“The nation, like the individual, cannot commit a crime with impunity. If we are guilty of lawlessness and brutal violence, whether our guilt consists in active participation therein or in mere connivance and encouragement, we shall assuredly suffer later on because of what we have done” — Theodore Roosevelt
The Monsoon Session of the Parliament has just begun and ‘mob lynching’ is an issue that Opposition has decided to bring up for debate. Days before the Session, Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticized mob violence in the name of holy cow, not once but twice.
Oxford dictionary defines lynching as murder by a group of people for an alleged offence without a legal trial, especially by hanging. ‘Hanging’ because the term derives from mid-19th century.
This year has been marked by a number of cases — Pehlu Khan, Junaid Khan, Allimuddin Ansari being some of the victims — of mobs descending on individuals and in the name of protecting holy cow, brutally murdering them. This was also the year when, perhaps for the first time, citizens across the country united and marched on streets against mob murders.
While mob lynchings in the name of cow are in news, a look back into the past shows that from the lynching of five Dalits in Khairlanji to mob murder of a prison inmate in Dimapur, India has failed to deliver timely justice in cases which hogged media headlines, leave alone scores of those which didn’t make news.
In some cases the court trials took nearly a decade, in other cases years have gone by and the police hasn’t even filed a charge sheet, there are also cases where murder accused are out on bail.
Since lynchings have been reported in India as far back as one can recall, we decided to restrict our research to last 20 year. And so we begin with the case of Graham Staines and his children, whose lynching caused global outrage in 1999.
News18 delves deep into the archives and talks to people concerned to understand the status of landmark lynching cases since 1999 and discovers that victims still have a long road ahead of them to seek justice from the courts.
THE GRAHAM STAINES CASE
Australian Christian Missionary, Graham Staines, had dedicated his life to poor leprosy patients in India. But a militant Hindutva faction believed that Staines was forcefully converting people to Christianity. So, one afternoon, when Staines along with his two minor sons, Philip (10) and Timothy (6), was taking a nap in their family car, a group of Bajrang Dal activists, led by Dara Singh, set it on fire. Staines and his two children tried to get off the car but the angry mob did not allow them to get off.
Perhaps due to global outrage, the case was investigated rather swiftly. Investigations were carried out by local police and its crime branch, by CBI, and by a judicial commission headed by Supreme Court Justice D. P. Wadhwa.
The Wadhwa Commission report, submitted in June 1999, found that though some tribals were baptized at these camps, there was no evidence of forced conversions. Staines himself was not found to be involved in a single case of conversion. Soon, CBI also submitted its charge sheet against 18 persons.
Trial against the accused began almost two years after the incident — in March 2001. And four years after the incident a trial court in Odisha convicted 13 accused and awarded the main accused, Dara Singh, death sentence.
In 2005, the Orissa High Court commuted Singh’s sentence to life imprisonment. In 2011, SC upheld the HC’s decision to award Sigh a lifer.
The case has been closed. All convicts are serving life imprisonment.
THE JHAJJAR LYNCHING
Five Dalits were lynched by a furious mob in Haryana right outside the police post. Two of the five, all aged under 20, were burnt to death while the other three were beaten to death. The five were brutally murdered by the mob on suspicion of cow slaughter.
One month after the incident, police identified 32 residents and lodged their names in the FIR. One of them was Rajbir Kumar, sarpanch of neighbouring Sura village.
But police also lodged a case against the victims under Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act and had even sent the cow carcass for a postmortem. Once the results came in that the cow had been dead 24 hours before the lynching, the case was withdrawn and two cases of murder and attempt to murder were registered against 32 villagers.
The trial in the case lasted nearly eight years.
In 2010, the trial court convicted seven accused with life imprisonment but acquitted 19 others in the case. But even after the trial court verdict, the perpetrators continue to be out on bail.
The accused are out on bail and have appealed against the lower court verdict in the SC. It is still pending.
THE KHAIRLANJI LYNCHING
The Khairlanji lynching is one of the most infamous and brutal examples of upper-caste violence. A mob of close to 50 villagers had stormed into the house of a Dalit — Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange — in his absence, and lynched four members of his family over a land dispute.
Bhotmange’s wife Surekha and their daughter Priyanka were paraded naked in the village and sexually abused before being murdered. The attack was seen to be a reprisal against a police complaint filed the victims.
