Umesh Prahladrao Kolhe, a 54-year-old chemist, was stabbed to death in Maharashtra's Amravati district last month.
While the murder took place on 21 June, the police said recently that their investigations revealed that Kolhe's social media posts in which he allegedly supported former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Nupur Sharma's controversial remarks against Prophet Muhammad led to his death.
This revelation comes days after a tailor in Udaipur was killed by two men, Gos Mohammad and Mohammad Riyaz Akhtari, for endorsing Sharma's controversial remarks.
Who Was Umesh Kolhe?
Kolhe ran a medical store called Amit Medical Store in the Rachana Shree Mall, located near the Amravati Tehsil office.
He was was part of a WhatsApp group in which pro-Hindutva posts were often circulated. Being an active member in the group, he had also posted several pro-Hindutva messages, including one in which he expressed support for Sharma's comments on the Prophet.
An official from the City Kotwali Police Station said that Kolhe had also shared the post "mistakenly" in some WhatsApp groups which also included Muslims, including some of his customers.
The police said that his post had gone viral even outside the group.
However, the chemist's son, Sanket, claimed that his father's social media profiles did not contain anything controversial.
How the Incident Unfolded
The murder took place on 21 June between 10 and 10.30 pm after Kolhe closed his shop and was on his way home on a scooter along with his son.
Describing the incident, Sanket said, "We were moving from Prabhat Chowk and our scooters had reached the Mahila College New High School’s gate. Two men on a motorcycle suddenly came in front of my father’s scooter. They stopped my father’s bike and one of them stabbed him on the left side of his neck with a knife."
He added that his father started bleeding profusely and fell down. Sanket then stopped the scooter and started calling for help. However, the three persons fled the spot on a motorcycle.
His son rushed him to the closest hospital, where he died during treatment.
Kolhe also had Rs 35,000 in his pocket but the attackers did not take the money.
Arrests Made So Far
On the basis of a complaint by Sanket, the police had earlier arrested two persons, Muddsir Ahemad (22) and Shahrukh Pathan (25), on 23 June.
After interrogating them, three more arrests were made: Abdul Taufik (24), Shoaib Khan (22), and Atib Rashid (22). They have been booked under Indian Penal Code Sections 302 (murder) and 120 B (criminal conspiracy).
A veterinarian named Yusuf Khan Bahadur Khan was also arrested for "provoking" the accused to undertake the murder. The police said that Khan had posted in a WhatsApp group against Kolhe, saying that the latter was circulating posts in support of Sharma.
"This provoked the accused against Kolhe, and they decided to murder him. So, Khan instigated the other accused," the police said.
Surprisingly, the victim's brother claimed that Yusuf was "good friends" with Kolhe, and they knew each other since 2006, ANI reported.
The alleged mastermind in the case, 32-year-old Irfan Khan, was arrested on 2 July, as per news agency PTI. The police said that Khan had hatched a plan to kill Kolhe, and had roped in the others for the purpose.
The police also said that some of the accused had observed Kolhe's movements for three days before the murder.
The case has been handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) by the Union Home Ministry.
Meanwhile, Sanket said that his father never spoke ill about anyone, and was not associated with any political party.
"I also heard that he was murdered over his social media post, but I checked his Facebook profile and did not find anything objectionable. Only the police can tell what the motive was. I am blank. But I can say for sure that he was not murdered for robbery," he was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
(With inputs from PTI, ANI and The Indian Express.)