More than a year has passed when two brothers from Jamshedpur, Gautam Verma (27) and Vikas Verma (25), and their friend Gangesh Gupta (26), were killed by a thousand-strong murderous mob on May 18, 2017 in Jharkhand’s East Singbhum district. They had gone to a nearby village called Nagadih to check the hoardings they had put up to promote their new business of digging pits for toilets in rural areas. The mob suspected them of being child-lifters based on circulating social media messages. They did not even spare their 80-year old grandmother who had rushed to the spot along with others after receiving desperate messages from the young men.
According to elder brother Uttam Verma, who was severely injured in the attack but survived, 28 people were arrested in connection with the incident but 27 of them are out on bail. The case is being tried at the court of Additional District Judge Ajit Kumar Singh.
“We had identified three of the attackers and had named them in the FIR (first information report). But the police have so far unsuccessful in apprehending them,” Verma said accusing the police of weakening the case by giving it an angle of property dispute.
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“We don’t have any property at Nagadih. We have only this house we are living in. We are not so well off. We had just started a business and were working day and night to get success. Coining an absurd theory of property, the investigators are trying to hide their inefficiency and protect the perpetrators,” he said.
Adding that they do not have faith on the local police, the victims’ families had urged the Union Ministry of Home Affairs on November 23 last year to order a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) inquiry into the case. In his petition, Verma had said that as the murder of four persons, including three members of his family, took place due to the lapse of the government machinery, it must pay Rs 25 lakh each as compensation for the four deaths and give a permanent government job to kin of each family.
The MHA instructed Jharkhand Chief Secretary Sudhir Tripathy on March 28 this year to see if CBI inquiry was required for the case. The MHA letter – accessed by Newsclick– also asked the chief secretary to take “appropriate action” and convey the same to petitioner Uttam Verma. The home ministry letter instructed the chief secretary to look into the compensation too. But they have so far got nothing except the general compensation, according to Uttam Verma.
He wanted the CBI to intervene and bring out the fatal lapses in how the lynching case was handled. “Had a bigger police team come to the spot, all four deaths could have been prevented. I want a CBI probe so that the guilty policemen can be punished,” he said.
The distraught mother, Kunti Devi, who lost her two young son, is still weeping as if the incident took place few days back.
“I spent a sleepless night thinking that my children will come back. The next day, people began gathering here. I asked what happened; why have so many people suddenly started coming here to visit us? I was informed that Vikas and Gautam were killed at Nagadih,” she told Newsclick and burst into tears.
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“I have not come to terms that my children are no more. Their memories keep haunting me all the time and I fail to control my emotions,” she said with her voice choking and tears rolling down her face.
“My second son used to sleep in his room on the first floor. Every morning, I used to go upstairs to wake him up. I still do the same after I wake up but don’t find him there,” she said adding that “only the mother who has lost her two young sons can feel the pain I am suffering from”.
Asked what she wants from the court, she replies wiping the tears, “I don’t know what the honourable judges will do to the perpetrators but I want death sentence for the killers of my sons.”
Her father-in-law Guru Prasad (90) echoed the same. “We want nothing, not even compensation. Hum khoon ke badle khoon chahte hain(We want blood for blood),” he said with folded hands.
“They killed my young children and their grandmother with sticks and axes. I don’t have words to describe the barbarism that was displayed with impunity,” he angrily said.
Recounting the horror, Uttam Verma told Newsclick, “We had launched the start-up a few days back and were putting up banners and hoardings to promote the business. On May 18, during the planning of next day’s activities, Vikas told me to revisit the areas where we had put up the banners. I told him that we should go there the next day as it was already evening. But Vikas (the youngest among three brothers) insisted that we should finish this job the same day to which we agreed. I and Vikas left for Nagadih. While returning, we stopped at a place where Vikas was explaining to me that new constructions are being done and we should do aggressive advertising there. In the meanwhile, few people came there and began accusing us of being child lifters. We repeatedly told them we belong to a nearby colony and not child kidnappers. But they were not ready to listen to us. Slowly, the crowed began swelling and around 1,000 people gathered there within minutes. Sensing big trouble, I managed to leave and called Gautam, my second brother, to come to the spot with our identity cards so that they can let us go. I called the police as well. Gautam, his friend Gangesh and our grandmother reached there and tried their best to convince the aggressive mob. But this effort also went in vain. The mob also began thrashing Gautam, Gangesh and our grandmother who was 80 years old.”
Meanwhile, the police reached the spot. But ironically, the mob – according to Uttam – kept on thrashing the victims in heavy presence of cops. “After few minutes, more police vehicles came in and we boarded one of the jeeps to save our lives. But that did not work. A police officer called Amish Hussain (then Bagbera police station OC), who was initially asking the attackers not to take law in their hands and let the law take its course, gave in to public pressure. He told the crowd, ‘Beat them up if they are child lifters’,” alleged Uttam who said the small statement of the police officer encouraged the murderous mob which dragged us out of the police vehicle and further beaten us.
A Pattern to Lynching Cases
In majority on the cases, the rumour has been found to be spread by WhatsApp messages for mobilisation. The proximity of the police with the crime scene doesn’t make a difference. In majority of the cases reported in Jharkhand, the nearest station was within 10 km from the spot. Yet, the police were unable to reach in time.
In Latehar lynching case, the cops arrived at the crime scene an hour after they were alerted despite the fact that the nearest Balumath police station is just 5 km away. The distance between the spot where Alimuddin Ansari was brutally beaten up and the Ramgarh police station is just 2 km. But the police reached when the victim was nearly dead. And there was a photograph and news that the police baton was used to beat him up.
In this case too, the Bagbera police station is within 5 km away from the spot. The police reached the spot but they were heavily outnumbered.
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