Tabrez Ansari, 24 years old, Muslim youth was tied to a pole in Saraikela, Jharkhand and lynched by a mob which demanded that Ansari chant “Jai Shri Ram” and“Jai Hanuman”. He was caught by the mob on the suspicion of theft of a motorcycle. Though Ansari chanted “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jai Hanuman”, he was not spared and the brutal assault continued. Ansari, is seen to beg for mercy on the video shot by the mob that lynched him. The background sound in the video indicated the presence of women and children who were laughing at the plight of helpless Ansari who is seen pleading for his life with a look of sheer terror and desperation on his face. He is beaten up with sticks relentlessly by a mob which wants to ascertain whether he is Muslim. Ansari succumbed to his injuries four days after the lynching when the police didn’t give him the necessary life-saving medical care. Unfortunately, this act of vigilantism by a mob in complete disregard for rule of law is not an isolated incident.
On 10th April, 2019 Prakash Lakda, Peter Kerketta, Belarius Minj and Janerius Minj were lynched by a mob while skinning a dead ox. Prakash Lakda succumbed to his injuries while the others sustained severe injuries. They were brutally beaten up by the mob. The victims were slapped with charges under the bovine protection act and thus criminalized while only 7 out of 40 accused who lynched the four victims were arrested. The rest are at large. This is not uncommon since in almost all cases of mob lynching, justice eludes the victims. A fact finding team consisting of civil society organizations and social activists visited the Jurmu and Dumri to understand the causes behind the mob lynching of Prakash Lakda and the overall trend of mob lynching in Jharkhand. This fact finding was carried out before the lynching of Tabrez Ansari.
A fact finding team consisting of Irfan Engineer, prominent author, activist and Director of Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS), Neha Dabhade, Deputy Director, Ashok Verma, activist, K. C Mardi, prominent Adivasi activist, visited Ranchi, Ramgarh and Dumri from 17th June to 19th June, 2019. The Team visited Jurmu where the mob lynching of Prakash Lakda and three others took place on 10th April, 2019. Afzal Aneez from United Milli Forum helped the team understand the incidents of mob lynching since he is working with some of the victims of mob lynching and their families. At Jurmu, the team met, Saroj Hebrom, social activist, the family of Prakash Lakda, the deceased victim of mob lynching. A meeting was set up with the residents of Jurmu village. The participants of the meeting consisted of Christian Adivasis and non-Christian residents of the village. The team also interacted with prominent activist, Dayamani Barla, former Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Babulal Marandi, Geetashree Oraon, head of Akhil Bhartiya Avidasi Vikas Parishad, Bashir Ahmed, Social activist and artist.
Socio-political background of Jharkhand:
The State of Jharkhand is situated in Eastern India. Jharkhand was carved out Bihar state in the year 2000 as the Adivasis demanded for a separate state. It is surrounded by Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh. The population of Jharkhand is mainly made up of Hindus (67.83%) and Muslims (14.53%). The Scheduled Tribes which constitute 26.21% of the total population of 3,29,88,134 follow Hinduism and Christianity. The four dominant Adivasi groups of Santhals, Oraons, Mundas and Hos constitute over 77 per cent of the Adivasi population.
The formation of a minerals and natural resource rich Jharkhand state is culmination of a long struggle of the Adivasis who felt socio-economically deprived and exploited by the non-tribals. The question of jal, jungle aur jameen (water, forest and land) has been pivotal in the political discourse in Jharkhand. The rich mineral resources in the state attracted mining and industrialization on a large scale. This was not possible without indiscriminately acquiring forest land which was home to the Adivasis. Industrialization and so called “development” propelled massive displacement and destroyed their traditional occupations on the one hand and the industrialization paid very little dividend in terms of employment or improving the economic condition of the Adivais on the other hand leading to their destitution. They were deprived of their own homeland and freely available natural resources on which their day to day lives depended upon. The Adivasis have a distinct identity owing to their way of life which completely revolves around their dependence and connect with nature. The Adivasis have always conserved nature. Jharkhand has had a history of Adivasi agitation even in pre-independence era with the Santhals revolting against the British rule and Birsa Munda movement.
Post independence, the process of industrialization brought about a gradual detribalization in Jharkhand. The industries brought people from all over the country to work in Jharkhand. Jamshedpur city, also known as steel city due to the steel industry in Jharkhand is a good example of this immigration of diverse people from different regions, speaking diverse language and following diverse religion. The diversity in Jamshedpur nearly corresponds to the diversity of the country. Migration into Jharkhand was especially intensive from Bihar, Bengal and UP. These migrants occupied various positions in the industries and also became part of not just the economic mosaic but also the social one. Immigration proved to be additional strain on the natural resources in Jharkhand and contributing to the rift between Adivasis and non- Adivasis. The immigrants at best were indifferent to the adivasis and at worst looked down upon their way of life. The whole process, backed by the state pushed the adivasis to the social as well as economic margins.
