Other States

Wheels of justice moving at slow pace in Rajsamand hate killing case

Civil rights activists staging a demonstration over the brutal murder of Mohammed Afrazul at Rajsamand. File

Civil rights activists staging a demonstration over the brutal murder of Mohammed Afrazul at Rajsamand. File | Photo Credit: Rohit Jain Paras

Almost five years after the killing of a Muslim labourer and nearly four years after the present Congress government assumed office in Rajasthan, the trial of Shambhu Lal Regar, the accused, is still at the stage of recording evidence.

Mohammed Afrazul, 48, hailing from West Bengal, was hacked with an axe and burnt alive without any provocation in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand town in 2017. The accused, Shambhu Lal Regar, had filmed the act and uploaded the video on social media.

The gruesome murder, which created a nation-wide outrage, has come to the limelight again now after five years following the similar killing of tailor Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur earlier this week.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has expressed the hope that investigation in the Udaipur case will be conducted at a fast pace after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) takes over the probe. The NIA has obtained custody of the accused on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Congress has dismissed the charge of “appeasement policy” being followed towards Muslims by the Rajasthan government, and pointed out that the people of a particular party had at the time taken out a rally in support of Regar of the Rajsamand hate killing case, climbed atop a court complex and hoisted their flag there after removing the tricolour.

Regar, 40, had filmed the act of killing Afrazul on December 6, 2017, with the help of his minor nephew. The video showed the labourer begging for his life. Later, Regar circulated two more videos with hate speeches from the Jodhpur Central Jail asking Hindus to unite against Jihadis.

Slow progress in trial

While Regar was lodged in the high-security Central Jail in Jodhpur as an undertrial prisoner, the trial against him was in progress in the Sessions Court in Rajsamand. Jaidev Kachhawa, Public Prosecutor in Rajsamand district court, told The Hindu on Saturday that the trial was at the stage of recording of evidence and examination of witnesses.

Regar, a resident of Rajnagar, was seen claiming in the video clip that he had taken revenge for “love jihad” (cross-community marital relationships) and warned that anyone challenging the Hindus would “meet the same fate”. He attacked the victim, while asking the minorities to leave the country, and poured petrol over the semi-conscious man and threw a burning matchstick on him.

The half-charred body was identified as that of Afrazul, a native of Malda in West Bengal, who was working as an unskilled labourer in Rajsamand for the past 12 years. A father of three girls, he was planning to return home to arrange the wedding of his youngest daughter.

The then BJP government had promised stringent action against the assailant after his arrest and set up a special investigation team to probe the case, besides appointing a special public prosecutor. Mr. Kachhawa said the prosecution had filed a 413-page chargesheet in court and appended 68 pieces of evidence collected by the police. The court also rejected bail application of the accused.

Regar was booked under nine sections of Indian Penal Code, including 302 (murder), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295-A (outraging religious feelings), 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory), 120-B (criminal conspiracy), and other relevant sections of the Information Technology Act.

The chargesheet claimed that “love jihad” claim was a cover used by Regar to hide his illicit relationship with a woman whom he called his “Hindu sister” in the video. He was angry over the fact that the woman was still in contact with a labourer from West Bengal called Ballu Sheikh, with whom she had reportedly eloped in 2010.

Ballu Sheikh belonged to the same village as that of the murder victim. Regar received support from several rightist groups after his arrest and a crowdfunding campaign was launched to collect money for his wife. A party, Uttar Pradesh Navnirman Sena, also announced that it would field him as its candidate from Rampur in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

A Ram Navami procession taken out in Jodhpur in 2018 included a tableau, in which a man bearing striking resemblance to Regar was seated on a throne-like chair with a pickaxe in his hand. He was dressed in clothes similar to those of Regar and an accompanying banner called up the people to liberate the country from “love jihad”.

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Printable version | Jul 3, 2022 12:27:51 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/wheels-of-justice-moving-at-slow-pace-in-rajsamand-hate-killing-case/article65592702.ece