Two persons beheaded a 40-year-old man in broad daylight at his tailoring shop in a market in Rajasthan’s Udaipur city on Tuesday, after an exchange of a series of inflammatory social media posts in the last few days.
The victim, Kanhaiya Lal, had shared posts in support of suspended BJP leader Nupur Sharma, who had made offensive remarks against the Prophet in a television debate last month.
Sources in the Union Home Ministry said a National Investigation Agency (NIA) team was being sent to Udaipur to get the facts of the case. The NIA was likely to take over the probe, treating it as a terror act, according to the sources.
Tension prevailed in Udaipur, where the markets were closed and mobile internet services were suspended to check the spread of rumours. Curfew was imposed in seven police station areas of the city late in the evening as a preventive measure.
The murderers filmed the incident and posted the video on social media. They later released another video, showing two daggers used for beheading, and claimed responsibility for the crime. The two accused were arrested from neighbouring Rajsamand district late in the evening.
Kanhaiya Lal, who was earlier booked in connection with his post and questioned by the city police, had closed his shop in the Maldas Street area for a week and told the police that he feared danger to his life. He started coming to his shop only from Monday. Traders in the area kept his body outside the shop and demanded the immediate arrest of the killers.
Additional Director-General of Police (Law & Order) Hawa Singh Ghumaria said a general alert had been issued across the State and additional police force rushed to Udaipur. He said preliminary investigation indicated that it was a “premeditated murder”.
Udaipur Collector Tara Chand Meena reached the spot of the crime and assured the protesters that financial assistance would be given to the next of kin of the victim as per the State government’s norms. Two senior police officers were scheduled to arrive in the city late in the night to assess the situation.
CM Gehlot assures strict action against criminals
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot told reporters in Jodhpur that the way the murder had been committed was “beyond imagination”. He assured strict action against the criminals involved and appealed to the people to maintain peace and not share videos the accused had circulated. He said the investigation would be carried out under the case officer scheme. The criminals would be punished by ensuring a speedy probe and fast trial in the court.
Mr. Gehlot reiterated his demand that Prime Minister Narendra Modi issue an appeal for communal harmony and brotherhood, and declare that violence in any form would not be tolerated. “What is the harm in saying this? The Prime Minister’s statement will make a big difference... Tension is rising in small towns and the gulf between the communities is widening,” he said.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi expressed his deep shock and said in a Twitter post that the brutality in the name of religion could not be tolerated. “Those who spread terror with such cruelty should be punished immediately,” he said.
The Opposition BJP strongly criticised the Congress government. BJP State president Satish Poonia said the State government was following a “policy of appeasement”. Former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje said the government’s laxity had paved the way for communal frenzy and violence.