NEW DELHI – The family of Tabrez Ansari, who died on June 22, after being beaten by a mob which forced him to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jai Hanuman” in Jharkhand, was allegedly threatened by police with a similar fate when his family begged for him to be given treatment while he was bleeding profusely in custody. In the lockup, the family found the main perpetrator of the violence addressing Ansari, asking him why he was not dead yet, in spite of the severe beatings they administered on him.
These and many other aspects of the lynching, each outdoing the other in brutality, have been published in a report written by a fact-finding team of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha. On June 25, the team travelled to the Kadamidiha and Dhaktidih villages in Jharkhand, where the attack on Tabrez took place.
The team, comprising human rights activists and advocates, spoke to Ansari’s family and his neighbours, all of whom were vehement in suggesting that it was very unlikely that he would have been involved in a case of thievery. Twenty-four-year-old Tabrez got married a month-and-half ago and planned to take his wife to Pune, where he has been working as a welder for the past six or seven years.
The team also tried to speak to villagers living around the scene of the lynching, at Dhaktidih, but were interrupted by a group of men who swarmed them and begun saying that they were the “Jai Shri Ram waale” and that a thief has no religion and could easily be asked to chant “Jai Shri Ram,” be he a Hindu or a Muslim. Dhaktidih, the report noted, had a significant population of backward castes.
The area, the team were told, had little communal tension. Some villagers, however, recalled a year-old incident when members of religious right-wing organisations had told the Muslims to stop cattle trade. It did stop, but not for very long.
From accounts of Tabrez’s family members, which have been included in the report, not only does there appear to be a serious lapse in the way police acted in the case, but there are also glaring points of cruelty in the name of religious violence which come to the fore.
Some of the salient points that led to his death enumerated in the fact-finding report are as follows:
Tabrez had called his wife at 10 pm on June 17 from Jamshedpur, where he had gone to visit a relative with two 14-year-old boys of his in-laws’ village, Behrsarai. He told her that we would be returning that night. He had taken a bike. This puts into perspective the lynchers’ claim that the beatings were in retaliation for Tabrez stealing a bike.
In the morning, Tabrez’s wife got a call from him. He told her that he was being beaten in Dhatkidih village and pleaded with her to help him. She informed his uncles Maksud Alam and Masrur Alam, who went to the local police station to look for him. They could not find him in the Kharsawan police station, but found him in the lockup of Saraikela police station. He was found bleeding from the nose, mouth and head. He also had cut marks on his fingers. The police told them that he was caught for stealing.
Masroor then told police station in-charge Bipin Bihari Singh that Tabrez needed immediate medical help. Singh told him “Yehaan se bhaago. Nahi to tumhara bhi haath-pao tod ke tumko jail mein daal denge.” (“Get away from here or else I will break your bones and put you in jail too.”)
Tabrez spoke to his relatives from the lock up. He said a few men had asked him for his name on the way back from Jamshedpur. He had said ‘Sonu‘ at first, but then they pressured him for his actual name. After this, they began beating him up. The two boys ran away.
After having been tied to the pole and beaten, Tabrez (according to relatives who spoke to him in the lockup) had asked for water. He was forced to drink the juice of dhatura, a poisonous weed, the leaves of which were stuffed into his mouth.
Tabrez named one Pappu Mandal among his lynchers. Mandal and around 15 people were also at the police station when his relatives went to see him. Mandal, his relatives said, was the one who asked Tabrez why he was not dead in spite of the beatings.
On June 19 too, Tabrez was not given medical treatment despite multiple requests by his family. He was shifted to the local jail. At this point, he could no longer walk.
On June 22, the uncles were informed by an acquaintance that Tabrez was admitted to the Saraikela Sadar hospital. They went there and found him foaming at the mouth. The doctor told them that he was dead. A local reporter found that he was still breathing. He was then referred to the Tata Medical Hospital. When they reached the hospital in Jamshedpur, he was pronounced dead.
Following his death, his family members lodged a case against Pappu Mandal and others.
According to Tabrez’s uncle, the theft accusation was made up after people realised that he was in a bad shape after the beating.