Muslim Youth Arbaz Mulla’s Phone Found, Belagavi Police Rules Out Suicide
Arbaz Mulla's body was found on a railway track on 28 September. Ram Sene's hand is suspected in the alleged murder.
Arbaz Aftab Mulla had a phone with him at the time of his death on 28 September. The Belagavi police has recovered the smartphone from the crime scene, and it is now part of evidence, a police source confirmed to The Quint.
Also, based on injuries found on Mulla’s face and arms, police have ruled out suicide, the source said.
Mulla’s family was not aware of him carrying a phone, two district police officials said. According to Mulla’s mother, Nazeema Mohammed Gouse Sheikh, he had left two phones with his grandmother when he left home at 5 pm on 28 September. The police are now tracing call data records (CDR) of the third phone, the source said.
The confirmation comes even as the police have not made arrests eight days after the 24-year-old’s body was discovered.
Mulla’s family has been alleging that the youth was under threat from Sri Ram Sene, a right-wing outfit, for being in an alleged relationship with a Hindu woman. In a complaint lodged with the Belagavi police, Mulla’s mother Nazeema had alleged that the woman’s father too was involved in the alleged murder.
Mulla’s family had told The Quint that the youth was under threat from leaders of the Ram Sene for six months before his death.
Why the Phone is Crucial Evidence
The phone was recovered from Mulla’s body, which was found on a railway track near Khanapur near Belagavi. On 28 September, the police first suspected unnatural death even as Mulla’s family accused the woman’s father and two local leaders of Sri Ram Sene — Pundalik Maharaj and Prashant Bijre.
However, the police source said that call records of the recovered phone indicated communication between the deceased and more than one accused person.
While the source did not reveal the names of those suspected, they confirmed that the Belagavi police called for questioning at least five suspects based on the call records.
The police, however, did not confirm whether the accused persons and the deceased were in close proximity at the time of his death. This can be ascertained by tracing the cell phone tower locations of the accused and the deceased.
The recovered cell phone will also help the police ascertain where Mulla was at the time of his death. So far, the police have been maintaining that they have not traced Mulla’s whereabouts during the final hour.
Injuries to Face and Arms Indicate Foul Play
Apart from the cell phone, the police are also looking at ligature marks on the deceased’s arms. The police source confirmed, “The deceased’s face had injuries, indicating foul play. When the body was discovered his hands were tied.” The police have admitted these two aspects into the case, the source said.
Mulla’s family too has been claiming that the hands of the deceased were tied. The police are ascertaining whether the wounds on the face were stab injuries. “In this matter, the investigation is ongoing,” they said.
The injuries have allowed the police to rule out suicide, the source confirmed. Another police officer said that the injuries are also recorded in the postmortem report.
The Quint has also learnt that the police suspect that Mulla, on 28 September, went to meet a few members of the accused to pay them a bribe.
Was a Bribe Paid to Ram Sene?
According to a source in the know of the police investigation, it is suspected that Mulla had carried “a substantial amount of money” when he went to meet the accused. The police are checking transaction records of the accused, the suspects, and Mulla to find out suspicious money transfers and receipts.
In an interview with The Quint, Mulla’s cousin Sameer Parishwadi had said that Sri Ram Sene leaders had asked the family to pay Rs 17,000 as bribe. The family has since been stating that the total bribe amount demanded from them was Rs 90,000.
According to the source in the know, “The police have ascertained that the meeting for exchanging the bribe amount took place. It is believed that bribe was paid. The question is why he was attacked and killed even after obliging the demand for bribe”. The source said that the police are probing what went wrong in the meeting.
Extortion Angle Suspected?
The source said, while communal tension cannot be ruled out, the murder seems to be a case of “extortion that went wrong”.
“The suspects are youth from the locality who were interested in extorting money from the deceased by blackmailing him over his relationship with the woman,” they said. Meanwhile, the family said that Mulla was targeted because he was believed to have been in an interfaith relationship. Parishwadi had earlier said that Mulla had tried to save his life for the past six months.
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