Rajasthan police on Thursday arrested an unemployed man purportedly seen in a series of video clips hitting and stabbing a man, burning the body and warning “jihadis” to leave India or meet a similar fate.
The accused, Shambhu Lal Regar, allegedly told police he killed 50-year-old Afrazul Islam, a migrant worker from West Bengal, to save a woman from ‘love jihad’, a term used by right-wing Hindu groups to describe inter-faith marriages which they claim is an Islamist conspiracy to convert Hindu women through marriage or coercion.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee condemned the “inhuman” act while Islam’s distraught family demanded a public hanging of the accused.
Besides Regar, police also arrested his nephew who is believed to have shot the videos in a wooded area in the western state’s Rajsamand district. Hindustan Times couldn’t independently verify the authenticity of the videos.
The video clips, circulated on WhatsApp, sparked outrage across the country and several rights organisations demanded the resignation of chief minister Vasundhara Raje and home minister Gulab Chand Kataria.
“The video is gut-wrenching. Strict action will be taken against him (the perpetrator) once caught,” Kataria told a news agency before Regar was arrested.
A special investigation team (SIT) has been set up to probe the case, he added.
“Prima facie, it appears that Regar killed the man and the man was dead when he set the body on fire,” Rajsamand superintendent of police said Manoj Kumar said.
The charred body was found on Wednesday afternoon by a passerby who informed the police.
In one of the clips, Regar — dressed in a red shirt, a pair of white trousers and white shoes — attacks the man with an iron rod and stabs the man when he falls to the ground.
In another one-minute footage, Regar pours a liquid, most likely petrol, over the body in a deserted area lined with trees amid chirping of birds.
“Jihadiyo hamare desh se hat jao (jihadis, leave our country),” he is heard shouting before he lights a match stick and throws it on the body.
In another clip, a man who looks like Regar rants about launching a war against “Islamic jihad in Mewar”.
“This day, 25 years ago Babri Masjid was razed but nothing has happened even 25 years later,” the man can be heard saying.
In Islam’s native village Saidapur in Malda district — more than 310 km from Kolkata – grief turned to anger overnight as the brutality of the crime sunk in among shocked family members and neighbours.
“Yesterday (Wednesday), we got the news that he was murdered. I am sure he had no love affair with anyone. I want the culprits to be hanged publicly,” Islam’s wife, Gul Bahar Bibi, said on Thursday.
“The government should hang my father’s killer. If they can’t do it, they should bring him back to life,” said Rezina Khatun, Afrazul’s daughter.
She added: “I don’t know how I will arrange money for the marriage of my daughter”, whose marriage was scheduled within a couple of months. Islam was working in Rajasthan for the past 12 years.
Rajasthan director general of police, OP Galhotra, said the prosecution will demand death for the “cold-blooded” and “premeditated killing” which he described as a rarest of rare case.
“No normal human being can do such act. Such person can only be insane,” he said.
In a joint statement, several rights groups said the chief minister and home minister allegedly giving impunity to the accused of a series of hate crimes against Muslims.
The statement mentioned the lynching of dairy farmer Pehlu Khan on April 3 in Alwar, the lynching of Zafar Khan in Pratapgarh by municipality chairperson and sanitary staff on June 16 and murder of Umar Mohammad by alleged gau rakshaks on November 10 in Alwar.
“We would also like to state that there have been many incidents where Muslims have been attacked as part of hate crimes and not been killed so the number of incidents are huge,” the statement said.
“The BJP, which is in power with 160 MLA out of 200, needs to stop giving protection to these killers,” the statement added.
Raje has been accused by opposition and critics of not condemning such hate attacks, a charge she denies.
(With agency inputs)