctored video. When we realised it was real, our hearts sank,” said Shama Khan, a local politician.

A few children ran to alert Mohammed’s elderly father who was sipping tea and switching on the water motor a few houses away. The father, Mohammad Rafiq, sank in a chair. “He lamented his fate and hurled abuses at his son. He cursed his son for not caring about his old father’s reputation, and that of his community,” Khan said.

Many residents blamed Akhtari for radicalising Mohammed. “Gaus prayed five times a day, addressed even children as ‘aap’, and never argued with anyone,” said his neighbour, Mohammad Umar. In contrast, Akhtari’s neighour Arshad recalled how the suspected killer was a frequent troublemaker in the area and had been imprisoned twice for petty crimes.

“Akhtari was a bad influence. His company destroyed Gaus, and it destroyed our entire community,” Khan lamented as others nodded in agreement.

Mohammed was a graduate and in-charge of reciting the azaan at two local mosques. He was a “qari” (one who recites the Quran with proper rules) and went to Mecca twice – once alone, another time with his wife and two children. For a few years, he worked as a collection agent for a finance company , then a cooperative society – before both failed. “He would always show concern about our lost money, he would promise to fight our case in court,” said Umar.

About 15 years ago, his father borrowed money and constructed a house. Mohammed set up a grocery store,and his parents and wife Kauser would take turns to run it.

Also Read | Udaipur killing: VHP, Bajrang Dal demand gallows for the killers

About 300 metres downhill, is the under-construction house of Mohammad Umar, a truck driver. In this building, Akhtari, who worked as a welder, rented a two-room set, with a toilet and kitchen outside.

“Akhtari, his wife and their two children had moved in here on June 12. His wife had approached my wife to ask if there was a room or two for rent,” Umar said. He paid 500 for the poorly ventilated accommodation where light would only stream in through an open mesh in the roof. Akhtari didn’t have the money for the security deposit, but promised to pay it later.

But over the past year, residents started noticing Mohammed and Akhtari together. “They would sometimes be seen having tea together at a stall,” Arshad said.

Many residents said they condemned the murder but added that they feared boycott and retribution. “It was an unacceptable act by two individual men, not an intent of the community. We shouldn’t all be punished for the acts of individuals,” said Pheroze Ahmed Shaikh, a local counsellor.

Get Latest India Newsalong with Latest Newsand Top Headlinesfrom India and around the world.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sachin Saini is Special Correspondent for Rajasthan. He covers politics, tourism, forest, home, panchayati raj and rural development, and development journalism.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, September 29, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals