NEW DELHI -- The father of a teenager has claimed that his son was murdered because he was a Hindu.
Seventeen-year-old Savan Rathod was reportedly made to drink petrol and burnt alive by three three assailants in the Kasba Peth locality of Pune on January 13. He died at a local hospital, two days later.
While Savan's father claims that his son was killed after he identified himself as Hindu, the local police don't believe there is a religious angle to the horrific crime. An investigation is being conducted over the theft of vehicle batteries as the trigger for the violence.
Now, the Banjara community has come forward with a video in which the teenager confirms his father's narrative, The Indian Express reported today. It was shot in Sassoon hospital, where the teenager was treated for his injuries after the attack.
While on his death bed, Rathod said, “I was working with my family in Pandhapur. I had a dispute with them and came to Pune looking for work…While I was urinating, three persons objected and asked me my name. I said Savan Rathod. They asked me if I am Hindu? I said ‘yes’. Then they poured something over me from a can and set me on fire.”
His father, Dharma Rathod, said: “Savan left home about a week before his death following a petty quarrel with his sister. After coming to know about the incident, I reached Sassoon hospital on Thursday evening. I asked him what happened…. From what he told me I believe that assailants did ask him whether he was a Hindu and then burnt him alive after he said ‘yes'."
Members of the Banjara community, who recorded the video, asked Savan if he felt he was attacked because of his religion. The teenager is seen nodding in response, the newspaper reported.
Ramesh Rathod, an advocate for the Banjara community, said: “When we went to the hospital on Thursday evening… Savan’s situation was bad. So we asked police to record his statement before he dies. But the cops refused, saying he himself was the complainant. So I recorded his dying declaration on my cellphone in the presence of his father and other activists. He did not mention anything about theft. Maybe, police fear that revealing the facts would create communal tensions.”
The three suspects don't have a history of communal violence, Tushar Doshi, a senior police official, told IE. "Savan Rathod’s video at the hospital could be an afterthought as he did not mention anything of a communal nature when FIR was lodged," he said.
Now, right-wing Hindutva groups are likening the murder to Islamic State type killing, and accusing the police of downplaying the religious angle.
Also See On HuffPost: