UDAIPUR — Holding saffron flags, thousands of people marched through the city of Udaipur demanding death penalty for the two Muslim men who killed 42-year-old Kanhaiya Lal in broad daylight, shot the video, and posted another one on social media boasting about their brutal act.
On the afternoon of 29 June, Lal, a tailor, was hacked to death by two Muslim men at his shop on Maldas Street of Udaipur for sharing a social media post in support of suspended Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nupur Sharma. Sharma had made disparaging remarks about Prophet Muhammad during a debate on Times Now television channel last month.
The "brutal killing" of Lal was filmed by the killers that went viral across the country. After the incident, another video was shared online in which the two men purportedly claimed responsibility for the killing. In the video, the men identified themselves as Mohammad Riyaz Attari and Ghouse Mohammad, brandished knives, and claimed that they would also kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is investigating whether Mohammad Riyaz Attari and Ghouse Mohammad, the two men accused in the brutal killing of the Hindu tailor for a social media post, are part of a larger international terror network or just a "local self-radicalised terror gang". One of them is being interrogated for his possible links with Karachi-based organisation Dawat-e-Islami.
Who Were The Men Who Killed Udaipur Tailor On Camera?
The locals in Khangipeer Kishanpol area of Udaipur, where Attari, 40, and Mohammed, 38, lived with their families, refuse to accept their links with terror outfits. "At least 20-30 percent of Muslims in our locality have relatives in Pakistan but that doesn't mean we all have links with terrorists," a local told BOOM.
The locals said that Mohammad had gone to Pakistan in 2014 to attend a religious gathering "Dawat-e-Islam". After his return, he continued his normal life. Before he opened a grocery store outside his house two years ago, Mohammad worked with Sahara India's collection team in Udaipur.
The collective shock is palpable; there's an eerie silence in the Muslim-dominated neighbourhood of Udaipur, five kilometres away from where the tailor lived. The locals say they are shocked and ashamed of the action of the two men from their community.
The locality has been barricaded from all sides as the police allow only residents to pass by after checking their IDs.
Attari lived with his wife and two children in rented accommodation for the last 12 years. He worked as a welder. Mohammed lived with his parents, wife and two children in a house that was bought over three decades ago. Both their houses are now locked. After the police searched their homes the same evening, the families of both the accused packed their bags and left.
Attari's in-laws, who also lived in the same locality, locked their under-construction house and left.
"If he was a terrorist, why was he not arrested and why was he not on their radar? They should have arrested him before in that case," a local told BOOM, adding that the two men have no past criminal record.
Mohammad, they say, was a "simple, religious man". He looked after the local mosque, taught the Quran to children in the neighborhood and worked to raise Covid-19 awareness, earning much respect from the locals.
Lal, the slain Hindu tailor, they say, became a victim of the "hate triggered by the actions of the BJP-led government against the Muslims in the country". "That innocent man should not have been killed. Islam does not give us the permission to kill," said Arshid, a local.
Locals in the neighborhood could not comprehend why Mohammad and Attari recorded Lal's killing and shared it. "We don't know what was the motive behind this killing and what was going on in their minds. It's a mad person's act," one of the locals told BOOM. "Even on Bakra Eid, we hate if people upload videos of doing Qurbani because that can also hurt anyone," he added.
The Social Media Post
Until the day he was killed, the locals say they were not aware of Lal's social media post that was in support of Nupur Sharma's comments on the Prophet. In a Facebook post, Lal had written, "Nupur Sharma ne kuch galat nahi kaha, ye sab sahi aur likha huwa hai (Nupur Sharma has not said anything wrong, it's true and written)".
A Facebook friend of Lal's, a local Muslim tailor, took offence to the post and registered a complaint, Jitendra Anchalaye, Deputy Superintendent of Police of Dand Mandi police station told BOOM. "They knew each other," he said.
On 10 June, the police arrested Lal and let him go a day later. On 15 June, he filed a complaint about the death threats he reportedly received.
The DySP told BOOM that people who are involved in the crime have no criminal background. "They are Jihadi mindset people," he said.
The home where 42-year-old Lal used to live has been thronged by visitors: Locals, relatives and friends, politicians, and several right-wing groups.
Sitting in a corner of the lobby of their three-story house at Govardhan Vilas area of Udaipur, 20-year-old Yash Tali, Lal's elder son, meets people with folded hands who come to offer condolences.
Yash told BOOM that his father was detained after local Muslim community members filed a complaint against him for his social media post supporting the former BJP leader's statement. The matter was settled between the two groups before the police and Lal were let go.
After keeping his shop shut for six days, Lal opened it again when he thought everything was back to normal. However, Lal's son said that even after peace was brokered, two people had gone to the shop to threaten his father.
"Two people, a man and a burqa-clad woman went to his shop and threatened to kill him. He filed a police complaint and informed them that his shop is being watched. The police did nothing," he said.
Lal's younger son Tarun told BOOM that they don't know what was written in the social media post allegedly shared by his father.
After the complaint was registered against him by local Muslims, Lal had said that the post was accidentally shared by the 8-year-old son of his shop's owner. "He used to take Papa's phone to play games. He may have clicked the share button," he said.
BOOM reached out to Superintendent of Udaipur Police, Manoj Kumar, about the allegations made by Lal's family who said that no details can be shared yet. "Investigation is going on," he said.
Meanwhile, Station House Officer Govind Singh has been suspended for not taking timely action on the complaint filed by Lal. The Rajasthan government has also suspended Udaipur's Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Ashok Meena. The Udaipur Range IG and the Udaipur district superintendent of police have been transferred.
A Call For Boycotting Muslims' Businesses
During the heavily secured Jagannath Yatra on 1 July, the saffron-clad men and women of different right-wing groups demanded boycotting all business ties with Muslims to "teach them a lesson". For the last few days since the brutal killing, hundreds of protestors have gathered to raise communally charged slogans.
Soon after Lal's killing, authorities in Udaipur announced curfew and imposed Section 144 in the city. All commercial activities and schools have been shut. The government also suspended internet connection all across Rajasthan.
Muslims in the locality fear that the incident will affect the harmony between the two communities.
"There may be fights and rifts between Muslims and Hindus in India, but ours was a peaceful neighborhood. There was a good relationship between the communities. I am worried that the bonhomie may not continue after this incident," said Arshid.
Arshid, a painter by profession, said that around 80 per cent in their locality are working-class people and have been in business and jobs with Hindus. He fears that it would not remain the same and many of them would find it difficult to find jobs.
"I have been working in Hindu houses for the last 8 years. Would anyone hire me now? They (Hindus) would suspect Mohammad and Attari in all of us," he said. "Now there will be fewer options for our livelihood," he added.
Arshid said that during the protests Hindu groups announced that they should boycott any business terms with Muslims. "We can only wish that things would turn better between us, but there is not much hope," he said.