New Delhi: Adding one more incident to the long list of lynchings in Jharkhand, a 50-year old adivasi from Jurmu village of Gumla’s Dumri block was beaten to death on suspicion of cow slaughter by a mob allegedly belonging to the Sahu community of neighbouring Jairagi village on April 10, says a fact-finding team’s report. The deceased – Prakash Lakda – had gone there for skinning a dead ox along with three others – Peter Kerketta, Belarius Minj and Janerius Minj – who sustained injuries in the murderous assault, it said.
A fact-finding team of Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, comprising activists and representatives of member organisations, conducted an inquiry into the incident on April 14-15 and has come up with a report that shows how the police, instead of nabbing the perpetrators, slapped a case of cow slaughter against the victims based on the chowkidar’s (watchman) testimony.
The team learnt that the four victims, along with other men and children of their village, were carving a dead ox on the bank of a river that flows near their village. The adivasis and other communities (such as Ghasis and Lohras) of this area traditionally eat beef.
“Some people from Jurmu were told by the owner of the dead ox to carve it for meat and its hide. While the adivasis were doing so, they were attacked by a mob of about 35-40 persons from Jairagi. The mob was led by Sandeep Sahu, Santosh Sahu, Sanjay Sahu and his sons. While others managed to flee, Prakash, Peter, Belarius and Janerius were caught by the mob and beaten with lathis (sticks). They were beaten up all the way to Jairagi chowk, about a kilometre away from the place where the violence began. The mob chanted slogans of Jai Shri Ram and Jai Bajrang Bali and also forced the victims to chant the slogans. They were beaten for refusing to chant the slogans or not chanting them loud enough,” said the fact-finding report.
After being beaten for around three hours, the report said the victims were dumped by the perpetrators in front of the Dumri police station at midnight. The perpetrators allegedly met the police and left. Instead of immediately rushing the victims to a hospital, the police allegedly made them wait outside in the cold for around four hours.
“The doctor at the centre confirmed that Prakash was brought dead and had probably died an hour before reaching the centre. He also said the police station in-charge – Amit Kumar – tried to force him to make an entry in the centre register that Prakash was alive when he was brought to the hospital. However, the doctor refused and noted that Prakash was brought dead,” read the report.
The actions of the local police raise several questions. While the victims kept saying they were carving an ox that had died, the police filed a first information report (FIR) against them and 20-25 unnamed persons of their village on charges of cow slaughter.
The report cited Amit Kumar who said the FIR was filed on the basis of the testimony of the police station’s chowkidar, who was sent to the spot early morning on April 11.
“Kumar was unable to recall the sequence of events after the lynching and there were several discrepancies between his account and those given by the victims and the doctor at the health centre. Of the seven perpetrators named by the victims, only two were arrested by April 15,” said the report.
According to the adivasis of Jurmu, people of other communities, including Sahus, routinely ask them to take away dead bovines. Dispute over consumption of bovine meat has never taken place amongst the different communities in the past.
The lynch files of Jharkhand
Over the last five years, at least 11 persons – nine Muslims and two adivasis – were lynched to death and eight more were beaten up by mobs in the name of cow protection or over other communal issues. The roles of the local administration and the police in most of the cases leave a lot to be desired.
This violence is also an attack on people’s right to eat the food of their choice, which itself endangers the right to life. “Beef is one of cheapest sources of proteins available to people in Jharkhand, who suffer from alarming levels of hunger and undernutrition,” said activists in the region who are working against hate crimes.
Last year, perpetrators of a mob lynching in Ramgarh and Godda were felicitated by Jayant Sinha, a Union Cabinet minister, and Nishikant Dubey, a BJP MP. The current Lok Sabha MP from the constituency of Jurmu, Surarshan Bhagat from BJP, said the report, is yet to meet the victims’ families or visit the village.
“No BJP leader has even condemned the incident till now. The silence of the BJP indicates its tacit approval of the incident….It also exposes the plans of the party to polarise votes in the Lok Sabha elections on religious lines,” alleged the report.
Jharkhand is going to Lok Sabha polls in three phases – April 29, May 6, May 12 and May 19.