Initially, the police had arrested 47 people during investigation. However, the probe was later handed over to the CBI which had filed a charge sheet against only 11 people. All the other 36 were let off as charges were not brought against them.
Almost two years after the incident, in 2008, a special court in Bhandara sentenced six to death and two others to life imprisonment.
In 2010, Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court commuted the penalties to life imprisonment as it felt the crime committed did not come under the ambit of “rarest of rare cases”.
It was a classic case as far as provisions of the Atrocities Act were concerned. But the law, which had emerged as a powerful tool to protect the Dalits, was not applied here.
The convicted are serving life imprisonment.
THE DIMAPUR LYNCHING
A mob of reportedly 7,000-8,000 people marched into Dimapur Central Jail and dragged Syed Sharifuddin Khan, who had been lodged in prison over rape charges. Khan was tied to the back of a motorcycle and dragged on the street. He died on the way. His corpse was then hung from a clock tower in Dimapur as a warning to other, presumably, illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
It was believed, at the time, that Khan was an illegal Bangladeshi immigrant. It later turned out that he was from Assam’s Karimganj district.
By March 2015, local police had arrested 55 and issued photos of 34 suspects. But then the Nagaland government recommended a CBI investigation in the case. In May that year CBI began its probe.
In September 2015, the Guwahati High Court had asked the CBI to begin the probe and file a report within six months. In December that year, the CBI registered four cases and began its probe. In June 2016, the CBI got another extension by the HC. Till date CBI has filed only one of the four charge sheets it was supposed to file.
No verdict or trial yet. The petitioner’s lawyer will soon approach the court to find out the status of the charge sheet.
The case is likely to be heard sometime in the next three months.
THE DADRI LYNCHING
Mohammad Akhlaq, 52, and his son Danish were attacked by a village mob with sticks and bricks accusing Akhlaq’s family of slaughtering a cow and consuming beef. This was one of the landmark cases as it was the first where a Muslim was lynched on the basis of suspicion of eating beef. Though Danish survived, but his father was thrashed till he died.
Police filed a charge sheet within three months of the incident.
In its 250 page charge sheet, police named 17 accused, one of whom was the son of an influential local BJP member Sanjay Rana. The charges that were invoked were under penal code sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 323 (causing voluntary hurt), 506 (criminal intimidation), 427 (causing damage to property), 458 (trespass), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapons) and 149 (unlawful assembly).
However, the charge sheet did not attract sections on criminal conspiracy, the punishment for which is same as murder.
No trial or verdict yet. The case is still on the stage of framing of charges.
A total of 18 people have been arrested, six are out on bail — three of them for being juveniles, and three others who claimed that their names were not mentioned in the first FIR.
Recently, six other accused have filed a petition in the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge pleading that they should be discharged. Their case is expected to be heard on August 9.
THE UDHAMPUR ATTACK
Zahid Rasool Bhat, the 16-year-old conductor of a truck that was en route to Kashmir, was attacked by a mob with petrol bombs on the Jammu-Srinagar Highway. The truck, on its way to Jammu was standing still near Shiv Nagar area as traffic was stopped in view of the day-long strike called by various Hindu outfits after three carcasses of cows were found.
Bhat suffered severe burn injuries following the attack. He was brought to Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital, where he succumbed to burn injuries on the intervening night of October 17 and 18.
A total of 15 people were booked under sections 307, 147, 148, 149, 332, 336, 337 and 427 of the IPC and under the Explosives Act. Of these, nine were charge sheeted. One of them was a minor at the time of the crime and the remaining eight have been lodged in jail without bail. But charge sheet hasn’t been filed yet.
No verdict or trial has been conducted.
All the accused are in jail.
THE PEHLU KHAN LYNCHING
Pehlu Khan, a Muslim dairy farmer, was accused of smuggling cattle and was lynched by mob on the national highway in Rajasthan’s Alwar district.
The investigating officer in the case has been changed four times.
The police arrested 7 accused in the case, three of which were arrested on the day of the incident. The ones arrested are currently lodged in the local jail and charge sheet has been filed against all of them. Pehlu Khan’s family is anxious about the trial at Behrod. News18 has learnt that the family would be moving the Jaipur court to transfer the case to either Alwar or Jaipur as “examination of witnesses will be a problem in Behrod as there is a threat of evidence being tampered with.”
No trial as yet. The case is still pending and would be heard at Behror Additional Sessions Court.
