ASAD ASHRAF | 21 DECEMBER, 2018
Five Lynchings that Shook India
Latehar lynchers finally convicted, many more still walk free
On December 19 a Jharkhand court convicted eight men for torturing and killing two Muslim cattle traders in Latehar district in March 2016. In what may have been the first case of cow vigilantism in Jharkand, a group of men tortured and killed Mazlum Ansari (32) and Imteyaz Khan (15) and hanged their bodies from a tree while they were on their way to a cattle fair.
Those convicted of the crime are Mithilesh Prasad Sahu, Pramod Kumar Sahu, Manoj Kumar Sahu, Awadhesh Sahu, Manoj Sahu, Arun Sao, Vishal Tiwary and Shadev Soni. The quantum of punishment for the convicts will be announced by the court today.
The Citizen on this day recalls five incidents of lynching since 2015 that shook the nation in the name of religion.
In the evening hours of September 22 there was a sudden rush in Baisara, Dadri, Uttar Pradesh. A man named Mohammad Akhlaq had been accused of stealing a calf from his neighbour’s dairy. Soon after, a mob from the village rushed to Akhlaq’s house with sticks and other weapons.
The family had just finished their dinner and was asleep. The mob ransacked their home and found some meat in the fridge which they claimed was beef. This was enough for the mob to beat Mohammad Akhlaq to death.
Based on the family’s eyewitness testimony a first information report (FIR) was registered against ten people under different sections of the Indian Penal Code, and eight among them were arrested. Later, despite two labs’ testifying that the meat in Akhlaque’s fridge was not beef, a case of ‘cow slaughter’ was registered against the murdered and his kin.
Eventually a total of 18 people were arrested for their involvement in Akhlaq’s murder - 17 of them are out on bail.
One of the accused, Ravi Sisodia, died in police custody and his body was wrapped in the national flag before his funeral. Another accused, Rupendra Rana, who is out on bail is planning to contest the Lok Sabha elections next year.
An investigating officer in the case, Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh, was recently killed by a group of people in Buladshahar in a mysterious manner.
Akhlaq’s lynching was in a sense the testing of waters by those concerned with cow politics and whether it would reap electoral dividends. Unfortunately, it did.
Two years later, after a spate of similar lynchings across the country, Hindutva icon Yogi Adityanath was sworn in as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, with his party having won a brute majority in the state.
Pehlu Khan, a 55 year old resident of Nuh Tehsil in Rajasthan’s Mewat district was on way home April 1, 2017 after purchasing cows and calves from Jaipur in hopes of increasing milk production in his dairy in the month of Ramzan.
On the Delhi-Jaipur national highway, they were stopped at the Jaguwas crossing by vigilantes popularly given the honorific ‘gau rakshaks’, or cow protectors. They dragged Pehlu Khan out of the vehicle and beat him to death.
According to Irshad Khan, Pehlu’s son who was present, they had all the relevant papers to prove they were carrying the cows for the purpose of dairy farming and not for slaughter. However, the mob paid no heed to their protests and assaulted the duo. Pehlu Khan succumbed to his injuries in hospital.
Based on the FIR filed right after the incident police arrested seven people for murdering Khan. However, later a case was also filed against the slain and two of his companions for ‘cow smuggling’.
All those arrested for murdering Pehlu Khan were later released on bail.
Initially three were granted bail by the Rajasthan High Court, two by a juvenile court and the two main accused, Dayanand (47) and Yogendra (30) on September 18, 2017.
Independent fact finding reports by several organisations also point to the police trying to cover up the involvement of the accused.
Witnesses in the case also told the media they were attacked on their way to court - the police has termed these claims false.
Pehlu Khan’s companions continue to face charges of cow smuggling.
Unlike the case of Akhlaq and Pehlu Khan, here a teenager was murdered on a moving train by a group of men just for being a Muslim. The pretext of cow slaughter or smuggling became unnecessary to lynch someone.
15 year old Junaid was returning to his village in Ballabhgarh district in Haryana after Eid shopping from Delhi. He was killed over an alleged dispute over seats in a local train. The group of men who killed him hurled religious slurs before stabbing him to death. According to eyewitness and media reports, the dispute over seats was aggravated after the mob started calling the group of young boys including Junaid cow eaters and terrorists.
Six people were arrested in the case along with the prime accused. The media reported that the main accused Naresh Kumar even confessed to his crime after being arrested.
All the accused have been released on bail by the court. The main accused Naresh Kumar was granted bail in October this year. The family remains determined to take the legal battle ahead and secure justice for Junaid.
In the most visibly gory killing, Afrazul Khan was murdered by Shambhu Lal Regar in Rajasthan’s Rajasmand district.
In a widely circulated video clip, the accused can be seen leading the Muslim man to a secluded spot and attacking him with a weapon until the victim falls silent.
After killing Khan, Regar turns to the camera to warn Muslim men against ‘Love Jihad’, term coined by right wing Hindu groups. The accused later sets Khan’s body on fire.
After the incident a group of people collected money for Regar’s legal defence. Recently the Hindu Right organisation Navnirman Sena has offered the accused a Lok Sabha ticket from Agra and has pledged to defend him at all costs.
A full month after the murder and Regar’s arrest the police filed a chargesheet which mentioned that ‘Love Jihad’ was the reason for the murder over love, intrigue and betrayal.
Shambhu Lal continues to be in jail a year since the incident. However, he was able to release another video message from jail in February this year.
This time the victim was an 82 year old man from Sitamarhi in Bihar. Zainul Ansari was reportedly returning from his daughter’s wedding in Sitmarhi when he was dragged away and burnt alive by a mob during a Durga Puja procession last October.
The incident was largely blacked out in the media barring a few exceptions.
So far 38 arrests have been made and six FIRs filed in the case. The investigation is under way. The trial has yet to begin.