Monday, 30th October 2017

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Men flee, women defend thrashing of lynch mob

There was not a single man in sight; apparently because they have all fled their homes fearing arrest after Tabrez Ansari's death

By Kumud Jenamani
  • Published 25.06.19, 4:54 AM
  • Updated 25.06.19, 4:54 AM
  • 3 mins read
A deserted road at Dhatkidih village in Seraikela where Tabrez Ansari was attacked by the mob. Picture by Animesh Sengupta

The men have disappeared from Dhatkidih village in Seraikela, around 35km from Jamshedpur, where Tabrez Ansari was nabbed on suspicion of being a thief, tied to a pole, thrashed and forced to chant Jai Shri Ram and Jai Hanuman in the early hours of June 19.

Tabrez, 24, died on Saturday morning and videos of his torture surfaced on Sunday, sparking outrage and condemnation across the country.

An uneasy calm prevailed at Dhatkidih, a village of around 800 people and 135 households, on Monday. There was not a single man in sight; apparently because they have all fled their homes fearing arrest.

The women of the village were unwilling to speak to strangers, but Mamta Devi, 50, a government health worker who spoke to The Telegraph, admitted that Tabrez was forced to chant Jai Shri Ram and Jai Hanuman and beaten up, but maintained that the thrashing was not so brutal to have killed him.

“It is a fact that Tabrez died at the hospital four days after he was thrashed by people at Dhatkidih, but the thrashing was not so intense that he would have died of it,” she told The Telegraph on Monday. “Yes, the villagers were angry with the victim as he was caught while trying to commit theft, but there also were people who stopped others from taking the law into their hands.”

Mamta said her sister-in-law Maya Mahali, who is a ward member of the Seraikela Notified Area Committee, was standing guard and had stopped one of the villagers who was hitting Tabrez with the branch of a tree.

Mamta, who said she lives around 20 metres from the spot where Tabrez was beaten up, said he was nabbed at around 1am on June 19. Police, she said, reached the spot by 7am and took Tabrez into custody along with a bike and other stolen articles recovered from his possession.

According to Mamta, Tabrez and two of his associates, Noomar Ali, 19, and Sheikh Irfan, 18, had first committed theft at the house of Rajesh Pramanik at the nearby Mahalimurup village and the houses of Fulchand Pradhan and Sagar Pradhan at Murup, another nearby village. After that, Mamta said, the trio had climbed onto the roof of Bishnu Pradhan’s house at Dhatkidih. Pradhan’s son, who was on the roof, had raised an alarm, leading the three to flee, according to Mamta.

The bushes where the villagers claim the victim had hid after being caught red-handed committing theft.
The bushes where the villagers claim the victim had hid after being caught red-handed committing theft. Picture by Animesh Sengupta

Noomar and Irfan managed to escape by jumping off the roof, she said, and Tabrez too jumped but sustained injury to his left ankle.

Tabrez — according to Mamta, whose version is what that of the villagers of Dhatkidih — had hid in a bush where he and his associates had kept a brand-new bike without number plates, which they had stolen from the house of Fulchand. Tabrez, Mamta said, was nabbed when two women who had gone to answer nature’s call spotted him around 1am. The women raised an alarm and the villagers caught hold of Tabrez, Mamta said.

On coming to know that he was a Muslim, a section of villagers had forced him to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jai Hanuman”, Mamta said.

“I was not present at the spot, but my sister-in-law Maya Mahali told me that some of the villagers were forcing the thief to utter ‘Jai Shri Ram’ while hitting him with branches of a tree,” she said.

The villagers had damaged the bike which was found with Tabrez because he had claimed that the bike belonged to him, Mamta said.

“But we got to know in the morning that the bike that was recovered from Tabrez was a stolen one and belonged to Fulchand Pradhan,” she added.

Fulchand's wife Jayanti Pradhan said that her elder son Bijay had bought the bike two months ago.

“The thieves might have sprayed some chemical as three persons of our family who were sleeping on the rooftop did not wake up till late in the morning,” Jayanti said. “When they woke up around 6.30am, they discovered that the bike had been stolen.”

Her husband had informed about the stolen bike to the Sini police station outpost at around 7am and came to know that the bike was lying in a damaged condition at Dhatkidih village, she said.

Another woman of Dhatkidih claimed she had seen Tabrez, who according to a few local activists used to work as a welder in Pune, earlier.

“I was surprised to know that the young man tied to a pole was the same who used to hawk around on the road during the day. I have seen him more than once hawking goods,” said the woman, who refused to give her name.