Lucknow: A conspiracy that was hatched over a year-and-a-half, planning done only on social media without the conspirators coming face to face, conspirators changing their minds and backing out, and the suspected killers popping anti-anxiety pills before they set out to commit the murder — the plan to kill Hindu Samaj leader Kamlesh Tiwari and its execution allegedly went through several twists and even uncertainties, according to multiple sources in the Uttar Pradesh Police.
At least two of the conspirators almost backed out and one of the two designated killers eventually did, the sources told ThePrint.
So far, six suspects have been arrested for Tiwari’s murder at his home on 18 October — Ashfaq Hussain and Moinuddin Khurshid Pathan, who allegedly killed Tiwari, and conspirators Faizan Yunus, Rashid Ahmad, Mohsin Sheikh (all from Surat) and Syed Asim Ali of Nagpur. Police in Uttar Pradesh claim they have enough evidence to convict all six.
The conspiracy, the police sources said, can be traced to April 2017 when Rashid, who worked at a shoe shop and had some knowledge of computer software, came across a speech in which Tiwari made derogatory comments about Prophet Muhammad.
The comments had triggered massive protests by Muslims across the country, with two clerics from Bijnor even announcing a bounty of Rs 1.5 crore for beheading Tiwari, police claimed.
Rashid, police said, went on to watch several videos of Tiwari on YouTube and trawled through the comments section.
This is how he came to know Ashfaq, who would post aggressive comments on such videos, police sources added.
Rashid tracked Ashfaq’s social media engagements for months and then contacted him through Facebook, a source in Uttar Pradesh Police said. The duo is then believed to have started chatting on Facebook Messenger and exchanged numbers.
It’s a similar modus operandi that led Rashid to Syed, who had posted several hate videos against Tiwari on YouTube, the sources said.
Since Tiwari had insulted his religion, Syed allegedly said in one of the videos, he “deserved to die”. After tracking him for a few weeks, Rashid allegedly contacted Syed on social media.
Faizan and Mohsin, too, were identified and chosen after being seen talking of their “community’s victimisation” on different social media platforms, sources said.
“These are all self-motivated youngsters who often watched videos of these Hindu leaders on social media and then used the comments section to engage with each other,” the aforementioned source said.
“This is how they connected, exchanged numbers and started talking to each other.”
Once Rashid was convinced the four men were on the same page as him, he floated the plan to eliminate Tiwari, police sources claimed.
“All of them never met in person, despite five of them being in the same city. They just coordinated over the phone or through chats on social media,” the source added. None of the five has been found to have criminal antecedents or links to terrorists thus far, the source said.
Also Read: Kamlesh Tiwari’s killers planned to surrender, but got scared and fled: UP Police
Getting in touch with Tiwari
The first stage of the conspiracy involved getting in touch with Tiwari and gaining his trust, sources said. To this end, police suspect, the suspects decided to join pro-Hindutva groups on social media.
Ashfaq, a second source said, established a social media account as “Rohit Solanki” and even got a fake Aadhaar card under the name.
“Ashfaq then… started putting out posts in support of Tiwari, to win his confidence. He befriended many people who were part of pro-Hindutva pages and started interacting with them, some of them being close aides of Tiwari,” the second source said.
Earlier this year, Ashfaq is said to have started sending direct messages to Tiwari, expressing a desire to meet him and join his party.
“He told Tiwari he was interested in taking his cause further and wished to meet him. He joined the Gujarat unit of Tiwari’s party and also met him once in Surat,” the source added.
“That was his first meeting with Tiwari, where he sought another appointment with him at his residence to discuss a political issue,” the source said. “The intention was to get access to Tiwari’s house.”
Tiwari is said to have agreed, with 18 October fixed as the date of the meeting. It was the day Tiwari was eventually killed.
‘Using a knife, gun both’
According to a third police source, the suspects decided to attack Tiwari with a knife as well as a pistol to ensure they succeeded in killing him.
“They were not certain if a knife will suffice, so they even arranged a pistol from Surat,” the source said. “It was not a licensed pistol.”
After the weapons were arranged, it was time to assign roles. It was decided that Ashfaq and an unidentified person who could handle guns would execute the murder, with Rashid supervising it, police sources said.
Faizan and Mohsin Sheikh were allegedly tasked with arranging logistics — from train tickets to Lucknow for the alleged killers to a car, hotel bookings etc. Syed, the sources said, was asked to arrange lawyers as the men planned to surrender after the murder.
Ashfaq and his associate allegedly hid the pistol in a box of sweets — the box, with the name of a Surat sweet shop, was one of the first clues police is said to have found at the scene.
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‘Assassin backed out at last minute’
Explaining the lag between the planning and execution, police said two of the conspirators, including Ashfaq, were “deradicalised” by concerned friends and family members and opted out of the plan, leading the group to “suspend the plan”. They were, however, back on board in some time, sources claimed.
Then, at the last minute, the person roped in to shoot Tiwari is said to have backed out after he got “deradicalised” and developed “cold feet”.
Not ready to abort the plan at a stage when all the logistics had been arranged, police said, Rashid’s brother Moinuddin was brought in. “Moinuddin, who was Ashfaq’s partner in executing the murder, joined at the last moment,” a police officer said.
