Dear Chairperson Justice H.L.Dattu and Members of the Commission,
I write to draw your attention to the horrific case of lynching of a twelve year old Muslim child Imtiyaz Khan of Arhara village and Majlum a 32 year old cattle trader of Nawadah village of Balumath block, Latehar district in the state of Jharkhand. Their two bodies, with marks which are witness to the terrible beatings they received were found hanging from a tree in the early morning of March 18. They were involved in the cattle trade and were taking 8 cattle to a cattle fair in the district when they were stopped, beaten and lynched. Eight people have been arrested.
On March 21, along with a delegation of the CPI(M), I had met the families of the victims and also people from all communities who are resident in the villages including the elected panchayat representatives. The delegation had also met the Chief Minister and the Honble Governor. The fundamental right of an Indian citizen to peacefully follow his/her chosen profession within the framework of the law, has been brutally violated. The basic right to life has been destroyed. It is a case not just of two persons being hanged to death by a lynch mob, but the constitution of India itself that is being hanged. This is a case which requires the direct intervention of the National Human Rights Commission, therefore this memorandum to you.
1. The police and administration are deliberately running a misleading campaign that the murder was a case of robbery by cattle thieves and that there was a personal motive which was the basis for the murder. In fact there is no evidence whatsoever of any personal dispute. A month or so ago Majlum was threatened by a group of cow protection vigilantes that he should give up the cattle trade or he would face the consequences. The angle of personal dispute being propagated by the administration is to protect and defend these groups of so- called " cow protectors" who are targeting minority communities on the issue.
2. The context of the lynchings is the aggressive campaign being run in the State of Jharkhand as in other parts of India, by outfits set up in the name of cow protection. There have been several cases where Muslim cattle traders have been targeted by the groups and violence perpetrated on them. Just two days after the Balumath incident there was another incident in Kalsmar block in Bokaro district. Last year, during Eid celebrations, a Muslim in Doranda, Ranchi district was burnt to death on the suspicion that he was smuggling cows. It was later found that he was transporting goods for his daughter’s wedding. No one has been arrested in that case. These few examples are mentioned only to make the point that the Government is well aware of the activities of the so-called cow protection committees.
3. In both villages where there are tribal sarpanches there has never been a single case of communal tension. However, in the surrounding areas, groups functioning in the name of different organisations affiliated to the Hindutva ideology have been extremely active in spreading communal poison on the issue of cow protection. In the last two years, camps have been organized in the area by various outfits in the name of cow protection which are designed to target Muslims involved in the legal cattle trade. For several months after a Muslim boy from Murpa village and a Hindu girl eloped, the Hindutva groups imposed a social boycott on the Muslim community in the village and neighboring areas.
4. In Balumath there is a Gau Raksha Samity being run by one Suresh Ram who has several cases against him for attacking Muslim cattle traders. It is reported that some of those involved in this case have links with his organization. It is also reported that those involved in the case are regulars in the various meetings, camps run by the various cow protection samity’s in the district. The main accused in the present case has also several cases against him. This is not to say that the activities of the committees are illegal per se, but there is sufficient evidence of the links between the killers and the so-called cow protection committee activities.
5. The question naturally arises, why did the police and administration deliberately direct attention away from these links in their own investigation, reflected in their public statements? The entire credibility of the current investigations is undermined. It is for this reason that a demand has been made by the family members, which we also endorse, to handover the investigation to an impartial central agency, as justice cannot be expected if the inquiry continues under the local police.
6. It is also extremely unfortunate that on March 18, when the lynched bodies were found and taken to the administration headquarters, the police misbehaved with the crowd. There were several round of police firing in the air to disperse the crowd. What is worse is that the local Chandwa police station in charge used highly objectionable communally driven hate speech against the brother Afzal, of the victim Majlum. No action has been taken against him.
7. Both families are very poor. Majlum leaves behind a wife Saira Bibi and five small children, four of them little girls. They have no land. Saira herself is the only daughter of aged parents who were being supported by Majlum. Thus two families have been deprived of their sole breadwinner, apart from the terrible trauma of the killing.
8. The child Imtiyaz was also the main support of his family. The tragedy was that his father Azad Khan met with an accident a few years ago. This has disabled him and he is unable to walk long distances which is what is required to herd the cattle to the various cattle fairs. This job was taken over the Imtiyaz. The killers did not spare the child, his broken body is testimony to the brutality he faced t the hands of his killers.
9. Instead of reaching out to the families which would also bring confidence to others in the area, the Jharkhand duty utterly failed in its duty. Shockingly, the Chief Minister made a statement that “cattle smugglers are active in the area” which served to justify the horrendous attack. As the victim child’s mother said “ this is a total lie. But even if my boy was a cattle smuggler does that mean that they can hang him?”
10. After our delegation met the Chief Minister he assured that the Government would give compensation to the families. But later, he announced a paltry sum of just one lakh rupees each for the families which is adding insult to injury. Clearly the Government must ensure adequate compensation and employment to at least one parent of Imtiyaz and to the wife of Majlum, if they are not to become destitute.
It is for these reasons that I thought it imperative to request your intervention to take up the issues involved and help to bring justice to the victims of this terrible crime and also so as to send a strong message that violations of basic human rights will not be tolerated.
N.B. The members of the delegation were : Brinda Karat, G.K.Bakshi (Jharkhand State Secretary CPI(M), member Central Committee ) Prakash Viplavi, Sanjay Paswan, Praful Linda, Suphal Mahto (all members CPI(M) State Secretariat, Jharkhand)