No justice for Muslim father murdered by Hindu mob

28th Oct 2016
No justice for Muslim father murdered by Hindu mob

Dadri lynching victim Akhlaq’s son Danish, 22, being shifted to Army Research & Referral Hospital in Dhaula Kuan, Delhi, October 10, 2015. Danish was at tacked and Akhlaq was killed by the mob after rumours that the family had consumed beef in their house at Bishara village in Dadri. (Photo: Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Sajeda Haider

In a bizarre turn of events the dead body of a man accused of murder was held to ransom by his family and friends in a village in northern India causing religious sectarian tension and forcing Muslim residents to flee their village anticipating reprisals.

Ravi Sisodia, 21, was in an Indian jail awaiting trial when he died from multi-organ failure after contracting dengue or chickenguniya fever – both diseases are spread by mosquitoes and can be fatal if not treated quickly – on October 4. Sisodia’s family, egged on by local politicians refused to accept that he had died of either disease and insisted that jail officials had tortured him to death. For three days the family refused to cremate Sisodia’s body unless their list of demands were met, one of them being the arrest of the jailer at Kasna Jail where Sisodia was being detained.

Sisodia was one of 18 people arrested in October last year for killing Mohammad Akhlaq, a Muslim in their village on the pretext that he had stored beef in his fridge. Ever since the Hindu right-wing nationalist party, Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), has come to power in India under Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, incidents of vigilante groups claiming to be ‘cow-protectors’ killing, beating, raping and  harassing people, mostly Muslims, for  allegedly eating beef, slaughtering cows or simply transporting cows for slaughter, have been on the rise. As the cow is considered sacred by many Hindus, states in northern India, including that of Uttar Pradesh where both Mohammad Akhlaq and Sisodia lived, have banned cow slaughter. However, the ban has become a convenient stick to beat Muslims with and vigilante groups are quick to take the law into their own hands.

Mohammed Akhlaq was the first reported fatality of this vigilantism. There have been many more since then. Sisodia, along with the 18 others arrested, are accused of dragging out Akhlaq, a 50-year-old farmer, from his home and beating him to death with bricks claiming he was eating beef. Immediately after the lynching the police sent the meat found in Akhlaq’s fridge for forensic testing only to discover that it was not beef but goat meat.

Immediately after Akhlaq’s murder on September 28, 2015, his village of Bisara in Dadri became the epicentre of religious tension. Over the last year right-wing Hindu groups have been fanning the sectarian flames, particularly after the police arrested 18 men for killing Akhlaq.

Instead of getting justice for their father’s murder, Akhlaq’s family has now been charged with consuming beef after a second forensic test allegedly carried out six month later on the meat taken from Akhlaq’s fridge showed it was beef. Local BJP politicians have been keeping the sectarian pot in Dadri boiling in the hope of polarizing voters for the state elections due in early 2017 in Uttar Pradesh.

Sisodia’s unfortunate death came as a godsend for them. In order to stir passions, local BJP leaders first called Sisodia a ‘martyr’ who had allegedly been killed by the jail administration. They wrapped the body in the Indian national flag and refused to cremate it until their demands were met. The demands included Rs 10 million as compensation for his family, a CBI probe into the death, a government job for a family member, action against jail officials, and the arrest of Akhlaq’s brother Jaan Mohammad on charges of cow slaughter.

As Sisodia’s body waited to be cremated the BJP played politics. BJP members of the state Legislative Assembly of the area, MPs and even a BJP Union Minister all descended upon Bisara to help Sisodia’s family ‘get justice’. Muslims of Bisara, who are already nervous ever since Akhlaq’s murder, started to leave the village temporarily fearing for their security. Since Akhlaq’s  lynching these very same politicians have not condoled his family, but on the contrary have sparked tensions in the town between Hindus and Muslims by insisting that he had been eating beef and therefore deserved to die.

Three days after Sisodia’s death a deal was finally struck between the state administration, run by the Samajwadi Party, BJP’s main opposition in Uttar Pradesh, and Sisodia’s family. Compensation of Rs 250,000 would be given to the family, employment for his wife, free education for his one year old daughter, a CBI inquiry into his death and most important of all, police investigation into the charges against Jaan Mohammad for cow slaughter. The state administration had buckled under the bullying tactics of the BJP and set an unfortunate precedent.

Akhlaq’s beleaguered family, who had nothing to do with Sisodia’s death, are now even further from getting justice for their father.


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