The state police have now handed over the investigation into the case to the Criminal Investigation Department — Crime Branch (CBI-CID).
THE BULANDSHAHR LYNCHING
45-year-old Ghulam Mohammed was beaten to death by a group of 10 men, allegedly belonging to UP CM Yogi Adityanath’s outfit Hindu Yuva Vahini. The victim was thrashed after his relative allegedly eloped with a Hindu girl a few days before the incident.
Hindu Yuva Vahini termed this a case of “Love Jihad”. The victim’s family squarely blamed HYV members for the murder.
Bulandshahar police arrested three people involved in the crime. Talking to journalists, SSP Muniraj said, “What is the main reason behind the incident, we will get to know after the investigation. If someone has taken the law into their own hands, they will not be spared by the police. Strict action will be taken against those elements.”
PK Tiwari, SP (Rural) Bulandshahr, told News 18, “Nine people were arrested and charged with section 302 (murder), 147 (rioting) and 148 (Rioting, armed with deadly weapon) of the IPC.”
No verdict as the case awaits trial. Charge sheet was filed on May 18 and they have been sent to the Bulandshahr district jail.
The case is now pending at the district court.
THE ZAFAR HUSSAIN LYNCHING
CPI (ML) activist Zafar Hussain was lynched on June 16 by local municipal officials when he tried to stop them from photographing women who were defecating in the open.
The police booked Nagar Parishad Commissioner Ashok Jain and municipal employees Kamal Harijan, Ritesh Harijan and Manish Harijan under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code. Despite an FIR being filed, none of the accused has been arrested.
According to Pratapgarh SP Shivraj Meena, the postmortem report of the deceased has revealed that Hussain died of cardio-respiratory failure and that there were no signs of physical injury.
“Four people were booked under Section 302 of the IPC after the FIR was filed but none of them have been arrested so far. The investigation is currently going on and we cannot arrest them till the investigation is complete,” Meena said.
Trial hasn’t started yet
THE LYNCHING OF JUNAID KHAN
Ballabgarh teen Junaid Khan was lynched and three others attacked when they were on their way home from Delhi after shopping for Eid during Ramzan. Junaid was stabbed to death and the others injured. The four men were thrown off the train when it pulled into a station at Asavati, barely 20 kilometers from Delhi.
One of the accused admitted on camera that he was told by his friends to attack the Muslim boys because they ate beef. The six accused, including a Delhi government employee, were arrested in connection with the case and sent to judicial custody. The last arrest was of the main accused in the case — Naresh Kumar, a fugitive who was hiding in Maharashtra’s Dhule to avoid arrest.
Investigation is still pending and charge sheet is yet to be filed in the case.
Naresh kumar, the main accused who was arrested, has now admitted that his blood stained shirt which would have led the police to establish his guilt was burnt in an attempt to destroy evidence. All the arrested ones are lodged in lock up.
THE LYNCHING OF AYUB PANDITH
57-year-old J&K Deputy Superintendent of Police Mohammed Ayub Pandit was lynched by a mob inside Srinagar’s Jamia Mosque. The mob behind his lynching was reportedly chanting the name of secessionist militant Zakir Musa while assaulting him.
According to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, Pandith had asked his men to go home for Shab-e-Qadr prayers and volunteered to report for duty.
Based on video footage of the incident, local police identified 12-15 men behind the attack. Six of them have been arrested. J&K Police have recently claimed that one Sajad Ahmad Gilkar, of Nowhatta, Srinagar, recently arrested, had played a key role in the officer’s lynching.
The accused have been booked. A charge sheet has not been filed so far. The accused have been booked under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code, among other strict sections.
Trial hasn’t started yet.
All the six accused are currently in jail.
THE RAMGARH LYNCHING
A 40-year-old meat trader, Md Allimuddin Ansari, was lynched by a 100 strong mob on a suspicion that he was carrying beef in his vehicle. Pictures which later emerged showed his bloodied body, meat pieces on the road and his burning vehicle.
11 people have so far been arrested in the case, including BJP’s district media in-charge and the main accused were both linked to the local gau raksha samiti.
The police also claim to have nabbed the man believed to be following the victim on the day of his killing and informing about his movement and joined in the assault that led to the meat trader’s death. Police have also found that the meat being carried by Ansari was beef.
Charge sheet hasn’t been filed in the case
All the accused are currently lodged in local jail.