The murder of Mohd Akhlaq, India’s first lynching related to cow vigilantism, has seen no conviction two years on
The loudspeaker suddenly crackling to life just as she was about to sleep. Then the announcement, followed by a roar from the streets and a mad mob tearing into their house. The vision of her husband’s limp body being dragged down the stairs.Abuses. Her young son lying injured, bleeding from the head, on the first floor. Having to leave her house, possibly forever.Ikraman’s final memories of Bisada are painful. The place she still calls “ancestral home“, where she was the nucleus around which her family’s world revolved in the two-storey corner house painted pink and white. A place she had never thought of leaving before September 28, 2015 when her husband Mohammad Akhlaq was accused of slaughtering a cow and murdered by the mob, most of them villagers she had known, neighbours who had lived there for generations without animosity .

And today , a place she cannot think of returning to. Bisada has seen no more violence since but violent vigilantism in the name of `gau raksha’ has been reported from various parts of India. Akhlaq’s was the first of more such lynchings. Communal fault lines have appeared in places that hadn’t know them before. Bisada is one.

“We have got disconnected from our ancestral village,“ Ikraman says. The uprooted family now lives in Delhi’s Subroto Park (an accommodation provided by the Air Force. Akhlaq’s elder son Sartaj is with the IAF), awaiting justice. But in the Greater Noida fast-track court, the trial is yet to begin. There have been 15 hearings since February 2016, when the case went to court, and 12 postponements. In the meantime, one the suspects died in judicial custody and the remaining 17 named in the chargesheet are out on bail.

Akhlaq’s family has also seen an FIR of cow slaughter filed against it. Seven persons -Akhlaq, Ikraman, Akhlaq’s mother Asghari, brother Jaan Mohammad, daughter Shaista and son Danish -were named in the complaint along with Sona, Akhlaq’s sister-in-law. A senior police officer who was investigating the complaint had said in September 2016 there was no evidence to prove a cow was slaughtered by the family . The official was shifted from Dadri after a few months. Shailendra Pratap Singh, station officer of Jarcha where the complaint is registered, said police were waiting for some forensic reports. “The probe is under way ,“ is all he would say .

The final memories of Bisada that Ikraman lives with are also recorded in the police chargesheet, and are a key component of the case against the 17 accused. Ikraman knows about all the bails, about the status of trial proceedings. She has taken in the developments with stoic calm. “My family members do not share updates of court cases, fearing it will affect me psychologically. But I come to know. We have faith in the judiciary . We hope justice will prevail and the murderers will be punished.“

Yusuf Saifi, Akhlaq’s lawyer, says defence lawyers keep raising one objection or another, leading to the delay in the trial.“Sometimes, they seek more documents, at others, they say they are not ready for framing of charges,“ he says.

The last proceeding was held on July 17 this year and the next one is scheduled for October 4. Shivani Jaiswal, additional judge (fast track court, Surajpur) is hearing the case. “We urge officials concerned to expedite the process and frame charges against the accused. These people attacked my husband in front of family members. The guilty must be convicted,“ Ikraman says.

In Bisada, a section of residents and families of the arrested suspects, say they believe the law is taking its course.

“We believed the police action was onesided. So we registered a case of cow slaughter against Akhlaq’s family,“ says Amit Sisodiya, a local resident. “We respect the judiciary ,“ says Hariom Pradhan, husband of Bisada village head Kaushalya Devi.“The situation in Bisada is normal.“ Sept 21, 2016 ­ Present All 17 accused released on bail