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Umesh Kolhe murder: NIA reveals 11 arrested were radicalized members of Tablighi Jamaat, instigated by ‘social activists’ Irfan and Maulvi Ahmad

The NIA also stated that before the murder of Kolhe, three Amravati citizens, Shreegopal Chandulal Rathi, Vishal Rajesh Bahad, and Jai Kumar Achhada, were also threatened by religiously radicalized individuals for their posts on different media offering support for Nupur Sharma.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has revealed that the 11 accused men who murdered Amravati-based pharmacist Umesh Kolhe were radicalized members of Tablighi Jamaat. The officials also said that the accused were persuaded by two ‘social activists’ identified as Irfan Khan and Maulavi Mushfique Ahmad.

This is days after the NIA filed a chargesheet in the Mumbai NIA court against the 11 arrested accused named in the murder case of Amravati’s pharmacist Umesh Kolhe. Those named in the charge sheet are Mubashir Ahmed, Shahrukh Khan, Abdul Tausheef Sheikh, Mohd Shoeb, Atib Rashid, Yusuf Khan, Irfan Khan, Abdul Arbaz, Musfeeq Ahmed, Sheikh Shakeel, and Shahim Ahmed.

According to a report by Hindustan Times, the investigating agency has revealed that this was the second attempt of the radicalized group to murder the pharmacist. The plan to eliminate Kolhe began with one of the accused Yusuf Khan – a veterinary doctor propagating a post by Kolhe on one of the social media groups named ‘black freedom’ on June 14. According to the NIA, Yusuf purposefully took screenshots of the message after altering Kolhe’s phone number and disseminated it in another group called “Kalim Ibrahim,” which was founded by Irfan and others. The NIA asserted that the plan to kill Kolhe began with the dissemination of texts.

According to the agency, after the post on June 19, all of the key suspects, namely Mohammad Shoeb, Atib Rashid, Irfan, and Shahim Ahemad, gathered in Gausiya Hall in Amravati and resolved to kill Kolhe while Irfan promised to provide them with all possible help.

“In the said meeting Irfan instructed them not to carry mobile phones, to wear black T-shirts and track pants and compulsorily to cover their faces with a scarf to conceal their identity. Thus, the accused persons with their common intention formed a terrorist gang under the leadership of A-7 (Irfan) to kill Umesh Kolhe for striking terror into the hearts and minds of the general population who supported Napur Sharma’s statement,” the chargesheet filed by NIA read.

On June 20, the accused were to eliminate him when he was leaving for his medical shop. The strategy, however, failed when Kohle did not show up. After this, Irfan developed another strategy and formed a spy unit to monitor Kohle’s movements to execute their conspiracy. On the night of June 20, the gang then reconvened with other accused, including Shaikh Shakil, Abdul Arbaz Mudassir Ahmed, Abdul Taufeeque Shaikh, and Atib, to replan Kolhe’s murder.

The spy unit assisted Mohammad Shoeb and Shahim Ahemad, in finding Kolhe. When he arrived at the location, the two stopped their bike, and Shoeb attacked Kolhe with a knife. The inquiry indicated that after the murder, the accused fled and met Irfan, who had planned a party to commemorate the crime. According to the agency, Abdul Arbaz, a member of the gang, went to the hospital to confirm Kolhe’s death and notified Irfan, who then informed Maulvi about Kolhe’s death.

The NIA also stated that before the murder of Kolhe, three Amravati citizens, Shreegopal Chandulal Rathi, Vishal Rajesh Bahad, and Jai Kumar Achhada, were also threatened by religiously radicalized individuals for their posts on different media offering support for Nupur Sharma.

The NIA further maintained that Irfan Khan, a real estate dealer, was indeed the mastermind behind the murder. The agency stated that Irfan turned out to be a ‘black horse’ in the conspiracy. According to the agency, Irfan has established an NGO called Rehebar and maintains a hotline under this organisation that provides ambulance services to the poor. Reports mention that he also assists folks with their domestic problems.

Umesh Kolhe, a pharmacist in Maharashtra’s Amravati city, was murdered by Islamists on June 21 for extending his support to beleaguered politician Nupur Sharma, who drew the ire of Muslim fundamentalists after Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair painted a target behind her for defending her faith in a news debate.

According to the chargesheet, the 11 accused hatched a conspiracy, acquired the murder weapon, plotted their strategy so that the pharmacist’s whereabouts could be traced, and then premeditatedly killed him. The NIA in the chargesheet also mentioned that the 11 accused were highly influenced by the Islamist ideology and believed in, “Gustakh -E- Nabi Ki Aik Saza, Sar Tan Se Juda.’

On July 2 this year, the NIA re-registered the case and took over the investigation. The case has been registered under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) Sections 16, 18, and 20 and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 34, 153 (A), 153 (B), 120 (B), and 302.

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