With Nishank Rathore's father receiving the message of 'Gustakh-e-Nabi ki ek hi saza, sar tan se juda' (the only punishment for one who insults Prophet Mohammed is beheading) hours before Nishank's body was discovered at a railway track, fears arose over another suspected killing for blasphemy.
Rathore was found dead on railway tracks near Barkheda railway station in the Obedullaganj block of the Raisen District of Madhya Pradesh on Sunday (24 July) at around 6 pm.
20-year-old Rathore was a third-year BTech student, studying at the Oriental Institute of Science and Technology in Bhopal. He was a resident of Seoni Malwa in Narmadapuram district. Thus, the police of three districts are investigating the case.
Prima facie police have called the death a suicide. However, events around the death indicate another angle.
At 5.44 pm (around the time of the death), Rathore's father received a WhatsApp message from his son's number saying, "Rathore sahab, your son was brave. Gustakh-e-Nabi ki ek hi saza, sar tan se juda".
Around the same time, a story was posted on Rathore's Instagram account which conveyed the same message with his picture and a cross mark, and said, "Hindu cowards, watch. If you say wrong about Nabi, this will happen". The image also had Pakistan flag emojis.
The police are not commenting on this angle of the case. However, the Rathore family is firm that Nishank could not have committed suicide and that this was a case of "well-planned murder".
Rathore's cousin, Shiv Rathore told Swarajya that Nishank was brave and that he had nothing to be tensed about. "Police are trying to divert the issue but this is a murder through conspiracy", he further said.
He said that Rathore was a brilliant student and used to develop software, thus ruling out the possibility of suicide due to academic stress. He said that a day before the death, he seemed happy.
Some media reports have also quoted police officers saying that a massive loss in cryptocurrency may have led to suicide. However, the police could not suggest how much was the loss that Nishank was facing.
Rathore's cousin, who is also Vibhag Mantri of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), ruled out this possibility as well saying that neither the family faced any economic crisis, nor Rathore himself.
He also pointed out the abnormality in how the body was found cut. He said that the possibility is low that a body will get cut in such a way while coming under a train, such cuts are possible in murder only.
However, there are some aspects of the case which are confusing the Rathore family as well. They don't know about where and why was Nishank travelling on a rented scooter and why he got the scooter filled with Rs 450 petrol.
Police have checked CCTV footage and found that Rathore's body was found 700 m away from the petrol pump from where he bought petrol. They have also found the victim's mobile phone and are going through it.
Another aspect that is bothering family is that how the victim's mobile was used to send messages to his father and post on Instagram. They are suspecting that the accused will be someone known to Rathore.
When this correspondent, over phone, asked Shiv Rathore whether the victim was getting any threats, had a spat with anyone or posted anything against Mohammed, he said, "We did not know much about his activities since he started college."
However, he said that Rathore was quite vocal about his views, used to actively participate in religious functions and took interest in social and political events happening around the country.
When asked about what the family had done to take the case forward, since the police was apparently only following the suicide angle, he said that last two days were painful for them and hence they could not proceed much on the legal front.
Yesterday was Nishank's antim sanskar (last rites) and today, 26 July, they had returned from Narmada ghat after immersing his asthis in the river. They have, however, prepared a memorandum on behalf of Rathore samaj.
This memorandum will be taken tomorrow to various officials and politicians. The family wants that the case be properly investigated, and the 'murder for blasphemy' angle not be downplayed.
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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