According to police, just before departing from Surat, Ashfaq told Rashid that he was worried about stabbing a human being. This is when Moinuddin volunteered to attack Tiwari with a knife, while Ashfaq was asked to shoot him, police said.
The duo, police sources said, consumed anti-anxiety pills before heading out for Tiwari’s residence.
A blood-stained kurta and anti-anxiety pills
The duo is believed to have taken the Udyogkarmi Express from Surat to Kanpur. During the journey, police said, they convinced a fellow passenger that they urgently needed a SIM card and got him to give them one.
From Kanpur, they are suspected to have taken a taxi to Lucknow, which is approximately 93 km away.
Ashfaq and Moinuddin are believed to have reached Lucknow on 17 October and, around 11.08 pm, checked into a hotel 1.5 km from Tiwari’s Khurshidbagh residence. They used their original Aadhaar cards at the hotel, police sources said
CCTV footage from the hotel, the sources claimed, showed the duo leaving the hotel around 10.38 am Friday wearing kurtas and carrying what looked like a box of sweets.
On reaching Tiwari’s residence, the duo was immediately called up to meet him.
“The two men — one in an orange kurta and the other in a red kurta — asked for my father,” Tiwari’s son Rishi said. “They said they had an appointment. We made them sit in the waiting area but my father told us that they are known to him and asked me to send them to the second floor, where he was sitting,” he added.
According to Rishi, the two were served water and dahi vada while they waited for Tiwari. Diwali greetings were exchanged when they met Tiwari, he added.
A few minutes later, Rishi said, the duo asked him to take them to the washroom.
“I showed them to the washroom and waited outside… They came back in a few minutes and I escorted them back to where my father was sitting,” he said. “Then I left the room.”
“Now I feel that they went inside the washroom to take out the pistol they hid,” he said.
According to Rishi, Tiwari was left alone with Ashfaq and Moinuddin when he sent one of his aides to fetch pan masala and cigarettes for the guests.
“The moment he left, the men attacked,” Rishi said. “The next thing I saw was my father on the floor, bleeding profusely. The box of sweets was lying open. There was a pistol and a bullet shell on the floor,” he added.
Tiwari’s post-mortem report concluded that he was shot in the face and stabbed 13 times, primarily near his heart. The blows, the report said, cut his trachea and oesophagus, and damaged his muscles.
The duo is believed to have arrived back at the hotel around 1.21 pm.
Within 16 minutes of their return, police said, they packed up and left for Bareilly.
But the two left behind the saffron kurta, which was stained with blood, apart from a shaving kit and a box of anti-anxiety pills, sources added.
‘Enough evidence to secure conviction’
The Uttar Pradesh Police constituted 10 field teams apart from a special investigation team to crack the case. The first clue was allegedly the box of sweets along with a cash memo. Since the box bore a Surat address, Gujarat Police was instantly alerted, police said.
“The teams were asked to put the suspects’ phone numbers on surveillance and also go through CCTV footage from all the cameras within a radius of 5 km (from Tiwari’s house),” the aforementioned police officer added, saying that this led them to the hotel.
“A search was conducted at the hotel and their belongings were recovered. Since the two men had given their original identities at the hotel, we alerted police in Surat to trace their families and put them on surveillance,” the police officer added.
A breakthrough came Sunday as police nabbed Rashid and two others from Surat, and Syed from Kanpur. Ashfaq and Moinuddin were caught Tuesday from the Gujarat-Rajasthan border — they were allegedly on their way back home after a funds crunch forced them to return from Nepal, where they are initially believed to have fled.
“It (the murder) was a pan-India operation involving Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and UP but we successfully managed to arrest all the accused in the case,” the police officer said.
According to police, they have sufficient evidence — forensic and circumstantial — to chargesheet the accused and even get them convicted.
The evidence includes fingerprints on the box of sweets and pistol, the blood-stained kurta, the knife, a chipped nail and a few strands of hair lifted from the crime spot.
“We have sent the evidence for a forensic examination and a DNA test will be conducted if need be,” the police officer said.
Asked if the suspected assailants had more leaders on their radar, the police officer said, “That will be clear once we interrogate them thoroughly. It does not appear that they planned to target anyone else, as it is a group of self-motivated youths who did not have the backing of any organised terror module.”
Also Read: The story of how angry karsevak Kamlesh Tiwari rose to become a Hindu leader
Investigators have to convince themselves that the investigation must not appear fake; so put on media, the whole story to get absorbed into self-mind; …..also such sensitive narratives being put in public is enough to disturb ordinary mind, while leaders, i.e. political masters feel cool enough to enjoy company of foreign leaders from counter-community
So comments made about the prophet was “justification” for these Muslim youth to get radicalized ? If this is the case – then how come hindu youth are not similarly finding justifications for “radicalism” from the comments made by Kashmiri’s, Owaisi and others ?
Deradicalised or radicalized to aise ho raha jaise thandi me pasina aa raha ho har 10 min. me radicalized se deradicalised Kar rahe ho, aise lag raha hai tum waha anxiety pills ke sath paani de rahe the usko..
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