The murder of H Farook, a self-professed atheist who discussed his rationalist views on social media platforms, has shaken up Coimbatore and raised concerns about growing religious fundamentalism.
Farook, 31, was a scrap dealer and a member of the Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam, a political party dedicated to social reform based on activist and Dravidian leader Periyar EV Ramaswamy’s ideology. His body was found near the Coimbatore Corporation’s sewage complex on on Thursday night.
The police suspect that Farook was killed because of his efforts to spread rationalist thought and his campaign against religious fundamentalism.
According to the police, four people waylaid him and hacked him to death. While M Arshad, a realtor, turned himself into the police on Friday, another suspect, Saddam Hussein, surrendered on Monday. Two more accused are in police custody.
The police could not confirm reports that they were investigating the involvement of a banned group in the attack.
The murder comes at a time when Tamil Nadu’s textile city had been inching back to normalcy after incidents of violence and communal tensionin the wake of the murder of Hindu Munnani leader C Sasikumar in September.
Farook’s relatives refused to collect his body from the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital on Friday, insisting they will take it for burial only after the police have arrested the killers.
‘Right to live’
Farook, a resident of Bilal Nagar in Ukkadam South in Coimbatore, is survived by his wife, Rasheeda and two children, 13-year-old Afrith and six-year-old Anafa.
Farook was a voracious reader. Friends fondly remembered him someone who stood against all forms of religious fundamentalism.
In a Facebook post on March 13, Farook had said: “I am an enemy of god, enemy of religion and enemy of caste. But I am not an enemy of humans who believe in humanity.”
On her sixth birthday on December 6, Farook had asked his daughter, Anafa to hold up a placard which said Kadavul illai – there is no god. He posted the photo on Facebook.
His family said Farook had received many threatening calls from unknown numbers after this post. Though he took firm stand against religion, his relatives said Farook never tried to force his views on others.
Struggling to hold back tears, Farook’s father, Hameed, told this reporter, “I am a Muslim. I knew my son was an atheist. But he didn’t hate anyone. I believe that atheists too have a right to live in this world.”
Farook’s brother-in-law, Shahjahan, said that though their religious beliefs were different, this was not a source of contention in the family. “All members in our family, except Farook, are practising Muslims,” he said. “He never taunted us nor questioned our belief. He was fond of talking to me on religious issues. Since I am a God-fearing person I decided to stop it some eight months ago. From then on, we discussed mostly family matters,”
Shahjahan said he was sure this was a planned murder and a big gang was responsible for it. “The threat messages he received on his mobile phone were a precursor to this,” he said. “I hope the police will look into the conspiracy angle too.”
A family member, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the accused were good friends with Farook till a year ago but they fell out as they disagreed over his atheism.
Kolathur Mani, state president of the Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam, who knew Farook for seven years, described him as a “true humanist” and said his death pointed to a growing religious fanaticism. “I have noticed youngsters are becoming intolerant in Islamic society,” he said. “It is a dangerous sign. But I am relieved to hear that Muslim religious leaders and political party leaders have condemned the killing.”
K Ramakrishnan of the Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, of which Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam, also blamed religious fundamentalistn for the murder. “Religious fanatics are creating trouble all over India,” he said. “They are the curse of the nation. I request the police should bring the conspiracy angle in Farook’s murder.”