Scholars like Das (1962) have analyzed detribalization as a socio-cultural process of loosening social ties and changing cultural preferences among tribals largely owing to their interaction with other social groups. Similar trends are visible in Jharkhand. The detribalization process was due to displacement of adivasis on account of grabbing their homeland by industrial projects, mining projects, military test firing ranges, construction of dams and other infrastructures projects. Alienation of their homelands also took place due to tightening forest bureaucracy and forest laws that increasingly treated forest as state property rather than community resource of adivasis. Alienation from homelands and traditional livelihoods and displacement by industrialization contributed to immense economic marginalization of the adivasis in Jharkhand. This in turn lead to greater dependence on poor and grossly inadequate state welfare schemes on one hand and emigration out as seasonal migrant labour in near bonded labour conditions on the other hand. Schooling, emigration as near slave labour and dependence on bureaucracy for welfare schemes greatly contributed to detribalization. Economic and social marginalization of adivasis and detribalization was justified by the ideology of ‘national development’ and ‘national integration’ till the decade of 1980s.
The detribalization process intensified with the growth of right wing Hindu supremacists in Jharkhand. The Hindu supremacists with their consistent intervention in Jharkhand have managed to divide the Adivasis along communal lines. Their strategy was to ‘Hinduize’ the adivasis by imposing Hindu religious and cultural traditions and ‘integrating’ them within Hindu political identity, thereby suppressing adivasi way of life, identity and consciousness. Those who resisted this process, for instance the Christian adivasis, were subject to hatred and even subjected to violence. They were stigmatized for alleged religious conversions. For instance, Schooling alienates the adivasis from their culture and way of life and exposes them to upper caste view of Hinduism as if it were a norm and higher culture to be emulated by everyone. The Vanvasi Kalyan Ashrams through their work have reach out to children at a young age and instill upper caste imagery and idioms in them but subtly present to them those who follow different world view as adversaries and threat. Thus, over the years, the Adivasis have to been introduced to Hindu Gods and deities, Hindu rituals and festivals and alienated them from those adivasis who follow adivasi traditions and customs but pray to a different God. There is a discernible communal polarization among Adivasis. This is also a cause of conflict in Jharkhand where Hindu identity is slowly displacing Sarna adivasis identity and look down upon the Christian Adivasis. The laws like the anti-conversion law and beef ban laws have only sharpened these conflicts and accelerated the polarization. The contours of conflict in Jharkhand thus is shifting from Adivasis versus non- Adivasis to Hindu Adivisis versus Christian Adivasis.
This polarization has helped BJP become a dominant force in Jharkhand politically. Among those who spearheaded the Jharkhand movement was Jaipal Singh, an Oxford – returned tribal Christian who helped the regional aspiration gain national recognition. But his joining of the Congress (I) kind of diffused the movement for separate Jharkhand. The movement again received a shot in the arm with the emergence of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in 1972. Such co-option of the Adivasi leaders by the Congress was one of the reasons that Jharkhand based parties and BJP emerged as politically dominant in the state.
It is ironical that BJP with its thrust on neo-liberal policies and aggressive ideology of Hindutva should be dominant in a state where the protests against displacement and acquisition of land of Adivasis have been core to the political discourse. But the BJP has consciously worked hard to get this foothold in the region. It has built a support base as seen above through polarizing the Adivasis on the grounds of religion where Adivasis followed their own ways of worship. The post-poll survey data from 2014 assembly election indicate that the BJP while getting a majority of the Hindu votes also received almost 30 per cent of the tribal votes which is more by a percentage point than that of the JMM, considered to be a tribal ethnic party (Kumar & Sardesai, 2015).
Another significant reason for the electoral success of the BJP is that party facilitated the entry and domicile of migrants from other states in Jharkhand. The state recognizes everyone as a domicile who has been residing in the state since 1986. One way to interpret this move is to see it as stemming from the quest of the BJP to consolidate its social base among the immigrated population who are regarded as dikus by the Adivasis. At the same time, the BJP has driven aggressively the neo-liberal policies by relaxing the provisions on compensation for Adivasi land in the wake of acquisition. The places where people’s movements are strong, the BJP finds it difficult to divide and polarize communities as was told to the team by Dayamani Barla.
