Umesh Kolhe was killed in Amravati city last month.
Amid simmering tension over the gruesome killing of a tailor in Rajasthan’s Udaipur for a social media post on Prophet Mohammad, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has asked the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to probe the murder of a chemist whose throat was slit a week earlier in Maharashtra.
The local BJP unit in Amravati had alleged that 54-year-old Umesh Kolhe’s killing was connected to the Udaipur incident, which is being probed by the central anti-terrorism agency. More than two weeks after the murder and following Amit Shah’s order, the police confirmed the link, releasing CCTV footage of the incident.
“Six people have been arrested in the case so far. The accused have told us that they killed him because of what he posted about Nupur Sharma,” senior police officer Vikram Sali said.
The statement came after pressure from the BJP. “Umesh Kolhe’s murder is related to the Nupur Sharma controversy. People in the police department also think so. We have learnt that the killers have admitted to murdering him because of supporting Nupur Sharma, but the police are trying to cover it up,” Tushar Bhartiya, a BJP leader in Amravati district, had said.
“This happened on the 21st [June]. Had it been reported widely on the 22nd, [Udaipur tailor] Kanhaiya [Lal] wouldn’t have been killed. That is why the police are trying to hide it. If they can’t find the real reason even after catching the culprits, the case should be transferred from them,” he said.
According to sources, teams of the Maharashtra Police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) are on their way to Amravati to investigate the case.
Umesh Kohle ran a veterinary medicine shop in Amravati.
A veterinary chemist, Umesh Kolhe was on his way back from his shop in Amravati city on June 21 when he was waylaid by a two men on a motorcyle who killed him by slitting his throat around 10 pm. His 27-year-old son and wife were accompanying him in a different vehicle.
The BJP has said Umesh Kolhe, like Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur, had shared a post on a social messaging platform in support of Nupur Sharma, whose remarks on Prophet Mohammad led to nationwide protests and global condemnation.
A tailor in Rajasthan’s Udaipur, Kanhaiya Lal was killed with a cleaver at his shop by two men who posted videos online saying that they were avenging an insult to Islam on June 28.
According to a police officer quoted by news agency PTI, “Kolhe ran a medical store in Amravati city. He had allegedly shared a post on some WhatsApp groups in support of Nupur Sharma for her comments. He even mistakenly shared the post in a WhatsApp group in which some Muslims were also members, including his customers.”
After that, a man named Irfan Khan gathered five others to kill Kohle. He promised to give them Rs 10,000 and a safe escape in a car, he said.
The six men who have been arrested have been identified as Muddsir Ahmad, 22, Shah Rukh Pathan, 25, Abdul Thoufique, 24, Shoaib Khan, 22, and Atib Rashid, 22 and Yusuf Khan Bahadur, 44., all residents of Amravati. The police have also seized the knife used.
The BJP had on June 5 suspended its national spokesperson Nupur Sharma and expelled Delhi BJP media head Naveen Kumar Jindal after their remarks against the Prophet led to an outrage in India and Gulf countries.
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