Justice for Gulbahar Bibi: SC Issues Notice in Afrazul Murder Case

Gulbahar Bibi, wife of Afrzaul, lynched to his death on December 6, 2017 has moved the Supreme Court for justice and transfer of investigation away from the Rajasthan police, whom she has accused of bias. SC has issued notice, directed respondents to answer all allegations of bias and will hear the matter in April

 Image Courtesy: The Hindu
 Gulbahar Bibi, the widow of Afrazul Khan, with their daughters at Kaliachawk in West Bengal

In response to a petition filed by Gulbahar Bibi – the widow of Mohammad Afrazul Khan, a migrant labourer who was hacked and then burnt to death at Rajsamand in Rajasthan on December 6 last year, the Supreme Court on Friday instructed the counsel for Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to seek instructions on pleas of transfer of investigation gicven allegations of partisan behaviour of the police. The prayer regarding seeking a transfer of the case from Rajasthan to Malda in West Bengal will not be considered at present. The court has fixed April 2 as the next date of hearing. Chief Justice Deepak Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar clarified that the prayer is being not considered for this point of time and can be considered if at a later stage the petitioner is not satisfied with the investigation.

The petitioner has alleged that the Rajasthan Police carried out the probe without investigating the hate crimes that led to the killings: namely, spreading enmity between different groups on the basis of religion and creating disharmony (Section 153A of the Indian Penal code), which is beyond the scope of the present investigating agency so the guilty will never be brought to book.

The petitioner through her counsel, has asked for an impartial probe from an independent national agency and a complete ban on spreading hate videos of communal nature targeting a religious community and discriminating against it with an aim to encourage violence and creating divide. Immediate removal of all such videos from internet and WhatsApp has also been sought. “The Respondent no. 1 (the Centre) is duty bound to ensure that the service providers do not upload the said videos which are a form of hate speech encouraging others to indulge in copycat crimes,” said the petition.

The petition, mentioned in the first week of February this year, has also sought an inquiry into the “factors that led the accused – Shambhu Lal Raigar – to commit such a heinous crime, the factors and people responsible for spreading such hatred in the name of a communal myth/fiction being propagated as “Love Jihad”, being hate speech, stigmatising an entire community, by creating a myth that Muslim men are marrying Hindu women and fighting a ‘jihad’”.

Raigar, who has confessed to his crime and showed no remorse during the police questioning, not only mercilessly killed Afrazul but also got the gruesome act recorded on cell phone by his minor nephew. The accused can be seen in the video hitting with an axe the deceased who is repeatedly shouting “Babu Jaan Bachao” (please save my life). While the victim’s body is lying in a pool of blood, the accused says before camera, as if addressing a group of people, “Jihadiyon, ye tumhari halat hogi, yeh love jihad phailaoge hamare desh men…hamare desh men aisa karo, yeh tumhare har jihadi khyalat, jihad khatam kar do…(Jihadis, this is what your condition is going to be, you spread love jihad in our country, if you do this in our country, this will be the fate of each of you jihadi…).”

Speaking to the media, Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi, the junior counsel, said his client – through her petition – wants the “communal myth of Love Jihad” to be broken. “A stranger killed another stranger on the basis of a distorted perception. The case tries to go into the larger conspiracy of hate crimes,” he said.

Asked why the petitioner wants another inquiry when the Rajasthan Police has already probed into the incident and has submitted a charge sheet revealing that the accused created the plot of ‘Love Jihad’ to justify the killing and hide his illicit relations with a woman whom he used to call his sister and who had eloped with another man belonging to Afrazul’s village in West Bengal, Ayyubi said the investigation is “insufficient to unearth the larger conspiracy”.

“A national investigation agency will be competent to conduct a comprehensive probe,” he added.  The reason for seeking transfer of the case is aimed at access to justice – according to the deceased wife – in a free and fair atmosphere and the appointment of a special public prosecutor who is not related to the ruling party of the state and functioning under the supervision of the Court.

“This is particularly important since the Petitioner resides in West Bengal and is unable to be physically present at the trial. There is an atmosphere of mass hysteria at the hearings as is evident from news reports that orange flags were hoisted on court house building by supporters of the accused on the date of hearing,” submits the petitioner who further argues that the “accused was arrested and produced before the magistrate on 14th December, on the same day a group of miscreants belonging to some groups protested, shockingly and bizarrely in support of the murderer, Shambhu Lal.

“The protests by these miscreants were not at all peaceful and were clearly aimed at destabilizing the law and order situation and to incite violence, this is evident by the act of some of these so called protestors who climbed atop the gate of the District and Sessions Court, Udaipur, Rajasthan and unfurled some saffron flag due to which police tried to control the protestors during which about 12 cops were injured and only after more than 175 people had been arrested or detained by the police and that only after the Section 144 Cr.P.C was imposed that the situation showed some signs of control.”

The petitioner has also sought increased compensation from the state government for their failure to prevent the spread of communal violence. The Rajasthan government has given her Rs 5 lakh as compensation. She has also received Rs 3 lakh from the West Bengal government. But she said that the amounts are not sufficient for maintenance of her one daughter.



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