Amravati: A court here on Sunday remanded Irfan Khan, the alleged mastermind of Amravati-based chemist Umesh Kolhe’s murder, in police custody till July 7, even as the police are now conducting an investigation into the bank accounts of an NGO, of which the accused is a director, a senior official said on Sunday.
Sheikh Irfan Shaikh Rahim alias Irfan Khan (35), a resident of Amravati city in eastern Maharashtra, was arrested from Nagpur on Saturday in connection with the killing of Kolhe, who ran a veterinary medical shop here. He is the seventh accused to be arrested in the case.
“Khan is the director of a voluntary organisation- ‘Rahbar’ and police have started investigating its bank accounts now,” the official said.
There were similarities between the murders of Kolhe and of tailor Kanhaiya Lal in Rajasthan’s Udaipur city, as both the victims had posted messages on social media supporting Nupur Sharma, who has been suspended by the BJP for making controversial comments about Prophet Mohammad, he said.
Earlier, the Union Home Ministry spokesperson had tweeted that the probe into the Amravati case has been handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). However, Amravati police commissioner Dr Arti Singh on Sunday said the central agency is yet to formally take over the probe as the police department has so far not received orders about the transfer of the investigation into the case.
The NIA is also probing the killing of tailor Kanhaiya Lal.
Police had earlier said that on the face of it, the killing of Kolhe was linked to certain posts that he had shared in WhatsApp groups supporting Nupur Sharma.
An NIA team interrogated Khan on Sunday morning at the city Kotwali police station, before he was taken to the Amravati district and sessions court amid tight security.
The local court remanded Khan in police custody till July 7, the police official said.
Earlier, police had arrested six other people – Mudassar Ahmed alias Sonu Raza Sheikh Ibrahim (22), Shahrukh Pathan alias Badshasha Hidayat Khan (25), Abdul Taufik alias Nanu Sheikh Taslim (24), Shoeb Khan alias Bhurya Sabir Khan (22), Atib Rashid Aadil Rashid (22) and Dr Yusuf Khan Bahadur Khan (44) – in connection with Kolhe’s killing.
“Four of these accused were Irfan Khan’s friends and had worked for his NGO,” an official city Kotwali police station here said.
Irfan Khan is accused of plotting Kolhe’s murder, allotting special tasks to the other accused and supplying vehicles and money to them.
Yusuf Khan is a veterinary doctor and Kolhe owned a veterinary medical shop. The two had business relations, the official said.
Kolhe had formed a group of veterinary doctors on a social media platform, of which Yusuf Khan was also a member.
His post supporting Nupur Sharma on the social media group is believed to have fanned anger, following which Yusuf Khan allegedly instigated others for the crime, the official said.
“Kolhe posted messages on a social media group, of which Yusuf Khan was also a member. He instigated the others,” the official said.
Yusuf Khan had friendly relations with Kolhe and even attended his funeral, the police investigation has revealed.
On the basis of technical inputs, police arrested Yusuf Khan on Friday night.
Meanwhile, Kolhe’s brother Mahesh demanded that the case be heard by a fast track court.
“We did not expect that mere forwarding of a WhatsApp message from one group to another would result in Umesh’s murder. Now that the NIA is conducting a probe into the matter, we expect justice,” Mahesh told PTI.
Kolhe’s killing had taken place on June 21 near Ghantaghar in Shyam chowk area of Amravati, a week before two men hacked to death tailor Kanhaiya Lal in Rajasthan’s Udaipur before posting videos online, saying they were avenging an insult to Islam.
According to police, Kolhe was stabbed in the neck by the assailants, who rode a motorbike, when he was returning home on his two-wheeler after closing his medical shop.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Vikram Sali had earlier said on the face of it, the killing was linked to certain posts that Kolhe had shared in WhatsApp groups, supporting Nupur Sharma.
An NIA team visited Amravati on Saturday for probe into the case and questioned Irfan Khan at the city Kotwali police station here on Sunday.
Talking to PTI about the the case not being formally handed over to the NIA so far, Amravati police commissioner Singh said, “We have not yet received any orders about the transfer of the case to the NIA. By Monday, we will receive the orders, after which we would formally hand over the case to the central agency as the procedural formalities take some time.”