The family and aides of Kamlesh Tiwari now feel that his murder has resulted in a distrust for anything saffron, thanks to sabotage through camouflage.
Things have become so scary that they are now wary even of Facebook requests from those who call themselves Hindutva activists.
“We wish they killed guruji after confronting him and not by deceit like cowards,” Guddan Shukla, a close aide of Kamlesh Tiwari, tells Swarajya over the phone. Tiwari, a political activist from Uttar Pradesh (UP), was killed at his office-cum-residence in state capital Lucknow on 18 October (Friday).
Though the UP police initially speculated personal enmity as the motive of attack, it later detained three people from Gujarat in connection with conspiracy for murder in a joint operation with Gujarat anti-terrorism squad (ATS).
The accused have reportedly confessed that they planned to kill Tiwari for his remark on Prophet Mohammad in 2015. The three detained are Maulana Mohsin Sheikh Salim, Mohammad Faizan and Rashid Ahmed Pathan alias Khurshid Ahmed.
The two men who allegedly carried out the killing, identified as Sheikh Ashfaqul Hussain and Mouinuddin Pathan, were caught late Tuesday.
As per investigators, Ashfaqul befriended Tiwari on Facebook in May posing as a Hindu named Ramesh Solanki and gradually won his trust. He came to meet Tiwari at his residence with this pseudo identity.
So far, six people have been detained or arrested in the case including clerics Mohammed Mufti Naeem Kazmi and Imam Maulana Anwarul Haq, who were named by Tiwari's wife in her police complaint after the murder.
The clerics, both from UP’s Bijnor district, had announced a bounty of Rs 1.5 crore on Tiwari’s head in 2016.
Another cleric, Sayyed Kaifi Ali of Bareilly, was detained on Tuesday on suspicion of helping the killers after the crime.
A report says that as per UP police chief OP Singh, Salim has given a statement saying that it was ‘fair’ to murder Tiwari for his comment. In 2015, Azam Khan, an ex-minister of UP, controversially remarked that “many RSS leaders are unmarried because they are homosexuals”.
In response, it is learnt that Tiwari commented on social media that Prophet Mohammad was the world’s first homosexual. He later deleted the comment.
Lakhs of Muslims took to the streets in protest across India, openly demanding Tiwari be beheaded for “insulting” the Prophet. You can read more about the violent protests, that also saw participation of children, here.
Tiwari was arrested by the then Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party government and slapped with the stringent National Security Act (NSA). However, the Allahabad high court quashed the provisions against him in 2016 and Tiwari came out of prison on bail.
Guddan Shukla introduces himself as an advocate who holds the position of UP secretary in Hindu Samaj Party (HSP), a political party helmed by Tiwari. The party fielded a couple of candidates in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, who all fought as independents. Tiwari fought from Faizabad, also as an independent, but lost his deposit. He got around 1,700 votes.
Tiwari’s key agenda, as per his aides and his social media profile, was making India free of radical Islam. A population control Bill to retain India’s Hindu majority status, abolition of Section 370 from Jammu and Kashmir and construction of a Ram temple at the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi site in Ayodhya were some of his pet projects.
In his younger days, he is said to have been actively involved in the temple movement. Born in Para Kothba village of UP’s Sitapur district (near Lucknow) in the 70s, Tiwari shifted with family to nearby Mahmudabad town in 1980 when his father got a job as a temple priest, as per a report.
Tiwari advocated that all Muslims of India should go to Pakistan. He was an open and staunch critic of “incomplete partition” as well as Mahatma Gandhi who, he said, appeased Muslims in India at the cost of Hindus.
His Facebook posts suggest that he wanted a temple to be built in the name of Gandhi’s killer Nathuram Godse. A key argument Tiwari made in favour of his agenda was that India is the only homeland for Hindus in the world.
In a video last month, Tiwari claimed that Muslims routinely kill non-Muslims wearing “bhagwa” (saffron) clothes because it is written in the Quran that saffron will decimate Islamism (a false claim).
Ironically, Tiwari’s killers too were clothed in saffron attire at the time of the crime.
“We can’t even trust saffron anymore,” says Shukla. “Imagine the fear we are living in.”
Another HSP member, 24-year-old Mohit Mishra, says that recently, a man on the street requested him to lend him his phone for making an ‘urgent’ call to his family, but he declined to help. “We have become suspicious of everyone and everything,” says Mishra.
He echoes Shukla’s sentiments, “We can’t trust a Facebook request. We can’t trust visitors. We can’t trust any new member of our outfit.”
“I wish the killers didn’t trick us. It’s ugly,” Mishra says.
As per investigators, this is how the crime unfolded: On the night of 16 October, the two killers, both residents of Surat in Gujarat, bought a box of sweets from Dharti Farsan shop in Surat's Udhna area around 9 pm. They then boarded a train from Udhna at 9.55 pm that reached Kanpur the next day around 8 pm. They took a bus and reached Lucknow around 11 pm. They checked into Khalsa Inn Hotel in Lalbagh, which is around two kilometres from Tiwari’s residence.
The hotel’s manager, Anis Ansari, told The Times of India that around 11.08 pm on 17 October, two men came in an autorickshaw wearing T-shirts and shorts and booked a room. They showed their Aadhaar cards as proof which mentioned their names as Ashfaq Hussain and Moinuddin Ahmad, both residents of Jeelani Apartments in Surat.
