Lynching of Muzaffarnagar man in Tripura leaves entire village scared in UP

Villagers in Zahid’s native village in Muzaffarnagar, a district whose Muslims have borne the brunt of BJP’s divisive politics in the past, blame the BJP government in Tripura for his lynching

NH Photo
NH Photo

Aas Mohd Kaif

One of the three punchmukhi shivlings is situated in Sambhalhera, Muzaffarnagar. India’s first polio eradication door was also built here. This village, home to about five thousand people, most of whom are Muslims, has been mourning for three days now. Zahid, the father of three children and popular as a friend in the neighbourhood, was allegedly lynched by a mob in Tripura over rumours of child-theft. Zahid was buried on Sunday in his village. Thousands of people attended his funeral procession.

This tragic mob lynching, in which Zahid was killed, took place on June 28 in Sidhai Mohanpur village, situated just 25 km from Agartala, the capital of Tripura, even as the villagers of Sambhalhera consider it a murder by goons of the government. On June 28, Zahid had gone to Sidhai Mohanpur from Agartala in the morning on a business visit.

He had hired a small vehicle, which was full of all these goods and clothes. He was accompanied by driver Sopan Miyan. After the rumour about child theft spread in the Sidhai Mohanpur village, hundreds of people gheraoed him, suspecting him to be the child thief and beat him up brutally. Later on, the police tried to save him from the mob and he was locked in a police station. But according to people, five police personnel were insufficient to control the mob. The mob snatched him from the police and bashed him up again, this time hitting him seriously on the head.

Zahid had been living in a rented accommodation in Agaratala for last 12 years and local people knew him well. He kept visiting his home in Sambhalhera, Muzaffarnagar regularly on festivals and other important occasions.

According to the post-mortem report, the cause of Zahid’s death was the wound inflicted on his head. According to the Agartala SP Ajit Pratap Singh, the rumour about the child theft was absolutely false.

“We are investigating how this rumour was spread. Our three police officers were also injured in this assault. The rumour was that a gang of child thieves is kidnapping children, taking out their kidneys and selling them,” said Singh.

“Although not a single such case has been reported and this remains just a rumour,” he added.

Zahid had been living in a rented accommodation in Agaratala for last 12 years and local people knew him well. He kept visiting his home in Sambhalhera, Muzaffarnagar regularly on festivals and other important occasions. He is survived by three kids and five brothers. His family resides in Sambhalhera.

Zahid was very fond of taking pictures with local leaders and government officials. He is quite popular in his village because he was always willing to help his friends and acquaintances out in difficult times.

His elder brother Javed says, “He wanted his photos to appear in all the big national dailies. Unfortunately, it’s happening after his death. He was helpful to the poor and now his own kids have become dependent on others.”

His body was handed over to his landlord in Agaratala, Malik Yusuf. Yusuf says that Zahid was a very friendly and social person. “When police told me that the mob has killed Zahid suspecting him to be a child thief, I was shocked. Zahid has been my tenant for ten years. I have met his family too. All local people living around knew him. He never had any quarrel or argument with anyone,” he says.

"It is a blatant murder on the basis of just a rumour. When his dead body arrived, thousands of people came to my house to express their grief and condolences. He was not a bad person. He had made friends here also,” added Yusuf.

Zahid wanted to make his daughter a doctor. His 14-years old daughter Muskan, who is studying in class 10 outside Sambhalhera said,“ I talked to him on phone this Wednesday. He asked me to focus on studies. He could stay here and earn a living but he was staying so far away and earning money so that we could study well.”

Three people have been killed in Tripura in last few days on the rumour of child theft. Tripura’s chief minister Biplab Dev has called it a mere rumour and has blamed the opposition for spreading this rumour. No child has been kidnapped but some children have been orphaned because of this rumour.

Tripura witnessed a major political change in March this year. The BJP formed the government in the state for the first time. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had visited the state for election campaign. A large number of the followers of Nath Sampraday live in Agaratala. They consider the Gorakhnath temple very important.

Zahid’s 10-year-old son Shami said his father had not come home this Eid but had talked to them on a video call and seen their new clothes.

Zahid’s eldest son Chand is in a state of shock. “He will never come now,” he remarks.

His brother Javed says, “Some goods were still lying unsold so he said that he will return after selling them. But his dead body has come instead.”

Outside Zahid’s home, more than a dozen people are overwhelmed with the grief over Zahid’s death, their future and their work.

Sixty-eight year old Aziz Ahmad says, “About 300 young men of this village are earning their living by peddling small things outside their homes. After Zahid’s death, more than 80% boys have come back home. All these young men are Muslims. If people are assaulted like this, then they will prefer to be locked inside their homes and go hungry than to go out and earn a living.”

Last year, in Shobhapur, Jharkhand, a violent mob had lynched six persons to death on the rumour of child theft. There too, no evidence, was found of any child theft.

Two days after Eid, a mob killed a fifty-year old man in the name of cow slaughter. There, too, investigations highlighted rumours as cause of the murder. An important thing to be noted here is that most of the people killed in the name of cow slaughter or child theft belong to minority communities and all these incidents of mob lynching have taken place in BJP-ruled states.

Sambhalhera is restless these days. The young men here are in a grip of fear. Mohammad Shahid says that he has decided to give up his work. His family members are scared now. He will prefer to work as a labourer but won’t go so far away for selling goods in make shift shops.

Zahid’s brother Salman holds up his post-mortem report. His understanding of English stops at a sentence where Zahid’s nationality is mentioned—'Indian’.

Salman says, “Now we will look for some work in this village. I am scared now of leaving the village and going out. Who knows which lie turns out to be a cause of my death.”

(Translated into English by Pragati Saxena)

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Published: 02 Jul 2018, 9:56 PM