Police officials investigating the death of Arbaaz Aftab, a 24-year-old man murdered over an interfaith relationship with a Hindu woman in Belagavi district of Karnataka, say that the girlfriend’s family hired contract killers for Rs 5 lakh to carry out the murder. Arbaaz was found dead, his body decapitated, and dumped on a railway track in Khanapur town in Belagavi on September 28.
Belagavi police on Friday, October 8, announced that ten people were arrested in the case including the girlfriend’s parents and Pundalik Mutgekar, the president of the Sri Rama Sena Hindustan in Khanapur in Belagavi. The girlfriend’s parents hired Pundalik to kill Arbaaz over the interfaith relationship with their daughter, which was public knowledge in Khanapur for the past year.
Sources in the Belagavi police said that they are still investigating the case and indicated that though the statements now indicate the amount for contract killing was Rs 5 lakh, it may have been more than that. There were five people present near the railway track in Khanapur on September 28 where Arbaaz’s dead body was found. Police officials had earlier narrowed down the crime window to between 6:30 and 7:30 pm.
Police officials said that six others arrested in the case — Maruti Pralhad Sugathe, Manjunatha Thukaram Gondali, Ganapathi Jnaneshwara Sugathe, Prashanth Kallappa Patil, Praveena Shankara, and Shreedhara Mahadeva Doney — were close to Pundalik.
Qutubuddin, another accused arrested in the case, was also present at the scene of the crime. He acted as the mediator between Arbaaz and members of the Sri Rama Sena Hindustan and was also involved in the execution of the murder, police officials said. The dead body was dumped near the railway track close to Raja Tiles in Khanapur to make it appear like a suicide however, the post-mortem report showed stab injuries on Arbaaz’s neck and also showed that his hands were tied.
Police officials, who had earlier registered a case of unnatural death turned it into a case of murder following the findings in the post-mortem report. The district police took over the case from the Belagavi Railway police on October 3. Police sources said that they apprehended Pundalik and unravelled the murder plot by questioning him.
The arrests and police statements corroborated allegations made by Arbaaz’s family that he was murdered over an interfaith relationship. Arbaaz and his mother Nazima had met Prashant and Pundalik, members of the Sri Rama Sena Hindustan, on September 26, two days before he was found dead. In this meeting, the Hindu vigilantes pressured Arbaaz to break off his relationship and also asked him to pay Rs 7000 to them.
Arbaaz’s cousin Sameer Parishwadi said that the settlement amount demanded by the vigilantes had shot up and this had forced Arbaaz to sell a car for Rs 90,000. Arbaaz worked as a second-hand car dealer while his mother worked as an Urdu teacher in a government school.