New Delhi: The rampant issue of mob lynchings is absent from electoral campaigns of political parties in poll-bound Jharkhand – a state that has of late become infamous for the violence of rampaging mob. The state has witnessed 22 such killings between March 18, 2016 and September 22, 2019, for alleged smuggling or slaughtering of cows and over child-lifting rumours. It is also of concern that barring a few incidents of mob lynching, most incidents have occurred in remote rural or small town areas.
The irony of the victims’ families is that they are neither able to express the sorrow of losing the sole breadwinners in their family or their loved ones, nor suppress it as they find no political support. They allege that the culprits enjoy political patronage. Instead of assuring people that the culprits will be brought to book and justice will prevail, it is being promised that the perpetrators will be released if they are voted to power.
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Meanwhile, amid several reports on mob violence in Jharkhand, one incident of lynching which went unnoticed took place at Jurmu village in Dumri block of Gumla district.
A rampaging crowd of over 30 people on April 10 this year thrashed Prakash Lakra (50), Peter Kerketta (50), Belarius Tirkey (60) and Janerius Minj (35)—all dalit Christians—for skinning a dead ox. Lakra succumbed to his injuries while the other three were severely injured. Another victim, Janeriis Minj, is no longer as strong as he was before the merciless beating and injuries. He can neither stand for long, nor can work for long in the field as many of his bones were broken. He was also made to drink urine.
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Prakash Lakra’s wife Jeremina lives alone in the village as her children (son and daughter) have left the village after their father’s death. They were scared. Minj and two others who had suffered injuries also continue to live in the village. But now it is not the same as before because the whole village has been gripped with panic and residents keep a watch on the movements of people. Since Minz is also an eyewitness to the incident, both he and the other villagers are scared. He also alleged that he has been receiving threats to withdraw the case.
An ox belonging to one Adhiyas Kujur, a resident of Jurmu village, had gone missing since April 9. All efforts to find it failed. The cattle was found dead near a pond in the vicinity of the village on April 10.
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“When Kujur informed us, I and Prakash Lakra along with two other fellow villagers (Peter Kerketta and Belarius Tirkey) rushed to the spot. Since the ox was dead, we began skinning it as we use the skin in making drums. While we were peeling the skin, a mob comprising upper caste people from the neighbouring village of Jauragi reached the spot and started beating us. They were accusing us of slaughtering a cow. Though we told them time and again that it was a dead ox, they did not listen to us at all,” Minj told NewsClick, the horror of the incident writ large on his eyes.
He said the attackers were armed with sword and other deadly weapons. They allegedly urinated in a bottle and asked the victims to drink. “We had no option but to do what they said as we were only four and they were a strong mob. Despite the fact we know them and they know us very well, they did not have mercy and spare us,” he said.
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Sadly, the police also allegedly sided with the mob. “We were taken to the police station. To our shock, the cops instigated the crowd to continue beating us instead of coming forward to protect us. The mob became more violent when they learnt that they have police’s support. We were also made to chant Hindu religious slogans. Unable to bear further attacks, Prakash collapsed and died at the spot. After Prakash’s death, the mob ran away from there. We also fell unconscious. It was 7 PM and we were lying unconscious at the station till the next morning. We were admitted to a hospital in Dumri at around 4 AM,” he said.
Prakash, he said, was also taken to hospital but he was declared brought dead. Then the police came and recorded their statements. An FIR was filed against the perpetrators, but the victims were also booked for slaughtering a cow, a charge which they don’t accept.
LIFE IN THE SHADOW OF FEAR
Minj and the other people of the village are still living in the shadow of fear. His world has changed now. He said that earlier he used to return from the city to his village in the night. But now after getting threats, he does not feel safe to step out of the village.
Jeremina Lakda said that her husband’s death was hidden by the police and she was told the news only after the postmortem. She also alleged the police pressurised her to bury the deceased body in a hurry.
Not only, social activists who have been working with villagers alleged that instead of taking actions against culprits, the police have slapped cases against the victims and keep harassing them.
Siraj Dutta, an activist associated with the Jharkhand Janadhikar Manch (JJM), has extensively studied the incidents of mob violence in the state. He said that in most of the incidents, it was found that cases were also registered against the victims, especially cases of cow slaughter. In such a situation, he says, the path to get justice becomes difficult for the victims. “Should they demand justice for the attacks on them or should they be forced to prove themselves innocent?” he questioned.
FORGET COMPENSATION, NOT EVEN COURTESY VISIT
The villagers are sad and angry that Prakash Lakra’s dependents and the three villagers injured in the incident have neither received any compensation nor any officials came to meet them even once.
Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai said during the ongoing winter session of Parliament that the Centre has instructed all the states to take strict steps to deal with the incidents of mob violence. But, experts say that incidents of mob lynching are increasing due to political patronage to the accused.
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Then Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha in July last year had garlanded eight men convicted in the lynching and murder case of Ramgarh resident Alimuddin Ansari when they had come out on bail. Ansari was killed in a case of cow vigilantism in June 2017. The Hazaribagh MP was widely condemned for “honouring” the lynchers.
JHARKHAND — A FAILED STATE?
Following the Jurmu village lynching, Tabrez Ansari, a 24-year-old resident of Saraikela-Kharsawan, was mercilessly beaten for allegedly stealing a bike and later forced to chant Jai Sri Ram by a mob of Hindu extremists on June 19.
However, like most of the lynching cases in India, where justice has been denied to the victim, here too, the Jharkhand police’s chargesheet claims that Ansari had not succumbed to his injuries, but had died from a cardiac arrest. Ansari’s family alleged that while he had sustained severe injuries by the mob, the police had only provided him with basic first aid and sent him to jail, without consulting any doctor. After two days, when he complained of severe pain, including headache, he was sent to Sadar Hospital from the jail, but the doctor there allegedly did not treat him well and declared him dead while he was alive. By the time he was taken to another doctor, it was too late and Ansari succumbed to his injuries. He used to work in Pune and had returned two months before his death, for his marriage, which was solemnised on April 26, 2019.
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The role of police in the incident was severely criticised across the country. Eight days after the Jharkhand police dropped the murder charge against 11 accused in the mob lynching case, they brought back the same charge on the accused on September 18. Ansari could be seen on national television being beaten up with rods while tied to a pole and forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’.
Three months after the case, which shook the conscience of the nation, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled state witnessed another case of mob lynching on September 22. A differently-abled tribal man was killed and two others were seriously injured when a mob allegedly thrashed them on suspicion of slaughtering a cow in Khunti district of Jharkhand.
The incident happened after rumours spread in Jaltand Suari village of Khunti district that three tribal men — Kalantus Barla, Philip Horo and Phagu Kachchap had slaughtered a cow. Soon after, a mob attacked them and beat them up. All three were rushed to a local hospital before being taken to Rajendra Institute of Medical Science (RIMS) in Ranchi. Barla died on the way to the hospital, while Kachchap and Horo are under treatment at RIMS.
Mubarak Ansari, 48, is the 22nd mob lynching victim in Jharkhand, while Akhtar Ansari, 26, has survived despite receiving serious injuries from a mob thrashing. He underwent treatment in a hospital in Bokaro district of Jharkhand. Mubarak and Akhtar were accused of stealing a battery from a truck in Govindpur colony of Bokaro. The two hail from a village close by. On November 5, the duo were intercepted by the owners of a truck in Govindpur, when they were allegedly whisking away a truck battery. Following which, the owners invited several other residents, who tied Mubarak to a pole and began to mercilessly beat the two.