Radicalised Islamists of Tablighi Jamaat killed Amravati pharmacist to avenge alleged dishonour of Prophet: NIA charge sheet

The murder had caused riots in different places, terrorised people into leaving their jobs, and made many go into hiding
Last Updated : 20 December 2022, 04:14 IST
Last Updated : 20 December 2022, 04:14 IST

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Umesh Kolhe, a pharmacist from Amravati in Maharashtra, was murdered by "radicalised Islamists of Tablighi Jamaat" to avenge the alleged dishonour of Prophet Mohammed, as per the National Investigation Agency's charge sheet filed in a court.

The murder disturbed "public tranquillity and national integrity" and also the safety of the common public not only in Amravati, but also in the entire nation, the NIA claimed in the charge sheet filed before the court on Friday.

The murder had caused riots in different places, terrorised people into leaving their jobs, and made many go into hiding and many to fear for their lives and security. Such terrorist action has put to question India's integrity and its perseverance, the probe agency said. Calling it an act of terror by a gang of radicalised men, the NIA said they wanted to make an example out of the murder which they committed on the grounds that Kolhe allegedly hurt religious sentiments.

Kolhe was killed on June 21 this year after he shared a social media post supporting suspended BJP leader Nupur Sharma over her controversial remarks about the Prophet.

The NIA filed the charge sheet against the 11 accused before the special court on Friday. All of them have been arrested. They were booked under Indian Penal Code sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder), 341 (wrongful restraint), 153 A (promoting enmity), 201 (disappearance of evidence), 506 (criminal intimidation) as well as provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

"The investigation has revealed that radicalised Islamists of the Tablighi Jamaat committed the murder of Umesh Kolhe on the grounds of allegedly hurting religious sentiments, promoting enmity, ill-will and hatred among different castes and religions, especially between Hindus and Muslims in India, which is prejudicial to the maintenance of social harmony," the NIA stated.

The probe revealed the accused hatched a criminal conspiracy to kill Kolhe who had no property dispute or no history of fighting with the accused persons, it said.

The accused had formed a terrorist gang, being highly religiously radicalised to avenge Kolhe who put up a WhatsApp post in support of BJP leader Sharma, it said. The terrorist gang was highly influenced by the ideology of brutality 'Gustakh e Nabi Ki Ek hi Saja, sar tan se juda' (beheading is the only punishment for those who insult the Prophet), the agency said.

The NIA described Kolhe as a "law-abiding citizen" without any adverse history of any dispute with any other person in general and the accused in particular. "He exercised his right to free speech in a free country and declared his support to the alleged controversial remarks of Sharma. His execution is not a simple act of murder carried out intending to merely punish him for an alleged blasphemy so committed. It is an act of terror, by a gang of radicalised men who wanted to make an example out of the victim's murder. It was done in a manner that shall send shivers down the spine of the general population of this peace-loving democratic country, who would never dare to speak up, for what they think is right or wrong," it said.

The charge sheet stated the brutality of murdering a father in front of his son in a public space, "with a proper planning and celebration after doing the act with an intention to strike terror in a large section of society is a terrorist action, to say the least".

According to the NIA, Kolhe's murder had taken place a week before the beheading of Udaipur-based tailor Kanhaiya Lal on June 28 over the same issue of supporting the BJP leader (Nupur Sharma). After the murder, several communal clashes broke out in various states, leading to the registration of multiple FIRs. In all the FIRs, the same ideology of some religiously radicalised persons was flourishing with the same 'Gustakh e Nabi...' slogan which struck terror in the minds of people who stood for free speech and in support of Sharma, the NIA said.

The probe agency further claimed one of the accused, Irfan Khan, who was an estate agent, was the "mastermind" behind Kolhe's murder. Around 10 days before Kolhe's murder, Khan and co-accused Mushifique Ahmad, along with other members of the religious group had approached the local police station to file a case against Nupur Sharma for her controversial comments. However, the police did not register any FIR, as several complaints had already been registered against her in different states including Delhi. The accused were not satisfied with the police's response, and "they desired to avenge the act themselves", the NIA said.

The duo had also called a special meeting of members of the Muslim community to discuss the issue where the other accused were also present and insisted on registering an FIR against the BJP leader. The police again intervened and explained to them that multiple FIRs cannot be registered at multiple places for the same offence. It was decided in the meeting not to insist on the FIR but the accused were not satisfied with the decision, as per the charge sheet. A day before the murder, the accused had assembled at Gausiya Hall in Amravati and decided that beheading is the only punishment for dishonouring the Prophet, it said.

"Accordingly, they decided to behead Kolhe. Thus the accused persons with a common intention formed a terrorist gang under the leadership of Khan to avenge the alleged dishonour of the Prophet," it said.

The charge sheet has named three other residents of Amravati, besides Kolhe, who were threatened by the "religiously radicalised persons" for supporting Sharma.

These persons had been provided armed police security on 27 grounds of life threat, it said.

The murder case was initially probed by local police.

The NIA registered a case on July 2 as per directions of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The charge sheet has the statements of more than 170 witnesses. The documents submitted by the probe agency include the call data records of the accused and other electronic and technical evidence.

Published 20 December 2022, 04:14 IST

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