New Delhi: Saying no to the death penalty, the widow of Alimuddin Ansari, Mariam Khatoon, on Friday, said she wants “justice, not revenge” and added that she would prefer the court giving them life imprisonment. Ansari was lynched to death in June last year, by self-styled ‘Gau Rakshaks’ (cow vigilantes) for allegedly carrying beef in his vehicle.
A fast-track court of Additional District and Session Judge (ADJ) II Om Prakash in Jharkhand yesterday held all 11 accused, including a local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, guilty of killing the 45-year-old Muslim trader at Ramgarh in Jharkhand and convicted them under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 302 (murder, which carries a minimum punishment of life imprisonment and a maximum of the death penalty).
In addition, the four of them were also convicted under Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC. The court also convicted another suspect, who in his defence said he was a juvenile.
“Though they murdered my husband and made our children orphans (sic), I don’t want them to lose their lives. I would prefer the court give them life imprisonment. We wanted justice, not revenge so that my husband rests in peace in his grave,” Khatoon told Newsclick.
She hailed the verdict and thanked the judiciary for delivering justice without delay. “We faced a lot of difficulties, but we are satisfied with the court’s judgment,” she said with her voice choking.
When asked whether she will oppose the court sentencing the cow vigilantes to death on March 21, when the quantum of punishment will be announced, she said, “It’s up to the court to decide on the punishment, but we don’t want anyone to be hanged.”
Her lawyers Raju Hemburm and Shabad Ansar, while hailing the judiciary for the speedy trial and deciding the case on merits, also maintained the same stance as Khatoon.
“Convicting four of the 11 accused under Section 120B, the honourable court thereby accepted that it was a planned murder and not a sporadic attack by a frenzied mob,” Advocate Shadab Ansari told Newsclick.
Alimuddin was killed by a group of ‘Gau Rakshaks’ hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had warned cow vigilantes against taking the law into their own hands. The PM had also said that he condemned the violence they perpetrated in the name of protecting the bovine considered holy by many Hindus.
The victim allegedly was carrying meat, when a mob allegedly comprising Bajrang Dal activists stopped his Maruti van at Bazartand in Ramgarh, pulled him out and lynched him to death. They also set his vehicle ablaze.
This is the first case related to cow vigilantism in the country in which the accused have been convicted. Those who have been convicted are Santosh Singh, Chottu Verma, Deepak Mishra, Vicky Saw, Sikandar Ram, Uttam Ram, Vikram Prasad, Raju Kumar, Rohit Thakur, Nityanand Mahto (the BJP leader) and Kapil Thakur.
A series of lynchings of Muslim cattle traders were reported last year from BJP-ruled Jharkhand. In May, a mob lynched four Muslim cattle traders at a village in Saraikelka Kharswan district after accusing them of being child traffickers.
The issue also rocked the Parliament, with several opposition leaders questioning the government’s seriousness in taming the frenetic mobs. Facing flak, the state government, led by Chief Minister Raghubar Das, has warned police officers that they would be held responsible for any mob lynching reported from their area.
The state also approached the Jharkhand High Court, requesting that it constitute a fast-track court to try the Ramgarh lynching case. The police had filed a charge sheet in September 2017 and as many as 19 prosecution witnesses were examined in the case.