"That day, for over three hours, neither 20-22 policemen nor our phone calls could save Zahid Bhai from death," says Khurshid, the youth from Muzaffarnagar who survived the Tripura lynching.
"The mob had become murderous. We were inside the Sidhai Mohanpur police station. There were more than 20 policemen inside the police station, of all seniorities. Yet hundreds of people carrying lathis, iron rods and weapons managed to enter. The police had hidden us behind a folding bed. The policemen themselves looked helpless, as if their hands were tied. Outside, the mob was shouting “they are child thieves, cut them in pieces”. Then, Zahid Bhai tried to peep out from below the folding bed and an iron rod smashed down on his head. So hard was the blow that his brain spilled out of his skull. The mob had come to know where the three of us were hiding. Blows from their sticks rained down on us. I kept both of my hands above my head. Then the sound of firing started as the special commandos of the Tripura police became our rescuers. The crowd ran away. Zahid Bhai was dead. Gulzar Bhai was also by now fighting against death. I had no faith that I myself would survive. The commandos immediately evacuated us to a car. While continuing to fire they led us out, four of them in front and four behind. Placing Zahid Bhai’s body under our feet in the car, they took us to the hospital. Where the local police, who had been questioning us for two hours, had disappeared, we have not yet come to know.”
While recounting this harrowing experience for us, Khurshid starts shaking and falls silent.
25-year-old Khurshid is one of two who survived an incident of mob lynching in Tripura. Three people had been killed in Tripura in two separate incidents of lynching in 24 hours around June 28; many others were seriously injured. Khurshid is a trader who sells clothes from a cart. On June 28, he had travelled to Sidhai Mohanpur in West Tripura along with Gulzar of Darbhanga and Zahid, also of Muzaffarnagar, to sell clothes and small electronic items. A mob there took them to be child thieves and handed them over to the police. After two hours of them being inside the police station, the crowd became uncontrollable, entered the police station and attacked them. Zahid was killed and Gulzar and Khurshid were seriously injured.
Khurshid is a resident of Khedi Firozabad village in Kakrauli police station of Muzaffarnagar district, Uttar Pradesh. After the lynching incident, he returned home, both his broken arms in plaster casts. His body is still swollen from the beating by the mob and there are injury marks on his face.
Merely recalling the incident makes Khurshid start trembling. He says that he used to sell clothes in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, but his business was not doing well. An acquaintance of his had told him that Agartala in Tripura sees good sales for two months. He had reached Agartala just three days before the lynching incident. Hiring a local vehicle, he, Gulzar Bhai and Zahid Bhai had reached Sidhai Mohanpur, 25 km from Agartala. In the first house itself where they went for sales, a woman said, ‘Brother, you all go away. The atmosphere is tense for two days. Rumours are being spread that child thieves are in the area’. Zahid Bhai had said, ‘sister, if we do not work, then we will die of hunger’.
“After that some people came there and asked us to show our IDs. We showed our ID. Zahid Bhai showed his ID on his phone. Then four or five people started talking amongst themselves and after that they were talking on the phone to some persons, and told them to come to this house. We were not able to understand what they were speaking about on the phone. Then a message came on their phone which was talking about child thieves and warning about a gang of kidnappers that was selling a kidney. Those people showed us the message, which described one of the kidnappers being a man of Zahid Bhai’s height. Because of this they became suspicious of Zahid Bhai.
“After that, they brought us out and the sight which we saw made us breathless with fear. A crowd of hundreds had started gathering. We could not even understand where so many people appeared from in such a short time.
“These were all hill people. Some who seemed like political leaders took us to the police station. It was 8 o'clock by then. Some people started calling us Bangladeshis and shouting at us. At the police station, the police checked our IDs and it was seen that we are Indians.
“After this, the crowd kept growing outside the police station. But because we were inside the police station, we were feeling safe. After this, some local leaders were called and we were asked to talk to them. They were fully convinced that we were child thieves. Our vehicle had only electronic goods and clothes. Our driver Sopan Mian was a local resident. Despite this, they were refusing to believe that we were not child thieves. More than 3 hours of enduing this tension had passed. Till then I had no fear that death could be at hand and I was making phone calls seeking help. But who can stop death? The crowd had by then swelled into the thousands and they started pelting stones at the police station. After this, a police officer came to the police station and told us, 'There is pressure that either you should kill these three in an encounter or throw them to the crowd.' After this, we lost hope of staying alive. Zahid Bhai told me, ‘now we will not escape, Khurshid’. I called one of my colleagues in Agartala and said, ‘brother, we will not survive but you do not come here’. After this, the crowd became uncontrollable.
“Our car was attacked and suddenly the mob with weapons entered the police station. A police constable shouted ‘Sir, open fire’ but it didn’t happen. The 20-22 police personnel who were inside the police station had all disappeared. One policeman hid us under the folding bed. This is where death caught Zahid Bhai. Hearing the noise, he stuck his head out. In one second, his head was smashed.
“Gulzar Bhai, using his hands, gathered Zahid Bhai’s brains, and wrapped them with his head using a cloth.
“After that came the sound of firing and the crowd fled. Gulzar Bhai and I were saved. Zahid Bhai died.