NEW DELHI: A young couple eloped from a village in Bulandhshahr district in Uttar Pradesh. The boy, a Muslim, was reportedly working in Saudi Arabia and returned briefly to leave with the girl from the majority community.

The four Muslim families in the village, Sohi, came under tremendous pressure from the others to find the youth, and make him return. The threats had been continuing for days, a FIR was filed against the youth on April 27, and five days later on May 2 a mob, taking the law into its own hands, went into the village accosting the Muslims in their homes, and threatening them with consequences unless they helped them find the missing couple. The mob arrived at the residence of Ghulam Mohammad, dragged him out of the house, took him away in the morning hours to the woods, and beat him to death.

The rumour, of course was that the youth had abducted the girl and thereby became a case of “love jihad” that has had rightwing vigilante groups roaming the towns and villages of UP to prevent inter community relationship and/or marriages for over three years now. This time around Mohammad’s son said that the mob comprised members of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, the organisation founded by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

Mohammad’s son, according to the Shikarpur police circle officer Vijay Prakash who spoke to the local media, was walking by when he saw one “Gavendra Singh, a resident of their village, and six others leaving the orchard on motorcycles… He claimed that when he entered the orchard, he found his father lying injured. He raised an alarm and locals rushed Ghulam to the hospital, where doctors declared him brought dead on arrival.” Mohammad’s elder son has registered an FIR.

The immediate police responses to the lynching as reported in the media speaks volumes about the direction of the supposed investigation. These are as follows:

Additional Superintendent of Police (Rural) Jagdish Sharma said, “Wakeel has alleged that members of Hindu Yuva Vahini killed his father. He, however, has not mentioned the motive behind the murder.” Gavendra Singh is reportedly on the run.

Bulandshahr SSP Muniraj G is quoted in the Indian Express as saying, “We are trying to verify if Ghulam Mohammad’s murder has any connection to the case of abduction of a girl lodged against Yusuf of Sohi village.”

And of course the top officer DIG (Meerut Range) K S Emmanuel went even further to insist, “So far, police have not found any evidence indicating the involvement of HYV members in the murder.”

HYV’s Bulandshahr district president Sunil Raghav has, predictably, denied the involvement of the organisation in the murder. He said that Ganvendra Singh was not a member. And that ,”some opponents are deliberately dragging our organisation into the case to malign its image.”

Nagendra Tomar, divisional president of the HYV insisted, “If anyone was found involved, they would be expelled from the Vahini. Our leaders and activists are disciplined soldiers and they cannot be involved in this kind of violence.”

The incident sends out a distinct message. That every Muslim is now going to be held responsible for what happens in anothers house in the village, or the neighbourhood. And even a person who is not a relative like Mohammad will be killed for the actions of others in his community, regardless of the consequences, if the vigilantes so decide.

Last month a mob barged into the house of a Muslim in Meerut and beat him because he was with a Hindu woman. Inter religious relationships will not be tolerated, is the second signal being sent out, with Muslims of course being on the receiving end of mob fury.