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How many more Indians will be lynched, Modiji?

June 26, 2019 08:33 IST

'Isn't it obvious that the BJP government in Jharkand and its police force care two hoots about the Supreme Court's orders?', asks Jyoti Punwani.

Tabrez Ansari, 22, was thrashed to death by a mob for alleged theft and was forced to chant 'Jai Shri Ram' and 'Jai Hanuman'. Photograph: ANI

IMAGE: Tabrez Ansari, 22, was thrashed to death by a mob for alleged theft and was forced to chant 'Jai Shri Ram' and 'Jai Hanuman'. Photograph: ANI

He went home to be killed.

Most people go back to their villages from the cities they work in for a break, a relaxed time with family and friends.

Tabrez Ansari, just 22, who worked as a welder in Pune, went back home and got lynched.

What made the young man find a job more than 1,000 miles away from home? The train journey from Seraikela, the district Tabrez hailed from, to Pune, takes more than 28 hours. Surely welders are needed in Dhanbad, Hazaribagh, Jamshedpur, Ranchi -- all cities nearer Tabrez's village.

It couldn't have been easy for this Jharkhand villager to adjust to Pune, with its completely different cuisine and its noticeable Maharashtrian Brahmin ambience.

Yet, in this city, where IT professional Mohsin Sheikh was killed only because he looked typically Muslim during a violent outburst five years ago, Tabrez seemed to have found a comfortable work place. He had a good relationship with Hindus there, said his village friend who had worked with him in the same Pune workshop.

Definitely, he felt safe enough in this far-off city in Maharashtra to plan to bring his bride there. Unusually for migrants, Tabrez could afford to do so, for he had no parents back home who needed looking after.

The newly married youth must have been full of rosy dreams of starting life with his demure dusky bride in the urban space he had built for himself over the years, far away from the social pressures of a village.

 

As he set out with his friends on June 17 (he was assaulted through the night of June 17 till the morning of June 18), it probably didn't strike Tabrez that it was in his own familiar surroundings that things had changed in the last three years, that it was there that he needed to take care.

In his own district, four Muslims had been killed by tribals on a single day in 2017. Rumours of child-lifting had claimed a total of seven lives across the state that day.

The police had tried to save the four, but had been overpowered by the tribal mob.

Tabrez's state also has the distinction of having lynched the first child. 12-year-old Imtiyaz Khan and his neighbour Mazlum Ansari were taking their cattle for sale to a cattle fair, when both were set upon, killed and hung from a tree in March 2016.

Jharkhand saw two more incidents of lynching in 2017, and then one each in 2018 and 2019.

In all but one of these incidents, the police showed the same callousness they did in Tabrez's case.

The police version remains that Tabrez and his friends broke into someone's house to steal.

Jharkhand Minister C P Singh couldn't stress this angle enough. Why is it being ignored, and a communal colour being given to this lynching, he asked.

Tabrez Ansari had a steady job to which he planned to return. He was planning to settle in Pune with his wife.

For the sake of argument let us grant that this young man, who had been forced to start working at an early age, suddenly turned irresponsible enough to indulge in theft while on a holiday in his village.

Does that act justify the thrashing he received through the night?

And which thief is made to say 'Jai Sri Ram' and 'Jai Hanuman'?

Did Tabrez's assailants feel their chests expand to a full 56 inches with Hindu pride when they heard this Muslim, tied to a pole and flailing around in pain, say these words?

The prime minister must have seen the video of Tabrez Ansari's lynching. It was played on television news channels and he is known to be an avid follower of TV news.

This is the PM who spoke of taking the minorities along and building 'Sab ka vishwas' in his first Parliamentary address barely a month ago.

Obviously, the video of a bound Tabrez writhing in pain as villagers hit him with wooden sticks, of him desperately saying 'Jai Sri Ram' left him unmoved.

Will those eminent Muslims who took the PM at his word and wrote to him offering their services to build a bridge between their community and him now write another letter asking him to speak up?

Will they at least speak up, saying their faith in his words has been proved wrong?

And what about the Supreme Court?

Less than a year ago, in July 2018, a bench headed by the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra laid down strict instructions on preventing and dealing with lynchings.

'People must realise that mob violence and taking of law into their own hands will invite the wrath of the law,' the Supreme Court bench declared in September last, while giving a week's time to states and Union Territories who had not till then complied with its directions.

Jharkhand was not among those erring states.

Yet, despite ostensibly having implemented the Supreme Court's guidelines, Tabrez Ansari is the second lynching victim in Jharkhand since July 2018.

In April this year, four Christian tribals carving a dead ox at the request of the animal's owner were attacked, of whom one, Prakash Lakra, died.

The survivors reported that the mob forced them to drink urine.

All this savagery was accompanied by chants of 'Jai Sri Ram' and 'Jai Hanuman'. The tribals too were made to repeat these chants -- just as Tabrez Ansari was.

The assailants then left them on the road outside a police station.

The police -- who had already been informed of the situation by the assailants themselves, but had refused to come to the spot of the attack -- turned up only three hours later. By the time they took the victims to hospital, one of them had succumbed to his injuries.

The first thing the police did was book the Christian tribals for cow slaughter.

Isn't it obvious that the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Jharkand and its police force care two hoots about the Supreme Court's orders?

If the apex court ignores such blatant contempt of court, where are Prakash Lakra's family and Tabrez Ansari's bride to go?

But, there is hope.

Jharkhand is the only state where lynching accused have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

In March 2018, even before the Supreme Court gave its guidelines, fast track court Additional District Judge Om Prakash sentenced 11 Hindus accused of lynching meat trader Alimuddin Ansari in Ramgarh, to life imprisonment.

Then in December last, First Class Judicial Magistrate Rishikesh Kumar handed out the same sentence to eight men accused of lynching and then hanging 12-year-old Imtiyaz Khan and 32-year-old Mazlum Ansari from a tree in Latehar.

So, if justice can be got for Tabrez Ansari or Prakash Lakra, it is in Jharkhand.

Of course, MP and former Union minister Jayant Sinha, or someone like him, may yet again help the accused get bail and then garland them when they are out, as Sinha did with the 11 Ramgarh accused.

But that's just how the BJP is.

That need not deter Tabrez Ansari's family from fighting for justice. They have support from across the country.

JYOTI PUNWANI
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