Doctors from the Belagavi Institute of Medical Sciences in Belagavi district of Karnataka, say that Arbaaz Aftab, a 24-year-old man from Belagavi, who was found dead near a railway track last week, was stabbed on the neck and back around the time of his death. TNM spoke to two doctors who said that forensic evidence was pointing towards a case of homicide and indicated that injuries were inflicted on Arbaaz before his death on September 28. Arbaaz's mother Nazima Shaik, 47, has alleged that Arbaaz was murdered over an interfaith relationship with a Hindu woman, which was public knowledge in Khanapur for the past year.
Though examiners classified the injuries as 'perimortem', injuries which occur at or near the time of death, they say that there is reason to believe that the injuries were ante-mortem, injuries which occur before death. "It was difficult to conclude when the injuries were inflicted because the body was found near a railway track but it appears to have been inflicted before his death. The autopsy points to a homicide," a forensic official said.
The doctors say that Arbaaz was stabbed and his hands were tied behind his back. "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," another forensic official said. Both doctors ruled out suicide and stated that it a suspected case of murder. The doctors also added that Arbaaz's head was decapitated, however they could not conclude that it was a case of beheading as the decapitation could have happened when a train ran over the body.
Despite the findings of the autopsy report, investigating police officials are yet to make an arrest in the case nine days after the dead body was found. Arbaaz's family meanwhile has also pointed to call records to suggest that members of the Sri Rama Sena Hindustan were involved in the crime.
In an interview with TNM, Nazima said she accompanied Arbaaz for a meeting with members of the Sri Rama Sena Hindustan on September 26, two days before he was found dead. Nazima said that she met Pundalik Mutgekar and Prashanth Birje, Khanapur taluk level members of the Sri Rama Sena Hindustan. This pro-Hindutva organisation is a breakaway faction of the Sri Rama Sena headed by Pramod Muthalik.
The two Hindu vigilantes pressurised Arbaaz to break off his relationship with the Hindu woman. They also demanded he pay Rs 7000 to them as a 'settlement'. Arbaaz's cousin Sameer Parishwadi said that this amount was later increased, prompting Arbaaz to sell a car for Rs 90,000 to arrange the money.
Arbaaz's dead body was found around 8 pm on September 28 and police officials suggest that he was murdered between 6:30 and 7:15 pm. His cousin Sameer was among the people who rushed to the spot when Arbaaz's dead body was found. He said that Arbaaz's hands were tied and that a mobile phone which was with him when he set out on that day is a crucial piece of evidence in the case. The Belagavi Railway police initially registered a case of unnatural death based on the complaint given by Arbaaz's mother before it was changed to a murder case. The case was transferred to the Belagavi district police on October 3.
Police officials have questioned at least eight people in the case including Pundalik, Prashant and members of the girlfriend's family. "We want the police to complete their investigation and also add section 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) in addition to the charge of murder because the chain of events before his death suggest clearly that this was pre-planned," Sameer told TNM.