Jun 29, 2022 07:00 am
Two assailants masquerading as customers entered a shop in Udaipur on Tuesday and beheaded a tailor for a social media post supporting ex-BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma in the row over her remarks on the Prophet. A video purportedly showing the last moments of 40-year-old Kanhaiya Lal soon went viral along with another clip in which the duo, both holding butcher's knives, owned up to the beheading and threatened that PM Modi would be next.
By the time a police team traced suspects Mohammad Riyaz Akhtari and Gaus Mohammad to Bheem in Rajsamand district, 61km from Udaipur, protests erupted on the streets of the city, causing the administration to clamp curfew in seven police zones. Section 144 was invoked across the state as a precautionary measure along with a 24-hour mobile internet shutdown to prevent rumours from stoking the outrage.
CM Ashok Gehlot said the arrested men, identified as residents of Udaipur's Surajpole locality, would face a "speedy" investigation, trial and punishment, if found guilty. "The police will go into the depth of the case. I appeal to all parties to maintain peace," Gehlot tweeted, also appealing to people not to watch or share any video of the crime circulating on social media.
Late Tuesday, Rajasthan Police constituted a special investigation team comprising additional DGP Ashok Rathor and IGP Prafulla Kumar of the Anti-Terrorism Force, besides two officers of the rank of SP and ASP. The NIA might join the investigation, sources said, amid reports that the Centre wants the crime to be treated as "an act of terror".
Fellow shopkeepers in the bustling Bhoot Mahal marketplace claimed Kanhaiya Lal had received threats after his post backing Nupur Sharma and even reported it to the police. "He feared for his life, so much so that he didn't open his shop for several days. It was only around three days ago that he returned," said Mohan, a trader.
Police said Kahaniya Lal had been arrested a fortnight ago on charges of incitement and remanded in judicial custody. He got bail around a week ago, an officer said.
Sources said a resident of the city's Goverdhan Vilas area was in the victim's tailoring shop when a motorcycle stopped in front of it around 2.30pm and two bearded men carrying a bag each walked in, posing as customers. One of the assailants told Kanhaiya Lal that he would like a shirt stitched. He attacked the tailor from behind just as he was taking measurements while the other man recorded the act, sources quoted the witness as saying.
Udaipur police ran into irate protesters as shops began to down shutters moments after the beheading. A mob initially refused to allow the police to remove the victim's body.
Former CM Vasundhara Raje issued a statement blaming the killing on the "failure of the state government to prevent communal frenzy and violence". Congress's Rahul Gandhi tweeted that the country should "come together to defeat hate".