The common thread that keeps the Adivasis and the dikus (immigrants from diverse regions, caste and linguistic groups who have aspirations of upward social and economic mobility) is the umbrella of Hindutva. Hindutva has co-opted a section of Adivasis and neutralized to some extent their agitation towards the dikus by communally popularizing along Hindutva political ideology over the years. The culturally diverse migrant population conveniently comes together by subscribe to political ideology of Hindutva, and projection of a common enemy – communities that follow ‘foreign religions’, viz. Christians and Muslims. Adivasis through the process of Hinduization or Sanskritization are made to give up their traditional practices and imitate practices of the Hindus at the lower rungs. For example, Adivasis giving up eating of beef which is common amongst the Adivasis or ways of worship or marriages, dressing and other cultural practices. Similarly, this cultural homogenization is also attempted to be imposed on the Muslims but through communal riots and hate crimes. This explains the mob lynching of Muslims and Adivasis in the state and how this violence is normalized in Jharkhand.
Communal history of Jharkhand:
Jharkhand ranks second in hate crimes, particularly, religion-driven hate crimes, according to IndiaSpend Hate Crime watch (Dantewadia, 2019) . Along with Lakda, 11 other persons have been lynched so far in Jharkhand, of whom nine were Muslims and the remaining two were Adivasis. According to IndiaSpend report, there have been 15 mob lynching incidents between the years 2016 – 19 in Jharkhand. Below is a glimpse of some of the mob lynching that took in the recent years as per the report.
Latehar, 18th March, 2016
Two Muslim cattle herders were hanged to death in a communally sensitive region. Five suspects, including a member of a local cow protection vigilante group, were arrested.
Koderma, 17th April, 2017
A man was injured when a mob allegedly assaulted him over suspicion of serving bovine meat at his son’s wedding reception. The mob also vandalised his house. A mike from a neighbouring worship place was also damaged. The mob pelted stones and damaged several bikes, three four-wheelers and two autorickshaws parked in the street. A few other houses, neighbouring that of the victim, were also vandalised.
Gumla, 30th May, 2017
Villagers tied a 20-year-old Muslim man to a tree and beat him for hours to death for being in love with a Hindu woman. The man, Mohammad Shalik, a resident of Raza Colony – was allegedly in a relationship with a Hindu woman of a nearby village, Soso, for more than a year. The girl reportedly called the boy to meet her at Gumla town for the Ram Navami procession. Fearing trouble, Shalik initially refused but finally went to meet her on a scooty and dropped her home, police said. It is then that a group of neighbours saw Shalik and attacked him.
Dhanbad, 6th June, 2017
35-year-old Ainul Ansari was attacked by about 20 men for allegedly carrying beef for an Iftar party. Attackers informed the police and forced the latter to check the meat. Family claims it was mutton and not beef.
Giridih, 26th June, 2017
A Muslim dairy trader was beaten and his house set on fire after a dead cow was found outside his house. A 100-strong mob had gathered, which swelled to 1,000, and 50 policemen were injured in stone pelting. One person was shot in the leg in police firing.
Ramgarh, 28th June, 2017
A mob of more than 100 men beat Alimuddin aka Asgar Ali to death on suspicion of carrying beef. Police said he was walking before he was shifted to a hospital, but he died in the hospital. Eleven persons were sentenced to life imprisonment for the lynching. The 11 people sentenced to life by a fast-track court include local leaders of the Bajrang Dal as well as members of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s local unit. Jayant Sinha, Union Minister was seen garlanding the convicted in the case betraying the political patronage which the trend of lynching enjoys.
Garwah, 19th August, 2017
Ramesh Minj, along with a group of Oraon Adivasi villagers from Barkol in Garhwa district of Jharkhand, was attacked by self-proclaimed ‘gau rakshaks (cow protectors)’. Ramesh succumbed to his injuries three days later.
Ranchi, 1st January, 2018
A Muslim youth, Wasim Ansari (19) was beaten to death after he approached a group of people to lower the volume of music on New Year’s Day.
Koderma, 25th May, 2018
A mob attacked the homes of about 20 Muslim families around Iftar and assaulted several people including women. The mob also ransacked the mosque and assaulted the Muslims who were offering Maghrib prayer there. According to the victims, the attackers were armed with swords, axes and lathi.
Ranchi, 10th June, 2018
Two Muslim clerics were assaulted for their refusal to say ‘Jai Shri Ram’. As per a local human rights lawyer, when they were travelling back from offering prayers and heading to their village, 20 odd people aboard an SUV stopped them, and asked them to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’. When they refused to do so, they were assaulted with lathis and hockey sticks. While one of them was able to flee, the other sustained major injuries.
Godda, 13th June, 2018:
Two Muslim Men – Chiraguddin Ansari (35) and Murtaza Ansari (30) – were lynched for alleged theft of 13 buffaloes. While five people were accused of the act, three managed to flee, and two were caught by a mob, and beaten to death.
As seen in the case of Alimuddin Ansari where the convicts were garlanded by the then minister in Union Cabinet and BJP leader Jayant Sinha, the political patronage to the vigilantes is quite obvious. Some of them have been associated with Hindu supremacists groups.
