The younger brother of Amravati murder victim Umesh Kolhe today said the family could never have thought he'd be murdered over something he'd say: "He was a very mild-mannered man. He did not even retort if someone picked a fight with him," said Mahesh Kolhe.
Umesh Kolhe, who ran a chemist shop in the Maharashtra town, was killed on June 21 allegedly over some WhatsApp messages in support of BJP ex-spokesperson Nupur Sharma, whose comments on Prophet Muhammad caused outrage in India and abroad.
Mahesh Kolhe said his brother never spoke about any message or argument. "He was not the kind to argue anyway, so we did not imagine he could be murdered like this," he told NDTV.
The family is satisfied with the police probe so far, he said. "The arrests were made promptly. We reopened the shop again after three days of the murder, and security was provided. A police van escorts our children home every evening." Seven people have been arrested so far, including alleged mastermind Irfan Khan.
The case is being handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) -- which is probing a similar killing in Udaipur, Rajasthan — on the BJP-led central government's orders after the local party unit accused the then state government led by Uddhav Thackeray of concealing the killers' motive for political reasons. The state government has since changed, and the BJP is now part of the ruling alliance.
Mahesh Kolhe, when asked about the WhatsApp group 'Black Freedom' and messages that his brother may have sent or forwarded, said, "I was not part of that group. He may have forwarded some messages, but I am not sure. Police seized his phone the day after his murder."
Meanwhile, CCTV footage of the murder was found, showing Umesh Kolhe surrounded by his killers and suddenly collapsing after being attacked with knives. Police also found that the first attempt to kill him was made the previous day, but he survived as he closed the shop earlier than the killers expected him to, said sources.
"Our father died last year, and now bhaiya (my elder brother) is gone too. You can understand what we must be going through," Mahesh Kolhe said.