Three held in Gujarat for murder of ex-Hindu Mahasabha leader

Kamaal Saiyed, Manish Sahu
The three suspects arrested in Surat on Saturday. (Express photo)

A DAY after Kamlesh Tiwari, former working president of the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, was killed in Lucknow, three persons, including a cleric, were arrested in Surat on Saturday. While two others were detained, they were freed after questioning.

Maulana Mohsin Sheikh (24), Rashid Ahmed Pathan (22) and Faizan Shaikh (21) were arrested in a joint operation by the Uttar Pradesh Police, Gujarat ATS and Crime Branch, Surat.

“All the three arrested have confessed their involvement in the murder. We have got the names of two other accused who carried out the killing,” K K Patel, Deputy SP, Gujarat ATS, told The Sunday Express. “Maulana Mohsin Sheikh hails from Bharuch district, Faizan is from Rajasthan, and Rashid was born in Surat,” he said.

According to police, Rashid Ahmed Pathan was working in a computer shop in Dubai for the last two years, Maulana Mohsin Sheikh teaches at a madrasa in Umarwada area of Surat, and Faizan Shaikh does odd jobs. Rashid reportedly returned to Surat about two months ago for the wedding of his brother, Saeed Pathan, on November 3.

Dharti Sweets, from where they allegedly bought sweets. (Express photo)

Uttar Pradesh DGP O P Singh said the motive behind the killing seemed to be to avenge Tiwari’s objectionable comments against the Prophet in 2015. “We are working with Gujarat ATS and no link with any terrorist organisation has been established so far,” he said.

The DGP also denied any link with two alleged IS operatives, Kasim Stimberwala and Obaid Mirza, who were arrested in Gujarat in October 2017. A chargesheet filed against them had mentioned that the duo had confessed about a plan to kill Tiwari.

Asked about a message being circulated on social media that a group called Al-Hind Brigade had claimed responsibility for Tiwari’s murder, Singh said its authenticity had not been verified.

Police said the lead came from a box of sweets that the alleged killers left behind at Tiwari’s home, which had the address of ‘Dharti Sweets’, a shop in Udhna area of Surat. Sources said a bill of purchase, dated October 16, for ghari, a local sweet, was found with the box. Police then checked the CCTV footage at ‘Dharti Sweets’, from which it reportedly identified Faizan as the person who bought the sweets.

Faizan was picked up from his house in Padmavati Society, in Limbayat area of Surat. Police said he led them to Rashid Pathan and his brother Saeed Pathan (23). Their questioning reportedly pointed to the involvement of Maulana Mohsin Shaikh, who was picked up from Umarwada area of Surat.

Saeed Pathan and Gaurav Tiwari, who had also been detained, were released after questioning. According to sources, Gaurav had called up Kamlesh Tiwari recently and expressed willingness to join his party and work in Surat.

“They had been planning to kill Tiwari for the last four years. When Rashid returned from Dubai (a couple of months ago), all the accused met and hatched the plan. Faizan bought the sweets from Dharti Sweets, while Rashid provided financial assistance, and Maulana Mohsin Sheikh brainwashed them. A total of five persons are involved in the murder — two are still absconding,” said Gujarat ATS Deputy SP Patel.

“The accused involved in the conspiracy and the killing have been identified. Further investigations will reveal if more people are involved,” said Additional Director General, Lucknow Zone, Satya Narain Sabat.

Meanwhile, two clerics from Bijnor, Maulana Anwarul Haq and Mufti Naeem, who were named in the FIR filed by Tiwari’s wife for having announced a reward for beheading him after his comments against the Prophet in 2015, have been detained for questioning.

Rashid’s father, Khurshid Pathan (79), who hails from Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh, moved to Surat about 40 years ago. He worked in a dyeing and printing factory in Udhna area. “We are shocked by the police action. We don’t know who Kamlesh Tiwari is and who killed them. My children are innocent, we have full faith in the judicial process,” said Khurshid.

Khurshid has two other sons, Fareed (25) and Moeed (21). He said Fareed went to Chandigarh with a friend, Ashfak Shaikh, three days ago. “Since then, both his and his friend’s phones are switched off. We are worried about them,” said Khurshid.

As the then working president of the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, Tiwari had appealed on behalf of the organisation in the Ayodhya case before the Supreme Court. A controversial leader, Tiwari founded the Hindu Samaj Party about three years ago. He was jailed in 2015 over a remark he made about the Prophet that triggered protests and violence. The Lucknow police had invoked the NSA against him but it was set aside a year later by the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court.

Tiwari was killed at his Lucknow home on Friday. After a preliminary check, doctors told police that Tiwari’s throat had been slit. Later, Additional SP (West Lucknow) Vikas Chandra Tripathi said the postmortem report “stated that there is a bullet injury near the neck.” CCTV footage showed two youths entering his house around noon. A pistol and an empty cartridge were recovered from the spot.