While the above are only incidents of mob lynching that started only in 2016 and thus a relatively recent development, Jharkhand has an older history of communal riots tracing back to undivided Bihar. The major riots which should be taken note of are the Jamshedpur riots of 1964 and 1979. These riots along with the others have resulted in polarization of the Muslims and Adivasis in Jharkhand and strengthening of the Hindu supremacists. The various fact finding committees and inquiry commissions have clearly pointed out the role of the Hindu supremacists in whipping up communal feelings and creating communally charged atmosphere conducive for communal riots.
Jamshedpur, the planned city established by RJD Tata as an industrial hub, witnessed two major riots in 1964 and 1979. The city had diverse population from all over the country which settled down there for employment in the industries. The Muslims too settled there as others did and were in fact showing trend of upward social and economic mobility. The new opportunities that opened up because of the 1960s wave of industrialisation allowed Muslims to move up the economic ladder. Violence tried to put a stop to this mobility. There is anecdotal evidence of some Muslims going back to their villages and towns and not returning back to their jobs. The tensions in East Pakistan had its impact in bordering areas like Assam, Bihar and Orissa where many Hindu refuges took refuge in these areas and narrated tales of anti-Hindu horror and violence. As revenge for atrocities on Hindus in East Pakistan, Hindus were mobilized by Hindu supremacist organization, in different cities like Jamshedpur, Rourkela and Calcutta. These cities witnessed anti-Muslim violence in which hundreds of Muslim were killed. The violence in 1964 paid rich dividends to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bhartiya Jan Sangh, the earlier version of BJP. They were finally able to take root in Jamshedpur. The BJS performed better for the first time in the elections held in Jamshedpur after 1964 and was able to garner as much as 10% of the votes polled in 1967 (Huda, 2009).
The Jamshedpur riot in 1979 was essentially one between the Adivasis and Muslims. Post 1964 Jamshedpur riot, the Muslims had settled on lands sold by Adivasis in areas like Sabirnagar. This brought the Muslims close to Adivasi localities like Dimnabasti. In their attempt to “Hinduise” the adivasis, RSS tried to take a Ram Navmi procession in 1978 from Dimnabasti. This was the first time a Ram Navmi procession was to start from Dimnabasti. The organisers insisted that the procession take a route that goes through Sabirnagar. The district administration rejected their request and the high court ruled that though the road is a public thoroughfare and everyone should have access to it, the local administration has the authority to deny permission. Yet the organizers insisted and tension brewed for a year over this issue. A pamphlet was issued by Sri Ram Navmi Kendriya Akhara Samiti on 7 April, 1979 which was not only a declaration of communal violence but also openly detailed how and when it would happen. Hindus were told to come to Dimnabasti at 11 am on 11 April and take the procession from the route that was to go through Sabirnagar, a Muslim majority area. Local MLA Dina Nath Pandey instigated violence against the Muslims in front of a Masjid in Maango area. There was stone pelting and in the riots that ensued in the next few days, 108 people were killed. Thousands of houses were looted. Muslims living in company quarters and predominantly Hindu areas were especially vulnerable to violence.
The role of Hindu supremacist groups was called out by Jitendra Narain Commission of Inquiry into the 1979 Jamshedpur riots. The Jitendra Narain Commission of Inquiry was appointed to investigate the riots. One thing the Commission took into consideration was the speech given by Balasaheb Deoras – the then Sar Sanghchalak who is the highest authority in the RSS – in Jamshedpur and held the RSS responsible for creating the climate that led to the communal violence. Specifically the Commission found that the speech made by Deoras a few days before the Ram Navmi celebrations made the stand of the extremists amongst the Hindus all the more rigid and determined to retain the route of their Ram Navmi procession which was the primary cause of the trouble. Regarding the role of Dinanath Pandey, the Commission held that Pandey was a member of the RSS and his actions followed a line which furthered the general schemes of the Hindu communalists, as described in a leaflet they had circulated. The leaflet asked supporters to defy the authorities as the police force was with them. Pandey’s actions, said the Commission, had directly contributed to the outbreak of the riot (India Today, 2013).
In August 1967, troubles erupted between Hindus and Muslims in the towns of Hatia and Ranchi (Bihar). Rioting had already occurred in the district in 1964, following anti-Hindu violence in East Pakistan. The Raghubar Dayal Commission of Inquiry established that communal tensions (regarding the organization of the Hindu Ram Navami festival) had been rising since April 1964. The 1965 conflict with Pakistan had also reinforced suspicions about Indian Muslims. During the March 1967 general elections, the situation further degenerated because of the debate over the Urdu issue (the language commonly associated with Muslims). A proposal to declare Urdu the second official language of Bihar weakened the ruling coalition and led to state-wide, anti-Urdu agitation on the part of the BJS, the RSS, and an organization called the Bihar Hindi Sahitiya Sammelan. Trouble erupted in Ranchi on August 22 after the brick-batting of an anti-Urdu student procession near Muslim Azad High School. The school was attacked and one Hindu was killed in retaliation. The Raghubar Dayal Commission of Inquiry reported 184 deaths in Ranchi – among them 164 Muslims and 19 Hindus. Violence spread, leading to arson, looting, stabbings, and large-scale rioting in the city itself as well as in nearby industrial towns, particularly Hatia, where 26 persons died (25 Muslims and one Hindu) (Graff, 2013).
