By Jeffrey Gettleman and Suhasini Raj
Ahmedabad: The attack begins with a Hindu man, wearing a bright shirt and a white scarf, stepping off a motorbike carrying a long iron pickax. He pounces on an older Muslim man, attacking him from behind and striking him over and over.
“Babu, save my life! Save my life!” the Muslim man screams. He crumples to the ground, and a few seconds later, after several more blows from the pickax, he cries, “I’m dead, I’m dead.” He soon is.
The killing was captured on video — at the attacker’s request. He had his nephew film the entire incident with a phone and proudly posted it on social media, bragging that he had killed the man to protect his Hindu community from Muslim jihadists.
India’s biggest television channels aired the video and it jumped at light speed across the country on Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, immediately stirring tensions. The Hindu-Muslim fault line in India can be very raw, and in recent years several Muslims have been lynched by Hindu mobs.
Some activists said the timing of the killing on Wednesday, in Rajasthan, in India’s west, was hardly a coincidence: 25 years ago to the day, Hindu supremacists demolished a 16th-century mosque in northeastern India, setting off Hindu-Muslim riots that killed 2,000 people and deeply set back relations between the communities.
Fears are now rising again. Extra police officers were deployed Friday in Rajasthan to discourage possible copycat killings by Hindus or revenge attacks by Muslims.
The killer’s videos have continued to circulate — he made several. And in his rants on video and to journalists he said he had killed the Muslim man for “roaming around” with a Hindu girl.
“The government of India must immediately intervene,” said Sanjoy Sachdev, chairman of Love Commandos, an Indian volunteer organization that helps couples fight off arranged marriages and deal with harassment from their families. “The government should shut down those videos.”
Police officials have identified the killer as Shambhu Lal Raigar, an on-again, off-again marble trader in his mid-30s. He was arrested on Thursday morning hiding at a relative’s house. According to police officials, Mr. Raigar confessed to the crime. He says as much on video, appearing in front of a statue of a Hindu god. “It may be good or bad, but I’ve done it,” he says. “If I have to die, then why not kill and die?”
The victim, seen in the video as a blurry image wearing a white Muslim prayer cap, was identified as Afrajul, a 50-year-old migrant laborer from the eastern state of West Bengal. Activists in the area said they did not know how much truth there was to the accusation that Mr. Afrajul, who was married with three children, was having an affair with a Hindu woman.
There is no doubt, however, that the subject of relations between Muslim men and Hindu women is a flash point.
Across India, Hindu supremacists have accused Muslim men of carrying out what they call “love jihad.” Hindu activists have urged young Hindu women to be on the lookout for Muslim men trying to lure them into marriage in order to convert them. Some politicians have turned “love jihad” into a rallying cry, using it to win votes — and polarize communities.
India’s Supreme Court is currently trying to untangle a messy case of a Hindu family in Kerala that said their daughter was forced to convert to Islam after being recruited by Islamist extremists. The young woman sharply disagreed, saying she had converted voluntarily and that she wanted to live with her husband.
Little is known about Mr. Raigar, the killer in the video, who comes across on camera as educated and calculated. He speaks at length about how black-clad jihadists want to destroy his community. He refers to the mosque demolition that happened in 1992.
He first posted his videos on a WhatsApp group, Rajasthan activists said, and people in his community began forwarding it. According to the activists, Mr. Raigar lured Mr. Afrajul to a thinly populated area outside of Rajsamand, a midsize city, by promising him work as a day laborer.
At the end of the killing video, Mr. Raigar sprinkles kerosene on Mr. Afrajul’s body, sets it on fire and calmly walks away.
(New York Times)