A 54-year-old chemist was stabbed to death in Amravati city of Maharashtra, with the police suspecting that the accused committed the offence as the victim had allegedly shared a post on a social messaging platform in support of Nupur Sharma, whose remarks on Prophet Mohammed led to nationwide protests and global condemnation.
The chemist, Umesh Prahladrao Kolhe, was killed on June 21, and five persons have been arrested so far in this connection, an official said.
The incident occurred a week before two men hacked to death Kanhaiya Lal, a tailor in Rajasthan's Udaipur, with a cleaver at his shop before posting videos online saying that they were avenging an insult to Islam.
"Five persons have been arrested in connection with the murder of the chemist and a search is on to trace the prime accused Irfan Khan (32), who runs a NGO," Amravati commissioner of police Dr Aarti Singh said on Saturday.
"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," an official of the City Kotwali police station said.
After that, Irfan Khan hatched a conspiracy to eliminate Kolhe and roped in five persons for it. He promised to give Rs 10,000 to them and safe escape in a car, he said.
The incident occurred between 10 pm and 10.30 pm on June 21, when Kolhe was going home on a two-wheeler after closing his shop, he said, adding that his son Sanket (27) and wife Vaishnavi were accompanying him on a different vehicle.
"When all of them reached near Mahila College's gate, two motorcycle-borne men came from behind and blocked Kolhe's path. A youth alighted from the motorcycle and stabbed Kolhe on his neck with a sharp weapon and escaped from the spot. Kolhe collapsed on the road in a pool of blood. Sanket rushed him to a hospital, where he died," the official said.
Based on Saket's complaint, an FIR was registered and five persons, identified as Muddsir Ahemad (22), Shahrukh Pathan (25), Abdul Thoufique (24) Shoaib Khan (22) and Atib Rashid (22), all residents of Amravati and daily wage workers, have been arrested.
The police have seized the knife used in the crime and obtained the CCTV footage capturing the sequence of events.
Police commissioner Singh said the exact reason behind the murder is being ascertained.
The Bharatiya Janata Party had on June 5 suspended its national spokesperson Nupur Sharma and expelled Delhi BJP media head Jindal after their alleged derogatory remarks against the Prophet led to an outrage in India and Gulf countries.