A 23-year-old man was attacked with sharp weapons by a mob in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district accusing him of supporting Bharatiya Janata Party’s Nupur Sharma on social media, leaving him seriously injured, police said on Saturday.
Four main accused have been arrested in connection with the incident which occurred on August 4.
A senior officer said it was premature to say anything about the motive behind the attack as the investigation is at the preliminary stage.
The man, identified as Pratik alias Sunny Rajendra Pawar, was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of a hospital for injuries to his head and other parts of the body, a police official said.
Pawar was attacked by at least 14 people from the Muslim community with a sword, sickle, sticks, and hockey sticks on Thursday evening in front of a medical shop at Akkabai Chowk in Karjat town, 222 km away from the Ahmednagar district headquarters.
The incident occurred when Pawar and Amit Mane, the complainant in the case, were going to attend an event on his two-wheeler and waiting for a friend near the medical shop, the official said.
While they were waiting for a friend, some men belonging to the Muslim community approached them on two-wheelers. They were carrying a sword, sickle, and hockey sticks, as per the First Information Report (FIR).
One of them shouted at Pawar saying he had written a post on social media in support of Nupur Sharma and also put the status on Instagram after Kanhaiya Lal, and attacked him, Mane stated in his complaint filed on Friday.
Kanhaiya Lal was allegedly murdered by two Muslim men in June in Udaipur for allegedly sharing a social media post in support of former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma, whose comments on Prophet Mohammad had caused a huge row.
The attackers threatened Pawar that he will meet the same fate as that Umesh Kolhe. One of the attackers hit Pawar in his eyes, the official said quoting the FIR.
Kolhe, a chemist, was killed over his alleged support for Nupur Sharma on social media in Maharashtra’s Amravati district. The case is being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
After Pawar was left injured, Mane called up his two friends and they rushed Pawar to a state-run hospital.
A senior police officer said it is premature to link the attack to social media posts, if any, of Pawar.
“Though there is a mention of Pawar’s social media post in support of Nupur Sharma (in the complaint), it is very premature to speak about it as the probe is on,” he said.
He said Pawar has a criminal background with two cases pending against him.
Pawar had been externed earlier for his criminal activities.
“During the investigation so far, we did not come across Pawar’s social media post supporting Nupur Sharma. We are examining all his social media accounts including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp,” another police official said.
He said the victim had some old enmity with members of a group, which may have led to the attack.
An FIR was registered against 14 people under sections 307 (Attempt to murder),143 (Being a member of an unlawful assembly), rioting, 323 (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), and 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and four of the main accused arrested.
Condemning the incident, BJP MLA Nitesh Rane said Pawar was accosted by 10 to 15 men from the Muslim community who questioned him why he was keeping Nupur Sharma’s picture as his DP and asking others to do so.
“Pratik Pawar received 35 stitches (during treatment) after the attack. He is fighting for his life,” he claimed.
“I want to warn that If Hindus are targeted in such a manner, our hands are not tied. We will not sit quiet till all the accused are arrested. Some of them are still absconding. Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is monitoring the case. The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government and minority affairs minister Nawab Malik are not in power now. Attackers of Hindus will be given a tit-for-tat response. We follow B R Ambedkar’s constitution. There is no Shariah law in this country, ” he told reporters in Mumbai.
Nitesh, son of Union minister Narayan Rane, also claimed that Hindu gods and goddesses are insulted with impunity on social media.