From 2014, the processions of Ram Navami and shaurya diwas have become more aggressive with intent of fomenting tensions and communal riots.
In 2016, Around 30 shops were set ablaze on Sunday when riots broke out in Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh that had been on the edge for the past two days after a Ram Navami procession by Hindus passing through Muslim-dominated area sparked violence.
In June 2018, Communal clashes broke out between two religious groups in Jhanda chowk of Hazaribagh district, Jharkhand over an “objectionable” Facebook post. A boy from the Hindu community had posted a “derogatory” post on Prophet Mohammad on June 5. In 2015, communal riots took place in Jamshedpur following an incident of “teasing of Hindu girls”. The violence lasted for over 72 hours.
This indicates how Jharkhand is simmering with communal violence which deepens communal polarization and religious festivals are exploited instill communal hatred, particularly against Muslims.
Media reports about the incident of mob lynching:
The media reported that on April 10, 2019, one Prakash Lakda, a 50-year-old Adivasi of Jurmu village in Dumri block, was lynched to death by a mob from the neighbouring Jairagi village. Three other victims, Peter Kerketta, Belarius Minj and Janerius Minj, sustained severe injuries due to the assault by mob mainly consisting of people from the Sahu caste from the neighboring village of Jairagi. Though it is established that the four were lynched for skinning an ox by the mob, there are different versions offered for the lynching. The versions differ on what was being skinned – dead ox or a slaughtered ox/cow; place where the meat and skin of the ox/ cow was being disposed off, and who is responsible for the lynching/violence. There are some contested facts about the role of the police too and how the events unfolded.
Before we try to understand the different narratives or versions of the events that unfolded involving the mob lynching, a brief description of the locale will help in reconstructing the narratives better. Jurmu is a small village in Dumri block (Gumla district). The distance from Dumri Police Station to Jairagi village is approximately 8 kms. On the way from Dumri Police Station to Jairagi village, at the distance of 1.6 kms approximately is a Government Hospital, further 2 kms on the way is Jairagi village, which is predominated by members of Sahu Caste and from where the lynch mob were mobilized. As one takes a left turn from Jairagi village on kachcha metal paved road towards the border of Chhattisgarh State, one has to cross a bridge about 2kms away and further about 2.5 kms after crossing the river is Jurmu village. On the right hand of the bridge on way to Jurmu village is upstream of the river, and which is a space for cremation of the dead bodies of Hindus of the village. On left hand side of the bridge which is downstream of the river, there are some trees on the bank of the river. animal carcasses are disposed off in this area. The survivors were disposing a dead ox on 10th April under one such tree downstream of the river.
Version of the incident of those accused in the lynching incident:
The Sahus who have been accused by the survivors of the lynching incident deny any wrong doing on their part and deny that they assaulted the victims. They claimed that the a cow/ox was slaughtered by the survivors and they were extracting skin and meat of the slaughtered cow near Hindu crematorium and thus desecrating their crematorium. During the incident, those who had slaughtered the cow/ox had a fight amongst them and assaulted each other over the distribution of the meat of the ox that they were disposing. The Sahus from Jairagi stopped the fight and took the victims to police station in their private vehicle. This version doesn’t explain how the Sahus from Jairagi village happened to be at the spot of the incident.
Jurmu village watchmen’s version:
An FIR was filed by the watchman at beat number 1/2, one Sukhu Ghasi under the Dumri Police Station against the victims. The FIR numbered 10/19 was filed at 6.05pm on 11th April, 2019, almost 24 hours after the incident on 10th April. The FIR is filed against the survivors of the mob lynching and makes a case for punishing them namely, Peter Kerketta, Belarius Minj, Janerius Minj and Prakash Lakda under the section 12 of the Jharkhand Bovine Animal Prohibition of Slaughter Act, 2005 and Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1960 for slaughter of a bovine which is a punishable offence in Jharkhand.
The FIR is based on the information received by Ghasi from an unidentified and unstated source about lynching that took place the previous night on the riverbank. Ghasi himself reached the spot of the incident next day, i.e. on 11th April in the morning to inquire about the violence. He claimed in the FIR that the victims along with the others killed an ox and were distributing the meat on 10th April around 8pm. In the meanwhile, 30 to 40 persons from Jairagi village armed with weapons like sticks and swords arrived on the spot. While the others fled, the mob beat up the four victims.
