A Christian Tribal Lynched By ‘Cow Vigilantes’ in Jharkhand; Political Parties Maintain Silence

Ranchi: A 50 year old Christian Adivasi, Prakash Lakra, was lynched by a mob chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Jai Bajrang Bali’ allegedly for cow slaughter on April 10 in Jurmu Village of Gumla’s Dumri block. Three other victims – Peter Kerketta, Belarius Minj and Janerius Minj – sustained severe injuries. The mob was led by Sandeep Sahu, Santosh Sahu, Sanjay Sahu and his sons.

Pursuant to this barbaric act, a fact-finding report was released by Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha along with the victims’ testimonies being published on YouTube. The report said, “Adivasis were severely beaten for at least three hours by a mob of neighbouring Hindu community, leading to the death of one person.”

Four victims, along with other men and children of their village, were carving a dead ox on the bank of a river near their village. Reportedly, they were told by the ox-owner to cut the dead animal for meat and hide. While they were doing so, a mob of around 40 people suddenly attacked them and started beating them aggressively. They were beaten all the way to Jairagi chowk, about a kilometre away from the place where the violence started. The mob chanted slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Jai Bajrang Bali’ and also forced the victims to chant the slogans. They were beaten for refusing to chant the slogans or not chanting them loud enough.

After three hours, they were left at the Dumri police station at midnight from where they were taken to the local health centre after another four hours. The victims claim that the perpetrators met the police in-charge Amit Kumar and he saw them laying outside the station but refrained from taking any action. Prakash succumbed to the injuries before reaching the health centre. However, Amit forced the doctor to not record him as ‘dead on arrival’; the doctor refused to give in.

Although they were cutting a dead ox, the police who failed to take any action for the safety of the victims, has instead registered a FIR against them and 20-25 unnamed people, on charges of cow slaughter. Of the seven accused, only two were arrested as on April 15.

According to the Adivasi villagers, people of other communities (including Sahus) routinely ask them to take away dead bovines and consuming beef has been their centuries-old tradition.  Dispute over the consumption of bovine meat never took place amongst the different communities of the village in the past. However, things have drastically changed in the past five years with Prakash being the 11th person to be killed in the name of cow protection or other communal issues in Jharkhand. Earlier, nine Muslims and two Adivasis were lynched while eight people were beaten by mobs, led by Hindu right-wing fundamentalists.

Further, in December 2015, a 50-year old Muslim man, Mohammad Akhlaq was beaten to death and his 22-year old son severely injured in UP’s Dadri for possessing cooked meat which reportedly was that of a buffalo. In March 2016, cow vigilantes had abducted cattle trader Majloom Ansari and a school boy Imtiaz Khan in Latehar district while they were on their way to a cattle fair in a neighbouring district. Later, they were lynched and hanged from a tree. In December 2018, a court in Jharkhand sentenced eight convicts to life for their involvement in the lynching.

Strikingly, the current ruling dispensation at the centre as well as the state has been in power since five years.

The Mahasabha has urged the state government to withdraw the false cases against the victims;  arrest the perpetrators under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act; repeal the Jharkhand Bovine Animal Prohibition of Slaughter Act, 2005 saying “it is a direct attack on people’s livelihood and right to eat food of their choice” and provide a compensation of Rs. 15 lakh to the deceased and Rs. 10 lakh to the injured in compliance with the Supreme Court Judgement on Lynching.

The laidback response of the police and the local administration raises several questions including the conflict between performing their duty and catering to the upper caste powerful Hindu majority. The Hindutva ideology of the central and the state government is not hidden anymore with ‘gau raksha’ (cow protection) being on the forefront of its agendas. Sadly, the powerless and the voiceless, majorly from the minority communities, are losing their lives at the hands of Hindu fanatics. Amidst all this, the ruling party not only continues to maintain silence but also encourage such barbaric acts. One such act was reported in 2018, when Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha and BJP MP Nishikant Dubey were seen felicitating the perpetrators of a mob lynching in Ramgarh and Godda respectively.

In the run-up to the elections, it is to be seen whether such brutal acts of human rights violation are made an election issue. Regrettably, there are no such signs so far!

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