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HomeIndiaHindu girl's family missing after Muslim man's 'murder' in Belagavi, no one...

Hindu girl’s family missing after Muslim man’s ‘murder’ in Belagavi, no one knows where they are

Arbaz’s mutilated body was found on railway tracks on 28 September. He was allegedly murdered over his interfaith relationship with a Hindu woman.

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Belagavi: A week since Arbaz Aftab Mullah’s alleged murder, people of Khanapur — a town nearly 30 km away from Belagavi city — speak in hush-hush tones about the “girl” and her family.

In her complaint to the Khanapur railway police, Najima Mohammed Ghouse Sheikh named Kumbhar (surname only), father of the woman Arbaz was in a relationship with, as accused number one for the alleged murder. Two more workers of a Hindutva outfit in Belagavi were named as accused number two and three.

“Policemen arrived on late Tuesday evening (28 September) and since then we haven’t seen any of the family members,” said a neighbour of the Kumbhar family.

Arbaz’s mutilated body was found on railway tracks on 28 September earlier in the day. He was allegedly murdered over his interfaith relationship with the Hindu woman.

Sources in the police and those in know of the probe progress told ThePrint that the woman, her family and at least two neighbours were questioned by the police in connection with the case.

When ThePrint visited the house, five to six men claiming to be distant relatives of the family were seated in the hall. None could precisely tell where the family was. Another next-door neighbour too said they hadn’t seen the family ever since the “incident”.

Also read: Bring biryani, we’ll eat together: Last thing ‘murdered’ Belagavi Muslim man told mother

Families were neighbours

Kumbhar, identified only by one name in the FIR, worked as a pigmy collector for a local bank, a friend of Arbaz told ThePrint. His daughter and the woman Arbaz was said to be in relationship with too worked in a local cooperative bank.

Arbaz and the woman’s families lived diagonally opposite each other in a town locality some 200 meters from a bridge built over the mighty Malaprabha.

Most buildings in the area are single-storied, independent houses with huge pieces of empty plots between them. “On the ground floor of that multi-story building is where Arbaz’s family lived earlier,” a second neighbour of Kumbhar said, pointing to the diagonally opposite building.

Speaking to ThePrint Monday, Arbaz’s mother Najima alleged that the woman had a role to play in his murder — a claim that another family member refuted. 

A source in know of the ongoing police investigation said that the veracity of both claims is being verified.

“The case was transferred to us from the railway police Sunday. We will investigate the matter thoroughly. Deputy SP of Bailhongal has been appointed as investigating officer and several teams have been formed,” Laxman Nimbaragi, Superintendent of Police, Belagavi told ThePrint earlier. 

What the ongoing probe has shown so far

According to police sources, a fresh FIR in the case was filed on 3 October at the Khanapur police station — the one Najima filed — on the basis of which the investigation is continuing.

“During the course of the investigation the police have found circumstantial evidence that place the victim and accused in the same place at the same time,” said a highly-placed source in know of the ongoing probe.

The police are piecing together the timeline of events on 28 September— between Arbaz leaving his house and being found dead on the railway tracks.

“There are many factors to consider. Whether this was a communally motivated crime or a personal vendetta… whether it was premeditated or spur-of-the-moment crime… whether there is a role or not of specific suspects,” a senior police officer part of the investigating team told ThePrint.

“We can neither rule out nor consider it as a communally motivated incident simply because the victim and accused are from different faiths. It could also be two families involved in the matter and not necessarily two communities,” the officer added.

Also read: We must ‘replace’ caste with something else, rather than trying to ‘remove’ it: Ram Madhav

Protests over Arbaz’s deaths, keeping peace a challenge

With no arrests for over a week in the case, protests are being held in Belagavi and Bengaluru. 

On Tuesday, a candlelight vigil was held demanding justice for Arbaz by various organisations including the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU).

“It is ridiculous that the chief minister takes to his Twitter account to claim that his government will deal with moral policing with an iron hand when two Muslim men were accused. But he doesn’t have the time to speak about such a brutal murder where the victim is a Muslim,” said Vidya Dinker, social activist and a leading voice against moral policing in Karnataka.

Dinker was referring to an incident in Bengaluru where two Muslim youth were arrested after they harassed a Hindu man for dropping his Muslim colleague home on his bike.

Ever since the news of Arbaz’s murder broke out, police and politicians in Belagavi have been holding meetings with members of both Hindu and Muslim communities to maintain peace.

“There are attempts by people on both sides to gain political mileage out of the incident. Being cautious and not allowing the matter to expand into a communal flare up is a priority,” said a police source.

“The politics of Belagavi is very complex. We have a triangular challenge of border disputes, language clashes and religious squabbles,” said Susheela V., head of Spandana, a human rights NGO in Belagavi.

For her, there is no difference between the Sri Ram Sene and Sri Ram Sene Hindustan. “They enjoy political support and carry on their vigilante activities with impunity,” Susheela said.

Sri Ram Sene Hindustan is an offshoot of the Right-wing Sri Ram Sene, which gained infamy during the 2009 Mangaluru pub attacks. Two members of Sri Ram Sene Hindustan have been named as accused in the alleged murder of Arbaz.

Also read: Why Modi govt’s caste-based payment of MGNREGA wages is causing trouble in Karnataka


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