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Udaipur tailor murder | Initial probe finds Pakistan link

The body of Kanhaiya Lal being taken for cremation in Udaipur on June 29, 2022.

The body of Kanhaiya Lal being taken for cremation in Udaipur on June 29, 2022. | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

As initial investigations into the Udaipur tailor’s murder pointed to a Pakistan link, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) took over the case on Wednesday.

The victim, Kanhaiya Lal Teli, was hacked to death on Tuesday over his alleged online post supporting former BJP leader Nupur Sharma, who had made offensive remarks against the Prophet.

The two prime accused — Mohammed Riyaz Attari of Bhilwara and Ghous Mohammed of Udaipur — were arrested the same day. As initial investigationsprobe pointed to a Pakistan link, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) took over the case in which provisions of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act have been invoked. “The accused persons had also circulated a video of the criminal act in the social media claiming responsibility for the murder in order to trigger panic and strike terror among the masses across the country,” the NIA said.

The police said Ghous visited Pakistan in 2014-15 and was in touch with some persons from Karachi over phone. While three more persons have been detained, probe is also on to determine if the key accused were affiliated to the Pakistan-based outfit Dawat-e-Islami.

Pakistan on Wednesday rejected reported insinuation in India to link the accused in the murder case to a Pakistan-based organisation.

“We have seen reports in a segment of the Indian media referring to investigations into the murder case in Udaipur, mischievously seeking to link the accused individuals, Indian nationals, to an organisation in Pakistan. We categorically reject any such insinuations, which are typical of the BJP-RSS ‘Hindutva’ driven Indian regime’s attempts at maligning Pakistan including by externalising their internal issues through pointing of fingers towards Pakistan. Such malicious attempts will not succeed in misleading the people, either in India or abroad,” a Foreign Office spokesperson in Islamabad said.

Prohibitory orders imposed

On Wednesday, all the shops remained shut throughout the day as the district administration imposed prohibitory orders across the city and suspended mobile Internet services as a precautionary measure. The localities housing the Muslim community were barricaded and curfew was imposed in the areas falling under seven police stations.

In the morning, several locals gathered at a government hospital where the post-mortem examination of the body was conducted, which revealed multiple injuries inflicted with sharp weapons.

Escorted by a large contingent of security personnel and senior police officers, including Additional Director-General of Police Dinesh M.N., the mortal remains of Kanhaiyya Lal were then taken to his residence around 10.30 a.m.

A large number of residents turned up to console the victim’s family and shouted slogans demanding that the “traitors of the country be shot dead”.

An inconsolable Yashoda, wife of Kanhaiyya Lal, said the killers should be eliminated or else they would also target others. Later, waiving saffron flags and raising slogans, the community members took out a four-km-long procession while the body was being taken to the cremation ground. On the way, some irate protesters hurled stones at a nearby graveyard. The policemen intervened and brought the situation under control immediately.

The locals blamed the police for not arresting those who had been threatening Kanhaiyya Lal over the past few days. His wife Yasoda said: “People were coming to his shop to terrorise him. He had also received threat calls on his mobile phone. The police had asked him to keep his shop shut for a few days till things calmed down. He would not share all the details, but he was under tremendous stress.”

Her niece alleged that the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage of Kanhaiyya Lal’s shop had been tampered with.

As it turned out, based on a complaint alleging that he had posted a message on his Facebook page in support of suspended Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Nupur Sharma, the Dhanmandi police had registered a first information report against Kanhaiyaa Lal on June 11. He was arrested and released on bail the next day. His family members and friends said that some child had posted the message.

“As there was a threat to his life, he stayed away from his shop. He also approached the police for protection. We offered him support in pursuing the complaint. However, we later found that the police had brokered a compromise between him and the other parties,” advocate Kailash Sahu said.

The tailor got a CCTV installed at his shop located in the busy Maldas Street market. Thinking that the issue had been resolved, he opened his shop on Tuesday. After a while, two persons turned up posing as customers. Just when he was taking the measurements for one of them, he was attacked with sharp weapons around 2. 45 p.m. The whole act was videographed by the assailants. One of the helpers of Kanhaiyya Lal also sustained severe head injuries while trying to save him.

After subduing him, the two accused dragged the victim out of the shop and slit his throat. The other shopkeepers in the area were so terrorised by the incident that no one dared to rescue him. The assailants fled the scene of crime on foot and then drove away on a motorcycle. As the news of the killing spread, it triggered an instant protest by the members of several Hindu organisations. They did not allow the police to remove the body, demanding the arrest of those involved.

Within an hour of the killing, a video surfaced in which the accused claimed responsibility for the grisly murder and also threatened Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Around 8 p.m., the police announced that the two had been arrested near Rajsamand, around 80 km from Udaipur. Thereafter, the police were allowed to take away the body.

Around the same time, the district administration suspended mobile Internet services in order to maintain law and order. However, the situation had already aggravated by then. The protesters got all the shops closed. In the late evening, a large crowd that had gathered at Dehli Gate turned violent and targeted a nearby mosque, a shrine and also damaged make-shift shops belonging to the members of the Muslim community.

On Wednesday, Gulab Chand Kataria, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajasthan Assembly, attended the cremation along with his supporters.

“The police should have given protection to Kanhaiyya Lal,” the BJP leader said, accusing the State government of having failed to take action in such cases.

Dharm Narayan Joshi, MLA from Mavli constitutency, alleged that another person named Nitin Jain was in hiding as he had also received threats. A similar case was registered against him at the Savina police station on the allegation that he had posted a social media message in Ms. Sharma’s support.

Meanwhile, an NIA team reached the crime scene along with forensic experts to gather evidence. Some witnesses also accompanied the officials to narrate the sequence of events leading to the murder.

According to police sources, the accused had been kept at a safehouse and would be produced before a competent court. The NIA would seek their custodial interrogation to unearth the conspiracy.

Following allegations of negligence, an assistant sub-inspector of the Dhanmandi police station was placed under suspension. However, it failed to pacify the locals, who were not satisfied with the disciplinary action.

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Printable version | Jun 30, 2022 7:55:44 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/udaipur-tailor-murder-initial-probe-finds-pakistan-link/article65579452.ece