Kanhaiya Lal’s family swung between anger and despair as visitors, including politicians and journalists, streamed into their home on July 1. They made sure to speak to everyone.

“If our father was not killed in this brutal way, then we would have not entertained anyone,” said 20-year-old Yash Lal, Kanhaiya Lal’s elder son. “But, under the circumstances, if we do not talk, nothing will happen.”

On the afternoon of June 28, Kanhaiya Lal, a tailor, was murdered by Mohammad Riyaz Attari and Ghouse Mohammad. The two men walked into his shop on Malda Street, masquerading as customers. Once inside, they took out cleavers and killed Lal. They recorded the murder on camera and shared it on a WhatsApp group.

They then circulated another video, where they took responsibility for the attack. They said Lal was killed for social media posts supporting former Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nupur Sharma, who has been in the news for making derogatory statements about Prophet Mohammad.

The family has grown impatient with the law – they cannot get the sight of Lal’s mutilated body out of their minds.

“If this was not my brother, if it was a big politician, would they waste this time moving them from here and there?” asked the tailor’s younger brother, 38-year-old Karu Lal Teli, referring to the killers, who have been arrested.

The street outside Lal's home where people keep trickling in and out to pay their condolences. Photo: Aishwarya S Iyer

An arrest and a ‘compromise’

Law enforcement agencies had failed to protect Lal even before he died. On June 10, Lal was held at the Dhanmandi police station for “hurting religious sentiments” in a Facebook post supporting Sharma – the complaint against him was filed by Nazim Ahmed, who also owns a shop on Malda Street. When Lal was released a day later, he complained to the police that he had started getting death threats because of the social media post.

On June 15, Lal filed a police complaint about the threats. In the complaint, he also said that the post had been shared by his “child by mistake”. But Lal’s two sons, 20-year-old Yash and 18-year-old Tarun, denied they had anything to do with it.

They speculate it might have been the child of someone who lived near Lal’s shop – the boy often borrowed his phone to play games on it.

Lal’s family are not even sure what the post, which has since been removed, said to begin with. Prafulla Kumar, Inspector General of Police in Udaipur, only said the Facebook post was “an endorsement of the comments made by former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma”.

“Even if it was in support of Nupur Sharma, so many people have been posting this. It is everywhere. Why was only my father targeted?” asked Tarun.

While the family knew Lal was being threatened, they said he did not discuss the matter much at home.

Behind the brown shutters on the left are Fitwell Tailors, and on the right, Supreme Tailors, where Lal was killed. Photo: Aishwarya S Iyer

Kumar said that they acted on Lal’s complaint about being threatened immediately. “We had Nazim and Kanhaiya, along with an eyewitness each, and they have written declarations about reaching a compromise,” he said. “This was on June 15, the same day that Lal filed his complaint saying he feared for his life.”

However, the station house officer of Dhanmandi station has since been transferred. “There is a post-Nupur situation and a pre-Nupur situation. Considering the charged atmosphere, the SHO could not read the situation well and the legal action which should have been taken, wasn’t taken,” said ML Lather, Rajasthan’s director general of police, while announcing the transfer.

Yash remembered that his father was deeply stressed after he was released from jail but calmed down after the meeting on June 15. “Once they made both sides meet and strike a compromise, my father felt relaxed again,” he said.

Still, Lal did not go to work for a week after the meeting. His family does not know who was threatening him, and before the grisly videos were circulated, they did not know his killers, either.

On Malda Street

Lal’s family does know Nazim Ahmed, whose shop was opposite Lal’s on Malda Street. Yash and Tarun said they had seen him around for years and often shared tea and snacks.

“Nazim’s father was especially helpful to my father,” Yash recalled. “He passed away some years ago. But he was around when my father inaugurated his shop.”

After the murder, Lal’s sons said, no one had reached out to them from Ahmed’s family.

When Scroll.in visited Ahmed’s home, several neighbours said he had been picked up by the police on the day of the murder. He lives with his wife, who is pregnant, said one middle-aged man, who did not want to be named. “She was taken to the hospital today, she is not keeping well,” he added.

Kumar, however, said Nazim was not in police custody, although he might have been summoned for some “initial questioning”.

The first door on the left leads to Nazim's house, where he lived with his wife. Photo: Aishwarya S Iyer

‘Backbone of the family is gone’

Lal’s family is bereft. Their ancestral village is Nandi Ahada, in Rajasthan’s Dungarpur district. Yash said his father had been among the first men from the family to leave the village and try to make a life in the city.

“Over a decade ago, my father had a tailor shop but he had to shut it down because we did not make enough money,” said Yash. “Then he worked as an employee in a few places, before he had the capacity to open his own shop again.”

Both of Lal’s sons have examinations soon. While Yash is a second-year bachelor of commerce student, Tarun is a first-year pharmacy student. “I had a bad fall a few years ago and my doctor had said that I should not be put under stress,” said Tarun. “So my father spoke to his friends and guided me. He said I could be a pharmacist and open a chemist’s shop. That was his dream for me.”

Neither son was sure if they could write their exams. “I have not had any time to prepare,” Yash said.

The Rajasthan government has said that it would give one of Lal’s sons a job, but that is cold comfort. “I do not understand why only one of us should get a job,” Yash said. He adds that if the threats against his father were taken seriously, he would have been alive. The family wants Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help them.

Lal has four sisters and a younger brother. “I lost my father many years ago so he [Lal] was like my own father,” said 23-year-old Divya Sahu, one of his nieces. “Before and after exams, he would discuss papers and give me his blessings. The backbone of the family is gone.”

Karu Lal Teli, who has an auto converted into a mobile juice shop in Ahmedabad, agreed. “My brother was my support, our support. I am all alone now with no one behind me,” he said.

He added that if the government did not take “instant action”, it would encourage more such crimes.

The murder has now played into old prejudices against the minority. For instance, Teli employs a Muslim worker in Ahmedabad. His first order of business when he went back, he said, would be to dismiss the worker.