Crime

Days after the decapitated body of 24-year-old Arbaaz Aftab was found on the railway tracks in Belagavi, his head dismembered and his hands tied, the Karnataka police have finally made arrests in the case and have identified several accused. The police in a new press release have said that Arbaaz was murdered by contract killers because of his interfaith relationship with his girlfriend. The killers were hired by his girlfriend's parents after he refused to break up with her on her parents' insistence, the police said. This is the allegation that Arbaaz's family has made since his death. The police have now arrested Arbaaz's girlfriend's parents Eerappa and Susheela Kumbhar, as well as a member of a fringe Hindu group Sri Ram Sena Hindustan who was given the contract to kill Arbaaz.

The police have confirmed that after extensive investigation and recovery of material and digital evidence, they found that the woman’s family opposed the relationship and approached Maharaja Nagappa alias Pundalik Mutgekar, a member of the Sri Ram Sena Hindustan, an offshoot of the Sri Ram Sene, who lives in Vattoli village of Khanapur taluk, to kill Arbaaz. According to the police, the woman’s father Eerappa Basavanne Kumbhar and mother Susheela visited Pundalik alias Maharaj. Absconding till now, Pundalik is the main accused in the case, and was one of the first people who was arrested, and police say he has named the others in the case. 

Pundalik is believed to have confessed to the police that he and the woman’s father, Eerappa, called Arbaaz to Khanapur, where the woman’s family lived, and because Arbaaz refused to break up with the woman, they killed him. They then chopped his body and left him on the railway track, in order to destroy evidence. 

In addition to the woman’s father Eerappa Basavanne Kumbhar and Pundalik, her mother Susheela Kumbhar has also been named as an accused, and was part of the conspiracy, police say. Other accused who have been arrested for being part of the conspiracy to kill Arbaaz have been identified as Maruti Pralhad Sugathe, Manjunatha Thukaram Gondali, Ganapathi Jnaneshwara Sugathe, Prashanth Kallappa Patil, Praveena Shankara, Qutubuddin and Shreedhara Mahadeva Doney have also been arrested. 

According to the police, the main accused is Pundalik, who is the Khanapur Taluk head of Sri Ram Sena Hindustan. A police official told TNM that the woman's parents paid money to Pundalik to carry out Arbaaz's murder. Qutubuddin, who is one of the accused who was arrested, acted as a point of contact between Pundalik and Arbaaz and he was the one who called Arbaaz to Khanapur from Belagavi for the 'negotiation' on September 27. According to police, though ten have been named as accused, only five people were at the railway track when Arbaaz was killed, and this includes Pundalik and Qutubuddin. Others were part of the conspiracy.

The police also said that all the other seven people who have been arrested could be part of Sri Ram Sene Hindustan and they are investigating the same. "They were all friends of Pundalik, and so were connected with the group for sure. But it's not like they have ID cards declaring the same, therefore we will investigate it further," a police officer told TNM.

Read: Murdered Muslim youth's call records point to Hindu vigilantes’ role, says family

All the accused have been booked under sections 302 (Murder), 201 (Causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 120B (criminal conspircy), 384 (punishment for extortion), 388 (Extortion by threat of accusation of an offence), 149 (Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) of the Indian Penal Code, among others.

Doctors who conducted the post mortem had told TNM that Arbaaz was stabbed and his hands were tied. "We have found stab injuries in the neck. It was a decapitated body - the head was separated from the body. There were stab injuries over the neck and backside and the hands were tied," a forensic official had told TNM.

Read: Arbaaz was stabbed, hands tied': Post mortem points to murder of Belagavi youth

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.