Thus the FIR corroborates two important fatcs – first, that an ox was been skinned and not a cow; and second, a mob of 30 to 40 from Jairagi village which beat up the four victims with sticks and swords. Ghasi makes no complain that the survivors were beaten up although he records the fact in his FIR. He is one amongst those who are pained by the allegation of slaughter and skinning of an ox. His version is on behalf of the attacking mob who wanted the survivors punished for slaughtering the animal.
This version is based on the testimonies of Saroj Hebrom, the family members of Prakash Lakda and the residents of Jurmu village and the FIR by the victim. According to this version, Jakherius Kujur, owner of the ox found on 9th April that his Ox was missing. The next day he found it dead on the riverbank. It was beginning to decompose and swarmed with flies. Thus on 10th April, he got in touch with Prakash Lakda, Peter Kerketta, Belarius Minj and Janerius Minj along with others to dispose of the carcass of ox. The Adivasis traditionally consume the meat of dead animal, extract leather for musical instruments and other uses and dispose off carcass. Even Sahus of Jairagi village ask the adivasis of Jurmu village to dispose off their dead bovine after extract its meat and skin.
When some members of the Sahu community spotted Adivasis skinning an animal on the riverbank in the dark night at around 8pm on 10th April, they went to Jairagi and mobilized around 40 men, allegedly all Sahus and stormed at the riverbank. They did not bother to find out if the adivasis were extracting meat of an already dead ox. They were carrying swords, thick iron rods and guns. They mercilessly beat up the four victims, they broke the spine of one of the victims, hands and legs of the victims were fractured at multiple places. The assault lasted from approximately from 8pm to 11pm. The victims kept asking for water after bring lynched and injured. The perpetrators instead of water peed on them, thereby completely dehumanizing them. The victims were beaten at the riverbank and then dragged onto the road. Thereafter, they contacted the police and asked them to take away the four survivors for their procedures. The police instead asked the perpetrators to drop the survivors to the police station as they did not have any vehicle. Then they were put in a vehicle by the mob and dumped in a shed outside the Dumri police station after midnight. The hospital is situated between Jairagi village and the police station. Yet instead of taking them to the hospital on the way, they were taken to the police station and dropped into the compound where the lynching continued. The police did not attend to the seriously injured survivors until 4am. By then, Prakash Lakda had died as he did not receive any medical treatment. At 4am when the police were ready to take the survivors to the hospital, they realized that Prakash Lakda was already dead. So they took the other three to the hospital and later the dead body of Lakda was also taken to the hospital. The police mounted pressure on the medical officer to make a report stating that Prakash Lakda died while receiving medical aid. But the medical officer didn’t give into the pressure and reported the fact that he was brought dead to the hospital.
Findings of the Team:
The narrative of the victim most plausible:
The team found the narrative of the victims most plausible. The FIR of Sukhu Ghasi discredits the narratives of the Sahus which states that the victims were fighting amongst themselves over distribution of meat. Seems to be an afterthought of the accused. The FIR establishes that 30 to 40 persons from Jairagi came to the spot of the incident and started to beat up the victims for skinning the ox. The team discredits the other narrative of the Sahus which is based on their objection to disposal of animals at the place of cremation and the pollution of the river. The team visited the spot of the incident and saw that the place are animals are disposed is downstream and the place of cremation is upstream at a height. Thus there is no possibility of the pollution of the river due to disposal reaching upstream and thereby desecrating the space. There are many loopholes in the FIR of Ghasi which is explained below in details. One of the biggest loophole is that he was not present on the spot at the time of the incident and the FIR was written down the next day at 6pm giving lot of time for embellishment. Moreover, he had no complaint against the lynch mob that had beaten Prakash Lakda to death and inflicted grievous injuries on three others.
Complicity of the Police:
The role of the police in this incident has been appalling. The police refused to go to the spot to rescue the victims when they were being lynched mercilessly for three hours. Saroj Hebrom informed the team that police was called to the spot of the incident to arrest the victims by some members of the mob and the police was also told that the victims were beaten up. But the reticent police which claimed to be scared of any attack from the naxals refused to go to the spot in the dark at night. The distance between the police station and the Jairagi village is less than 4kms. That is when the mob decided to take the victims to the police station themselves in a private vehicle. The victims were literally dumped in the shed of the police station; the police should have rushed the victims to the hospital and saved their lives. Instead the victims were in the shed without any medical attention bleeding to death for over 4 hours! The lynch mobs were clearly not afraid of the law or the police. They themselves contacted the police after they were done with the lynching! Also when asked by the police to take the injured survivors to the police station, they obliged the police in this regard. This shows that the lynch mob enjoyed the patronage of the police.
