A group lynched a middle-aged man in Saran district of Bihar apparently on suspicion that he was carrying “meat”, his nephew and eyewitness has told reporters.
Recalling the attack on his uncle Naseeb Qureshi, Firoz Ahmed Qureshi, the nephew, said the sarpanch of Jogia village, 110km northwest of Patna, told some youths “we were carrying meat and asked them to beat us”.
Firoz later implied that by “meat” the sarpanch would have meant “beef”, whose sale and consumption is illegal in Bihar.
Sarpanch Sushil Singh is among the three arrested in the murder case.
A non-BJP government is in power in Bihar now. There has been a spate of hate crimes, many linked to meat, after 2014 and coinciding with an upsurge in communal toxicity on social media but the frequency had come down after the 2019 general election. Modi had expressed pain at some of the lynchings but the political leadership has not condemned unequivocally such diet-related atrocities.
Firoz further suggested that the local police’s role had been questionable in the immediate aftermath of the attack on his uncle at Jogia village on Tuesday morning.
Saran superintendent of police Gaurav Mangla told The Telegraph on Thursday that a murder case had been registered and three people arrested.
The killing coincided with the Shab-e-Barat and Holi festivals. Naseeb, aged in his mid-fifties, and Firoz, both residents of Hasanpura in neighbouring Siwan district, had visited Jogia to meet acquaintances. “While entering the village, we saw the sarpanch and a few youths with him. He (the sarpanch) told them we were carrying meat and asked them to beat us,” Firoz told reporters. “Our vehicle (a moped) had slowed down. I jumped off and escaped. Some of the youths chased me,” he said.
Naseeb was caught, kicked and punched, and beaten with bricks, Firoz said. He said he hid for a while and then returned to the spot and saw that his uncle was still being assaulted. He said he set out for the local Rasulpur police station. There, he was told the Rasulpur police had gone to Jogia after receiving a call, and taken Naseeb to Daraunda police station in Siwan, in whose area the victim’s village of Hasanpura falls.
“(At Rasulpur police station), a person claiming to be the mukhiya of Rasulpur said my uncle was feeling unwell and had been taken to Daraunda,” Firoz said. It’s unclear why police would take a victim of an alleged crime not to a hospital nor to the jurisdictional police station, but to a different police station. Calls to the number of the Rasulpur OC remained unanswered.
“When I started arguing, the man claiming to be the mukhiya asked me to shut up and said he had saved my uncle despite his act of carrying beef,” Firoz said. “The police personnel present were not helping me, either. I moved out because I did not feel safe there. I went to Daraunda police station.” There Firoz was told that Naseeb had been admitted to a nearby hospital. He rushed there to find his uncle had been sent to Siwan Sadar Hospital, about 20km away.
“The doctors at Siwan Sadar Hospital referred him to Patna. He died on the way,” Firoz said. At Hasanpura, Naseeb’s family demanded justice and an assurance that such an incident would never be repeated with anyone else. “An innocent person has been killed. Those involved should be arrested,” Firoz said. “We are human beings too. We are free to follow our religion or use things that are allowed in our rituals.”
Naseeb’s younger brother Ashraf accused the Rasulpur police of an attempted cover-up. He further alleged that the Rasulpur police had shifted his severely injured brother on a motorcycle to Daraunda instead of taking him in a car or ambulance. The Saran SP said: “Whether the victim was carrying beef or something else is a matter of investigation. We are treating the case as a lynching.”
A statement from Saran police said an FIR had been registered under IPC Sections 302 (murder), 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) and 379 (theft). A sum of Rs 2,500 that Naseeb was carrying was missing. Besides sarpanch Sushil, the other arrested men have been identified as Ravi Sah and Ujjwal Sharma.