LUCKNOW: Within hours after one of the appellants in the Ayodhya title suit, Kamlesh Tiwari, was murdered at noon in his office-cum-residence in Lucknow, a joint team of Uttar Pradesh Police and Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad claimed it had solved the case by blowing the lid off a radicalised Islamist group in Surat, who engineered what might be the first blasphemy killing in India.Tiwari, who was the president of Hindu Samaj Party and earlier working president of the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, was on the radar of extremist Muslim groups since 2015 after he distributed pamphlets with objectionable content against Prophet Mohammed. Five people, including three alleged conspirators – among them a cleric – in Surat and two clerics from Bijnor, were arrested on Saturday. Late in the evening, the Anti-Terrorism Squad of Maharashtra police arrested a man from Nagpur over the murder.The two who allegedly executed the murder are still on the run. The three ‘conspirators’ have been identified as 24-year-old cleric and ‘mastermind’ Maulana Mohsin Sheikh, Faizaan, 21, and Rasheed Pathan, 23. Though Gujarat ATS declared names of the assassins as Moinuddin and Ashfaq, UP police kept their identities under wraps. The two Bijnor clerics, Mohammed Mufti Naeem Qazmi and Imam Maulana Anuwarual Haq, who in 2015 had declared a Rs 1.5-crore bounty to kill Tewari, were interrogated by IG (Moradabad range) Ramit Sharma and later arrested. The two clerics were named in the FIR lodged by Kamlesh’s wife, Kiran Tewari, on Friday. The Surat gang is said to have been indoctrinated by Mohsin Sheikh, and the murder plan was hatched two months ago with a specific rider to launch lethal strikes during the festive season to extract maximum mileage.
It was a box of sweets purchased from a Surat confectionery shop, Dharti Sweet Mart, that helped sleuths crack the case. Talking to reporters on Saturday, Uttar Pradesh director general of police OP Singh said, “We shared details and clues with our Gujarat counterparts. The accused were identified by matching the CCTV footage from the Surat shop, where they were caught on camera purchasing sweets at 9 pm on October 16, the time mentioned in the cash memo recovered from the sweet box at the crime scene. They boarded the Udhyognagri Express from Surat at 9.55pm and reached Kanpur Central on October 17 before proceeding to Lucknow,” said a senior officer privy to the probe.A Special Task Force of UP Police was swiftly dispatched to Surat to crosscheck the details and coordinate with Gujarat ATS and the three were arrested late evening.