Arrests, questions in UP murder
Confectioner’s cash memo leads police to trio in Surat
- Published 20.10.19, 1:14 AM
- Updated 20.10.19, 1:14 AM
- 3 mins read
Three allegedly “radicalised Muslims” were arrested in Surat on Friday night on the charge of plotting the murder of Kamlesh Tiwari, president of the fringe group Hindu Samaj Party, in Lucknow that afternoon.
Uttar Pradesh police chief O.P. Singh said in Lucknow that Gujarat police had tracked the trio from a cash memo issued by a Surat sweets shop that the two assassins had left behind at the murder spot.
He said the killers were Lucknow residents but the police were yet to identify them or the extremist organisation they belonged to, if any.
Singh’s comments seemed to conflict with his statement on Friday that it was “simply a criminal case” and that the killers were “very well known to Tiwari”. State home secretary Awanish Awasthi too had on Friday blamed “personal enmity” for the murder.
“Three self-radicalised people from Surat in Gujarat had hatched a conspiracy to kill Tiwari because he had made an objectionable remark against their religion in (December) 2015,” Singh told reporters on Saturday.
He named the trio: Rashid Ahmad Pathan alias Khurshid, 23, a tailor who had once lived in Dubai; Mohsin Sheikh Salim, 24, a cleric who works in a sari shop; and Mohammad Faizan, 21, an employee at a footwear shop.
“Rashid, a computer expert, had decided to punish Tiwari. He spoke to Salim about his plan and they both discussed it with Faizan. Later, they contacted two associates in Lucknow to execute the job,” he said.
“We haven’t any lead on which extremist group was involved,” he clarified, scotching a rumour that a Muslim organisation had claimed responsibility for the murder.
A police source claimed the three suspects had confessed their role, adding that they had no criminal history.
On Friday, Tiwari’s party and his wife Kiran had alleged the killers were “Muslim extremists”. Kiran had blamed the murder on a fatwa two western Uttar Pradesh clerics had issued in 2016 announcing a reward of Rs 1.5 crore for anyone who would behead Tiwari.
Singh said that Anwar-ul-Haq and Naseem Kazmi, the two clerics from Bijnore who had issued the fatwa, had been detained and were being questioned.
The two assassins, who apparently wore saffron kurtas and jeans, had chatted with Tiwari over tea for half an hour before shooting him and stabbing him 15 times at his office on the first floor of his home and slipping away unnoticed.
Singh said the killers had brought the revolver and the knife in a box of sweets that Faizan had bought from Dharti Namkeen, a shop in Surat, on Wednesday evening. He, however, left several questions unanswered, such as:
- Why was Tiwari killed four years after his provocative remark?
- Why did the box of sweets need to be bought in Surat?
- Why did the killers leave the confectioner’s cash memo inside the box at Tiwari’s office to make it easy for the police to trace the Surat connection?
A police source said the sweets had been bought at 9.30pm on Wednesday and that the next train (Awadh Express) from Surat to Lucknow was at 3am on Thursday.
The train normally arrives in Lucknow at 6.25am the following day but because of track repairs near Tundla, it arrived at 3pm on Friday. But the killers were at Tiwari’s office from 11.47am to 12.23pm on Friday, according to CCTV footage.
It therefore appears that if the confectioner’s box theory is correct, it was sent to Lucknow on a flight or by road.
Mom ire at Yogi
The strained ties between Tiwari and the state’s BJP government were evident as a crowd chanted slogans against the Yogi Adityanath administration and the police before the murdered politician’s ancestral home at Mahmoodabad in Sitapur district, 90km north of Lucknow.
The police had on Friday night shifted the body to Mahmoodabad against the wishes of Tiwari’s wife and mother, Ramshri.
Sitting beside the body and surrounded by hundreds of her son’s supporters, Ramshri told reporters at noon she wouldn’t let the last rites take place till Adityanath visited her “to explain why my son was killed”.
She also wanted Lucknow senior superintendent of police Kalanidhi Naithani suspended, alleging he had reduced her son’s security detail from 17 policemen to two. She demanded the sack for all the cops attached to Naka police station near Tiwari’s Lucknow home.
Ramshri eventually allowed the cremation to go ahead after local government officials met her and promised a new house in Lucknow for the family and a job for her grandson.
Adityanath later told reporters: “I will meet the family if they come to me.”
“I don’t feel like meeting the chief minister,” Ramshri told reporters in Mahmoodabad.
On Friday, Tiwari’s supporters had booed and heckled deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma when he arrived at the slain politician’s Lucknow home, where Ramshri and Kiran refused him entry.
“Although we wanted to cremate my son in Lucknow, the police forcibly brought the body to Mahmoodabad and dumped it here,” Ramshri said on Saturday.
“My son was safe during the rule of (former Samajwadi Party chief minister) Akhilesh Yadav and (minister and BJP bogeyman) Azam Khan but was killed under Yogi’s rule. We know who got my son killed.”
A video dated August 14 has surfaced on Facebook showing Tiwari purportedly asking his supporters to organise a protest because “the government is conspiring against me”.
“They used to pat me behind the curtain in the past but are treating me as a goonda since coming to power. You (the government) can put me in jail or kill me in an encounter…. My commitment is to make India a Hindu Rashtra,” he purportedly says.
Members of the BJP and the wider Sangh parivar stayed away from the murder protests in Lucknow and Sitapur, confining themselves to posting condolence messages on social media.