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Hate attack claims innocent youth in Pune

Mumbai, June 4: A hate attack suspected to have been fuelled by morphed pictures of Shivaji circulating on the Net has claimed the life of a young man who was in no way linked to the controversy.

Mohsin Shaikh, a 24-year-old techie from Solapur employed with the IT department of a textile firm in Pune, died yesterday after being brutally assaulted with hockey sticks while returning to his rented apartment on Monday night.

“He had no connection with the derogatory Facebook post. He was innocent,” deputy commissioner of police (North) Manoj Patil said.

Police today arrested six more activists of the Hindu Rashtra Sena, a Pune-based fringe group that was in the news in 2007 for attacking the office of a television channel, taking the total number of arrests in connection with the killing to 13.

Sources said more arrests were likely in connection with the murder, a fallout of heightened tensions triggered by morphed derogatory pictures of the legendary warrior king and Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray that were posted on Facebook and circulated on WhatsApp.

The police have also arrested the Rashtra Sena chief Dhananjay Desai, but in connection with another case. Desai, who had been questioned over the August 2013 murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, is likely to be quizzed in connection with this case too, the sources said.

Mohsin was attacked around 9.30pm on Monday, two days after the morphed pictures started circulating, triggering tension in Pune and Kolhapur. The young man from Solapur was returning home with his brother Mubin and roommate Riyaz Ahmad after evening prayers at a mosque near Bankar Colony in Pune’s Hadapsar area.

While Mubin headed for their rented apartment in Hadapsar, Mohsin and Riyaz, who had stopped to collect their dinner, were intercepted by around 20 people who surrounded them. The mob attacked Mohsin as his frightened roommate ran away. Admitted to a private hospital, the young techie succumbed to his injuries yesterday.

In their statement to the police, Riyaz and Mubin alleged that Mohsin was attacked because he had a beard.

Asked if Mohsin was targeted because he sported a beard while his clean-shaven friend was let off, deputy commissioner Patil said: “We are investigating that.”

Seven of the suspected attackers who fled, leaving behind their motorcycles after police arrived at the spot, were arrested yesterday. “We have arrested six more Hindu Rashtra Sena activists today, taking the total arrests to 13,” Patil said.

All 13 have been booked under penal code sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 147 (rioting).

Monday’s assault on Mohsin followed fresh rumours that a statue of Shivaji had been attacked. Sources said the attackers, who started going around the area on motorbikes, beat up two other youths before attacking Mohsin.

On Sunday, suspected Sena activists had attacked buses and blocked roads in Pune, Kolhapur, Solapur and parts of western Maharashtra in protest against the morphed pictures. Several buses and vehicles were damaged.

The group chief Desai is from Vile Parle in Mumbai but now lives in Pune. According to the police, he has 23 cases against him, including inflammatory speeches, circulating provocative pamphlets and vandalism.