Worried about police brutality abroad, but what about violence that takes place in your own backyard?

Remember 22-year-old Minhaj Ansari, who was killed in one of the most brutal custodial deaths in India? He was beaten to death by a police officer simply because he was the admin of a WhatsApp group in which a picture of beef was allegedly shared. Four years down the line, the accused police officer has now been rewarded with a posting in the Jharkhand CM's constituency

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Shahnawaz Akhtar
Shahnawaz Akhtar
is Founder of eNewsroom. He loves doing human interest, political and environment related stories.

Ranchi: The murder of George Floyd by the police has triggered a global movement that raises a voice against police brutality. In India, too, #blacklivesmatter was trending, with everyone from celebrities, social activists to the common man registering their voice and demanding justice. But by the looks of it, the movement has failed to make an impact in India, as we recently witnessed a father-son-duo (Jayaraj-Fenix) being brutally tortured to death in police custody in Tamil Nadu.

The multiple injuries on the bodies indicated the brutality inflicted on them was far worse than what Floyd had to endure while being choked to death. The case also highlights the fact that custodial deaths are a reality in India, to which many choose to turn a blind eye. Sadly, they often even fail to create outrage as in the case of Minhaj Ansari of Jharkhand.

Ansari’s murder is a prime example of police getting away with killing people in custody in India, unlike the four officers in Minneapolis, who have been charged with second-degree murder of George Floyd. The case is now under trial.

Ansari, resident of Jamtara, owner of a mobile repairing shop and a father of an eight-month-old daughter, died in police custody just because he was the admin of a WhatsApp group, in which someone had allegedly shared pictures of beef. For this, he was picked up by the police. Harish Pathak was then the officer of Narayanpur police station. Later, Ansari was brutally beaten up by police and also by the complainant — Sonu Singh, a Bajrang Dal member. Pathak and Singh allegedly assaulted Minhaj in front of his mother too. They mercilessly beat him to so much that Ansari succumbed to his injuries when he was rushed for treatment, just like the father-son duo who died in Tamil Nadu.

However, the injustice did not stop there, after a lot of struggle the family managed to get a murder charge slapped on Pathak, but eventually his suspension order was revoked. The trial against him did not begin and Pathak was able to get a stay on his case. Singh’s name was also erased from the charge-sheet filed by the police.

Four years down the line, the trial is yet to start. However, Pathak has now been posted in a police station which falls in the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Hemant Soren’s constituency.

police brutality custodial death jharkhand minhaj ansari
The torture marks on the body of Minhaj, before he was buried (file picture)

“My brother was made the admin of a WhatsApp group by his friend, and then one of the members sent the alleged picture of beef to the group. Sonu Singh complained to police about his religious sentiments being hurt. After which the police picked up Minhaj (Ansari) from his house along with several others in the Whatsapp group on October 2, 2016, around 9 pm. Later, all were released by the police barring Minhaj. All those released by police had wounds from being beating on their bodies,” recalled Hazrat Ansari, Minhaj’s brother while talking to eNewsroom.

He paused and then added: “Next morning, when Ammi (Ajhela Bibi) went to visit Minhaj at the police station, she saw both Harish Pathak and Sonu Singh beating Minhaj. When my father and the Mukhiya reached the police station and confronted them, they were abused and sent back.”

An NDTV report had also claimed that when the police had called a press conference, Minhaj was seen slumped against the wall, without much body movement. His face was also covered with a piece of cloth suggesting that he had been subjected to severe beating.

“When police were taking him to Narayanpur from Jamtara, there is a village named Pobia. It was here that he was taken out of the vehicle and handed over to Sonu Singh, who beat him again mercilessly,” alleged the brother.

police brutality custodial death jharkhand minhaj ansari
Autopsy report of Minhaj Ansari, clearly mentions grave external and internal injuries on his body

After Ansari was declared dead in RIMS, Ranchi on October 9, his post-mortem report said there were signs of torture on his body. Doctors had even pointed out that Ansari might not have been fed for long while in police custody.

Ansari’s lawyer accused the police of murdering the young man in connivance with outsiders and then suppressing the victim’s case. “Our case against Pathak was registered on 6 October, 2016, which is four days after Pathak’s FIR against Minhaj. However, with Minhaj dying on 9 October, a departmental inquiry was set up against Pathak. But senior officials who had to start the inquiry did not begin it. They maintained that the department would start the inquiry only when Pathak’s criminal case proceedings ended,” said advocate A Allam while talking to eNewsroom.

“Pathak had registered two cases against Minhaj, one for circulating the beef message and the other against the victim’s family for attacking him. So we initially demanded that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) club all three FIRs and investigate the matter,” said Allam.

 

In the charge-sheet not only was Sonu Singh’s name removed, but the section 302 (murder) of IPC had been changed to 304 (unintentional murder). “However, in our fight, a supplementary charge-sheet was filed and section 302 of IPC was mentioned in the case,” informed Allam.

The senior lawyer added, “His anticipatory bail was rejected twice by the court. However, six months ago Pathak managed to get a stay in the case.”

When contacted, Jamtara MLA Irfan Ansari, expressed concern and mentioned the Tweets he had posted after Harish Pathak became the Officer In-charge of Barhait police station. “This police officer is a psycho. He does not deserve to be posted anywhere, leave aside the CM constituency. Wherever he has gone, he committed wrong acts, his career is full of misdeed. I have raised this issue and will keep raising it.”

Meanwhile, Minhaj’s father Umar Mia recalled Rajya Sabha MP and JMM President Shibu Soren’s promise. He had promised the old man that he would help him get justice for his son.

eNewsroom tried reaching out to Pathak, but he could not be contacted for a comment.

Shahnawaz Akhtar
Shahnawaz Akhtar
is Founder of eNewsroom. He loves doing human interest, political and environment related stories.

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