“Around midnight, they ordered a ‘simple-thali’ for dinner and then ask for extra chapatis. When the housekeeper knocked, they did not allow him to enter. Instead, Ashfaq came out to collect the food. After dinner, they again refused entry to the housekeeper and instead went down to deliver the plates at the reception. Well past midnight, they went out for a smoke and returned 45 minutes later,” Ansari told TOI.
Shukla says the two men called up Tiwari at midnight of 17 October itself seeking an appointment right then, but Tiwari asked them to come the next day. “They had told Tiwari a few days ago that they would be coming to meet him from Surat on Thursday. They, perhaps, wanted to kill Tiwari on that day itself, which incidentally was Karwa Chauth,” Shukla says.
Ansari further told TOI that the two went out of the hotel room at 11.38 am on Friday, wearing saffron kurtas and carrying a box of sweets. They returned around 1.21 pm (the report is silent on whether they returned wearing bloodied saffron kurtas), changed into a trouser and T-shirt and went out, saying they would be back after lunch. When they did not return, the hotel staff broke open the door late evening and found “objectionable” objects.
Ansari told TOI they promptly informed the police.
The police say they have recovered blood-soaked kurtas, a knife, cover of a mobile handset and a blood-soaked towel from the room.
At Tiwari’s office, the two are said to have spent half-an-hour talking to him, sipping tea and discussing an interfaith marriage, before slitting his throat and pumping bullets into his body.
Mohit Mishra says, “Guruji learnt about Solanki through our Gujarat office. Our Gujarat head took in Solanki [Ashfaq] trusting him through his Facebook account and a forged Aadhaar card. Solanki was made part of an IT cell in Surat. He later expressed a wish to meet Tiwari, which was granted.”
“Tell us, how can we trust anyone anymore? Even something as mundane as a sweet box now makes us suspicious,” says Mishra.
The killers used the box of sweets to carry a country-made pistol and knife.
“Wo bhagwa pehenkar aaye. Chhal kapat kiya. Hamko mauka hi nahi diya. Beizzati mehsoos ho rahi hai [They came wearing saffron. They cheated us. They did not give us a chance. It’s insulting],” says Shukla.
It’s not only the killers that Shukla and Mishra hold a grudge against. They hold the Bharatiya Janata Party and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath equally guilty of “deceiving” Tiwari and, for that matter, all Hindus.
They say the BJP government in the state is misleading the public by making it appear as if it’s not the conspirators but the actual killers who have been arrested (the killers had not been arrested when this correspondent talked to Shukla). They say that Yogi “insulted” the family by forcing them to make them meet him for “photo-op”.
“You must have seen on television how Mataji [Tiwari’s mother] revealed that cops dragged them to the CM office in Lucknow for the meet. Is this how you should treat the aggrieved family?” asks Shukla.
Yogi, he says, has dumped his “former colleague” Tiwari after rising through the ranks in the BJP. “Both Yogi and Tiwari were members of the Hindu Mahasabha until a few years ago. When Yogi was just secretary, Guruji was working president. Yogi would even sit in the same office where Guruji died,” claims Shukla.
“Today, he has become so arrogant that he is openly insulting his family. He downgraded Guruji’s security and paid no heed to intelligence alerts that there was threat to his life,” he says.
Tiwari himself was a strong critic of the BJP and prime minister Narendra Modi, who he accused of ignoring Hindus after coming to power, riding on the strength of their votes.
In a Facebook live video last month, Tiwari attacked the BJP over the recent brutal triple murder case in Bengal's Murshidabad district. Tiwari, like many others from the right-wing, believed the murders were carried out by “jihadis” even as the Bengal police declared it was carried out by one Utpal Behera over a dispute of Rs 24,000 — a claim many found unconvincing.
“Bhajpaayi kehte they ki bhajpa hati, lulli kati. Ab to gardan kat rahi hai [BJP supporters would say that if the party goes out of power, men will be forced to circumcise. On the contrary, throats are being slit],” Tiwari said.
He accused the BJP of allowing Hindus to be killed en masse, particularly in Bengal and Kerala where it is not in power. He accused the BJP of being “thekedars” [contractors] of Hindutva while doing nothing for Hindus.
In another video, Tiwari is seen saying that he is often accused of being a “Congressi agent” by BJP supporters even though all that he believes in is the welfare of Hindus.
In the same video, Tiwari says there is a threat to his life from BJP supporters.
Tiwari’s mother has claimed in the media that it is the BJP, and particularly a local BJP leader named Shiv Kumar Gupta, that got his son killed.
“Police must interrogate Gupta, a resident of Thatheri, and a mafia leader having over 100 cases against him. Gupta got my son murdered over a dispute regarding construction of a local temple,” Kusum Tiwari was quoted as saying by the Times of India.
The UP police have maintained that they cannot investigate this claim as they have received no formal complaint about this from the family.
When asked, another close aide of Tiwari, who did not wish to be named, said, “Mataji is angry at the BJP and rightly so. However, we do not believe it to be the case.”
“Itni himmat nahi hai uski [Gupta cannot dare to take such a drastic step],” he said.
Tiwari’s videos and posts show him as also being critical of several of BJP’s policies such as demonetization and Jan Dhan Yojana for alleged poor results.
Asked what happens to Tiwari’s political party now, Shukla says his wife Kiran Tiwari is likely to take over as its national president.