They were beaten up again in the shed by the police and the perpetrators. At around 4am on 11th April, the police finally took three of the victims except Prakash Lakda to the hospital. Saroj Hebrom told the team that Prakash Lakda succumbed to his injuries in the shed itself. The police knew this and that’s why didn’t take him to the hospital along with the other victims. When he was taken to the police station, Prakash Lakda was already dead and the police mounted pressure on the medical officer to make a report which stated that Lakda was still alive when brought to the Hospital. The medical officer didn’t give into the pressure and stated the truth that Prakash Lakda was brought dead.
The police got Ghasi, to file a false FIR against the survivors, even though he was not an eyewitness almost as an afterthought. This is probably so because the police and the leaders of the lynch mob enjoy good relations and wanted to appease the lynch mob by filing such a false FIR against the survivors to justify the action of the lynch mob. Fearing arrest, the survivors are running helter skelter.
Embellishment in the FIR copy:
The FIR filed by Sukhu Ghasi against the victim is filed at 6.05 pm on 11th April, 2019 i.e the next day of the incident. Though he was not an eye witness, he claimed confidently about the slaughter of the ox as if it was alive. The very FIR was filed after almost 24 hours of the incident took place. The police came to know about this incident at midnight itself when they were called by the mob members and again when the victims were dropped at the station. The delay is not explained or justified. This delay indicates that considerable time was taken to deliberate on the contents and narrative of this FIR to suit the police and the perpetrators.
Slapping of charges against the victims:
As seen above, the police deliberately delayed medical attention to the victims which could have saved the life of Prakash Lakda. Also the FIR appears to be embellished. However what is now outraging the sense of justice of the families of the victims, the fellow village residents and also the civil society is that charges under the Jharkhand Bovine Animal (Prohibition of Slaughter) Act, 2005 against the victims themselves. The bail against the three survivors was rejected by Sessions Court when the team visited the village. All the three survivors are compelled to leave their native villages due to the fear of arrest. The survivors have barely recovered from their injuries. But they can’t return home and have to take refuse in other cities since they are faced with prospects of long imprisonment under the stringent law. This is deeply disturbing the families and the survivors. One of the survivors, couldn’t attend the funeral of his own father, fearing arrest if he went back to the village. This is in contrast to the perpetrators who are still at large. Out of 40 perpetrators only 7 are arrested. According to the residents of Jurmu village, they see some of the accused taking rounds of the village and they are still at large. Ironically, when the police is asked why they have not arrested all the accused they answer that the accused are absconding. Furthermore, the police have not invokes the sections of the SC/ST Atrocity Act against the perpetrators thus trying to dilute the severity and stringent punishment the crime deserves.
The nexus between the perpetrators and the Police:
Sahu community is a dominant in the region. It is a Hindu caste which owns lands, has brick kilns and also manufactures liquor. Sanjay Sahu, who is the main accused, is also associated with Hindu extremist organization, Bajrang Dal, often accused of violence and force. He has other criminal cases pending against him and is accused of murdering three Adivasis for extortion. His son who was also present during the lynching in the case was out on bail since he is facing criminal charges in other cases. With this criminal record and in spite of being out on bail, the Sahus acted with utter impunity which points to the nexus between them and the police which doesn’t act to restrain or punish them. The MP Sudharshan Bhagat from BJP when he got re-elected ended his victory procession at the Jairagi village chowk to give a clear signal about close relations between the party and elected representative and the leaders of the lynch mob. The Sahus it can be deduced enjoy political patronage and impunity to assert their hegemony on the adivasis. This communal polarization where Sahus are instrumental dominating Adivasis especially Christian Adivasis is crucial for electoral victories.
The Assault was on the cards:
The residents of the village informed the Team that the lynching took place on the heels of the general elections and Ram Navami. Ram Navami in Jharkhand is used to polarize along religious lines by the Hindu supremacists by aggressively singing songs derogatory to Muslims and carrying weapons. This polarization was crucial for electoral dividends with the general elections around the corner. Thus this assault was planned and not spontaneous. On 10th April, there was another incident of the Adivasis disposing of an ox. This incident took place in Kutlu village. The members of the Sahu community were aggressive and there was an exchange of verbal abuses but since this happened during the day time, the argument didn’t spiral into violence of this intensity. Thus an attack on this scale was very much planned and the Sahus were looking for an opportunity to attack. They found this opportunity when some Sahus saw the victims skinning the ox. Without bothering to inquire whether the ox was already dead and the victims were merely disposing it, the Sahus were mobilized with deadly weapons in less than an hour to attack the victims. The availability of the deadly weapons on such a short notice indicate towards the preparedness of the Sahus to launch an assault at any given point of time during that day.
