"When my son was admitted to hospital, he told me that he was set on fire by three suspects after they came to know that he was Hindu," Savan Rathod's father Dharma has alleged. A video made public purportedly confirms that the dying boy told this to his father and others in hospital.
Savan Rathod, who worked as a rag-picker, was brought to Pune's government-run Sassoon Hospital with severe burn injuries on January 13. He died on January 15.
The police have arrested three men - Ibrahim Shaikh, Juber Tamboli and Imran Tamboli - who they said had poured petrol on Savan and set him on fire because they suspected that he had stolen car batteries. Police officer Tushar Doshi said the police had found no communal angle to the murder so far.
But right-wing activists in the city have accused the Pune police of shabby investigation. "We had given a video clip to the cops in which the deceased was seen telling that he was set on fire by three suspects, after they came to know that he was Hindu," said Ramesh Rathod, who heads an organisation called Banjara Kranti Dal.
In the video, Savan says, "Three boys came and asked me what I was doing and what was my name. I told them it's Savan Rathod. They asked me if I was a Hindu. I said yes. Then they emptied a can on me and set me on fire."
Asked again if he was set ablaze because he was a Hindu, Savan re-confirms it.
"It is as good as the dying declaration and the police should investigate the communal angle. They failed to take his dying statement when he was being treated at the state-run Sassoon Hospital," Mr Rathod said.
Activists have demanded an investigation by Maharashtra's anti-terror squad. Milind Ekbote of the "Samast Hindu Aghadi," alleged that the cruelty with which the young boy was attacked points to "the modus operandi of the ISIS."
He announced a protest at the Police Commissioner's office on January 27.
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