Latehar: They were on their way to a cattle fair, to sell off their last batch of oxen and start a new business when a mob lynched the two Muslims– one a 35-year-old cattle trader and another a 12-year-old boy. Following which the dead bodies of the victims were left to hang from a tree in the nearby forest.
Throughout the act of violence, Azad Khan, the father of the 12-year-old child witnessed his son being lynched and hanged. But the fear of the angry mob deterred him and others to rush to the rescue of the victims.
The incident, often referred as the Jharkhand mob lynching 2016, happened exactly five months after India’s first mob lynching case in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri, where Akhlaque Ahmed was lynched by a mob for allegedly having beef in his house.
However, two years later, the accused are out on bail and the family is claiming that they are once again being threatened by the killers.
The families of the victims have claimed that the mob lynching was a pre-planned case and not a spontaneous incident, which led to the victims’ death.
“Arun Sao and Bunty Sao (the accused) had come to our house to warn my husband. My husband was bathing when they reached our residence. They told him to stop trading cattle else they would kill him,” said Saira Bibi, wife of Mazloom, while speaking to eNewsroom.
Mazloom and two of his partners—Azad Khan and Mohammad Nizamuddin, were cattle traders dealing in oxen, which are often used to plough the fields. They used to buy oxen from one fair to sell them in another. Azad Khan happens to be the father of 12-year-old Imtiaz Khan, who too was lynched by the mob. He too had got death threat to discontinue, cattle trade.
A devastated Saira, further informed, “Before walking into our home to warn my husband, they had threatened him on the roadside too. As a consequence, my husband and his partners decided to sell off the oxen purchased from another fair and start some other business.”
Azad, at that time, was recuperating from a fracture, asked his 12-year-old son to accompany his partner, Mazloom, to the Chatra cattle fair to sell off the oxen the owned. With a herd of cattle, the duo opted for the walk to fair.
“Soon after they left with the herd, we got informed about the duo being picked by a couple of men, who took both Mazloom and my 12-year-old son to the Chandwa forest. We rushed to the forest area, where from a distance; we saw the angry mob lynching Imtiaz and Mazloom. My son was crying for help,” narrated Azad.
“But the mob was so violent that I could not gather the courage to go and at least try to save my son. The fear that they could also kill me made me helplessly watch my son and Mazloom being beaten and hanged from a tree,” said Azad in a chocked voice.
Azad, Nizamuddin and few other people are the witnesses to the lynching. They filed the first Information Report (FIR), in which Azad specified one Vinod Prajapati as the prime accused, along with 12 of his associates, who formed the lynch mob. Prajapati was a local BJP leader.
During the investigation, 8 accused were arrested barring Prajapati. “Police never arrested the prime accused Prajapati. And even before filing the charge sheet, the accused managed to get a bail from the Jharkhand High Court,” said Abdul Salam, the counsel of Mazloom and Imtiaz.
Significantly, this case where a 12-year-old had been lynched to death, didn’t seem enough to have the trial in a fast track court. “I had prayed several times before the judges to shift the case to fast track court, but they never paid heed to our request,” said the lawyer.
The bail has further boosted the morale of accused and they even threatened Azad, the prime witness in this case.
However, Jharkhand Police’s spokesperson RK Mallick, on being asked about justice being delayed in the Latehar case, told eNewsroom, “Bail is a normal process and a right of accused. However, eventually, you will see the accused getting punished. In at least three of the lynching cases (Ramgarh, Bokaro and Jamshedpur) in Jharkhand, police have ensured justice, as the accused have been punished by the trial court.”
However, Saira, wants the justice to be delivered fast. With five children to take care of, the court case is consuming too much of her time and energy. “I want that we get justice fast. My husband was hanged; I want his killers to be hanged to death.”
But, the way the case has been moving so far, getting justice seems to be a mammoth of a task for the victim’s family. Primarily, because the accused have a strong political connect. According Manauwar, brother of Mazloom, “The prime accused had hosted Jharkhand’s Chief Minister Raghubar Das at his residence, just a few days prior to the gruesome mob lynching that he led.”
“Also, a para-teacher Vishal Tiwari was accused of being one of the killers. He has been initially suspended from his job, but two years later, he is back to work,” informed Manauwar. “We had written to Deputy Commissioner and education department officials but they are yet to take notice of our complaint,” he added.
Shamsher Khan, a local youth who had fought for the justice in Latehar lynching also rued over the fact that the court normally fix date of hearing after a period of three months. That’s why even after two years, witnesses account is yet to be completed,” he said.
With 28 months elapsing since the two were lynched in the first lynching case of Jharkhand, there is little hope left for the families of the victim to get justice.
Since Jharkhand police and the court could not set an example in the first lynching case of the state, it could not deter other ‘gau rakshaks’ from lynching. Following this case, 11 more have been lynched, in the name of cow protection in Jharkhand.