Inter-community relations in the region:
The relationships between the Christian adivasis in Jurmu and Sahu community in neighboring village, Jaigari are severely strained. The Sahu community and the Adivasi community have social as well as economic relations. The Adivasis were given dead animals by even the Sahu community for meat and hide. In fact, Prakash Lakda himself was employed with a Sahu who owned a poultry shop. Sahu community is also dominant in trade and owns shops. The Adivasi community, enraged with the impunity of the Sahu community and their exploitation has decided to stop financial transaction with the Sahu community. As a result they are not buying anything from the shops owned by Sahus. Sahus also operate brick kilns. The Christian adivasis have refused to work in these kilns. The Sahus have taken land for construction of brick kilns and soil for the same from the Christian Adivasis. This land was given for free out of good faith and maintaining good relationships between the two communities. However, in the view of the brutality and lack of regret demonstrated by the Sahus, the Christian Adivasis want their land vacated. They have expressed their displeasure and asked Sahus to vacate. The Sahus in response have threatened the Christian Adivasis that any such demand will be met with more violence and bloodbath. This has further fuelled the anger of the Christian Adivasis in Jurmu.
Jurmu has one Sahu family and 13 Hindu Adivasi families – Lohar and Kherwad while the rest 106 families are Christian Adivasi. The incident has sharply divided the communities and the whole Adivasi community along religious lines as against a common identity of that of Adivasis. The religious identity is shaping loyalties, alignments and associations leading to polarization amongst the Adivasis. While the Christian Adivasis had expected support from the other Adivasis including Hindu Adivasis in the village on account of solidarity owing to shared neighbourhood and also the facts were known to them, the Hindu Adivasis have aligned with the Sahus. This has given rise to the strong feeling of being betrayed by fellow villagers whose sympathies should have been with members of the same village. In Jaigari, the Sahus are discriminating against the Christian Adivasis children. The Christian Adivasi children are not allowed to draw water from the common hand pumps. The Christian Adivasis feel betrayed and want justice – arrest and convictions of the accused.
Impoverishment of Adivasis and Beef:
The Adivasis in Jharkhand are displaced from their own lands and losing their livelihoods. They are impoverished and their attention diverted from democratic struggle for their rights by polarizing them on the lines of religion. The Adivasis are pushed to the periphery politically as well as economically. The Adivasis consume beef due to their poverty and not as a matter of assertion of their right. The Adivasis are asked to dispose off the dead animals and they distribute the free meat. This meat of dead animals brings some food on the table for the Adivasis with scarce means. The house of Prakash Lakda and other houses in the remote village of Jurmu were mud houses with uncemented mud roads. They were simple houses equipped with bare minimum to survive. The state with its political patronage to Sahus to unleash violence with impunity is furthering dehumanizing and silencing the Adivasi community, robbing it of dignity or equality. This violence is deliberately perpetrated to reinforce the inferior status of the Adivasis in the social order.
Harassment for Compensation:
The family of Prakash Lakda is running pillar to post for compensation rightfully due to them. Suraj, son-in-law of Prakash Lakda, who works in Mumbai, has come to Jurmu to help the family with legal matters and compensation. He is made to run to a number of government offices to claim compensation for the family with no certain result. He is made to produce ST certificate of Jermina Lakda from her parental village of birth creating obstacles for compensation. The Supreme Court guidelines on mob lynching direct 2 lakhs as compensation to the victim belonging to any religion, class, community or caste. It is not necessary to prove that the victim or the family of the victim is from any Scheduled Tribe since anyone who is a victim of mob lynching can claim the compensation. But the administration is asking for such unnecessary documents as an excuse to not pay the compensation which the right of Lakda’s family.
- Withdrawal of false cases of cow slaughter filed against the Adivasis of Jurmu
- Arrest all the perpetrators involved in the mob violence and file charges against them under The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act
- Take action against the local police for its long delay in arranging medical treatment for the victims and filing of false case of cow slaughter
- Provide interim compensation of Rs 15 lakh to the deceased’s family and Rs. 10 lakhs each to the injured victims
- Compliance with the recent Supreme Court judgment on lynching
The death of Prakash Lakda in the strings of death during mob lynching has left a searing mark on the consciousness of the Adivasis in Jurmu. Due to the lynching, there is a rift between the communities and their relations in Jurmu. The role of the police is yet again questionable and condemnable. The incidents of lynching continue in Jharkhand unrelenting due to the political patronage given to the perpetrators and to assert domination and homogenization over the Adivasis and Muslims to further push them to the periphery of the society. Mob lynching is used as a tool to polarize the communities along religion or religious symbols for political and electoral dividends. Mob lynching is also serves the purpose of reinforcing the hegemony of the powerful, in this case the Sahus and Hindu supremacists. Unfortunately, the result of this politics is the further marginalization of the Adivasis in the state that is a result of their long movement against discrimination and for democracy and equality.
 These figures are Census 2011. They add upto more than 100%. That may be because the Sarna adivasis are recorded as Scheduled Tribes as well as Hindus.
Secular Perspective 1 – 31, August, 2019