Jharkhand lynching: Fact-finding team questions complicity of police

The report also accuses the BJP of tacitly approving such incidents of lynching in the name of cow protection

Mob lynching victim Peter Kerketta
Mob lynching victim Peter Kerketta
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NH Web Desk

Local police may have been complicit in the lynching of Prakash Lakda, a 50-year-old Adivasi of Jurmu village in Gumla’s Dumri block, on April 10, 2019, when he and three others were beaten up by a right-wing mob. He was killed by a mob of men from the Sahu community of the neighbouring Jairagi village. Three other victims from Jurmu – Peter Kerketta, Belarius Minj and Janerius Minj – sustained severe injuries.

According to a fact-finding team of Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, 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. They were beaten all the way to Jairagi chowk, about a kilometre away from the place where the violence started. The mob chanted slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Jai Bajrangbali’ and also forced the victims to chant the slogans. They were beaten for refusing to chant the slogans or not chanting them loud enough,” states 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 never took place amongst the different communities of the village in the past,” highlights the report.

After being beaten for around three hours, the victims were dumped by the mob in front of the Dumri Police Station at midnight. The perpetrators met the policemen and left. Instead of immediately rushing the victims to a hospital, the police made them wait outside in the cold for around four hours.

This points towards complicity of the police with the perpetrators of violence. “By the time they were taken to the local health centre, Prakash had already succumbed to his injuries. The doctor at the centre confirmed that Prakash was brought dead to the health centre and had probably died an hour before reaching the centre,” says activists who were a part of the fact-finding team.

The doctor reported that police in-charge Amit Kumar tried to force him to make an entry in the centre’s register that Prakash was alive when he was brought to the hospital. However, the doctor refused and noted that Prakash was brought dead.

While the victims kept saying that they were carving an ox that had died, the police filed an FIR against them and 20-25 unnamed persons of their village on charges of cow slaughter. According to Amit Kumar, the FIR was filed on the basis of the thana chowkidar’s testimony, who was sent to the spot early morning on April 11. Amit Kumar was unable to recall the sequence of events after the lynching and there were several discrepancies between his account and those offered 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.

Enumerating the instances of lynching in Jharkhand, the fact-finding team stated that over the last five years, at least 11 persons (nine Muslims and two Adivasis) were lynched and eight more beaten by mobs in the name of cow protection or over other communal issues. The roles of the local administration and 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.

The fact-finding team has demanded that the government must withdraw the false case of cow slaughter filed against the Adivasis of Jurmu, arrest all the perpetrators involved in the killing and file charges against them under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act). The Mahasabha has asked the BJP-led Raghubar Das government to take action against the local police for delaying medical treatment to the victims and filing of the false case of cow slaughter. The government must also provide interim compensation of Rs 15 lakh to the deceased’s family and Rs 10 lakh to each of the injured victims.

Last year, perpetrators of a mob lynching in Ramgarh and Godda were felicitated by Jayant Sinha, a Union Minister and Nishikant Dubey, an MP from the BJP, respectively.

The Lok Sabha MP from the constituency of Lohardaga, Sudarshan Bhagat of the BJP, is yet to meet the victims’ families or visit the village. No BJP leader has even condemned the incident till now. The report says the silence of the BJP indicates its tacit approval of the incident. It is another example of the rising intolerance and repression against the Adivasis, Dalits and religious minorities under the BJP rule, it adds. “It also exposes the plans of the party to polarise votes in the Lok Sabha elections on religious lines,” states the report.

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