After Lynching, Jharkhand Man Was In Custody For 4 days Before Dying


Seraikela, Jharkhand: In the 11th hate crime motivated by religious bias to be recorded in 2019, on June 17, 2019, 24-year-old Tabrez Ansari, and his two friends, Mohammed Irfaan (25) and Numer Ali (26), were accosted by a mob of villagers in Dhatkidih village in Seraikela Kharsawan district, south-east Jharkhand. 

The three were on their way home to Kadamdiha village after a family event. While Ansari’s friends managed to flee, he was tied to a pole and beaten with sticks for over 18 hours before he was handed over to the police. He died four days later. 

Ansari, a welder, was in Jharkhand to celebrate Eid and his recent wedding. He was due to return to Pune in western Maharashtra with his new wife, Shaista Parveen (21) on June 24, 2019, to resume work at an iron-fabrication unit. 

“They were on their way back from Jamshedpur… around 100 people stopped them at Dhatkidih village and asked their name… when they found out he is Muslim, they forced him to chant ‘Jai Shree Ram’, said Ansari’s wife Shaista (21), in her complaint to the police. “His two friends managed to flee but the villagers caught Tabrez and tied him to a pole... they brutally beat him the whole night until the police come to the spot the next morning. ” 

Factchecker has a copy of this complaint. Ansari’s friends Irfaan and Ali are still missing.

Acting on the complaint of villagers from Dhatkidih, police arrested Ansari for theft of a motorcycle on June 18, 2019. They however did not take into account the mob assault on him or his injured physical condition. 

On June 22, 2019, four days after he was remanded to judicial custody, Ansari was found unconscious in jail and admitted to Seraikela Sadar (district) hospital for treatment, where he succumbed to his injuries. 

"We have booked a case against unidentified accused following a complaint filed by the wife of the deceased, under relevant sections of the IPC for beating a man to death and for inciting communal sentiments," said Karthik S, Superintendent of Police, Seraikela Kharsawan district. He added that so far the police have arrested eleven persons involved in the attack. “We are trying to arrest more of the accused.”

This is the 15th hate crime motivated by religious bias to be recorded In Jharkhand--the second deadliest state for such violence--according to Hate Crime Watch, a FactChecker database that tracks these crimes from 2009 to-date. In the state, run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is also in power at the Centre, Muslims (14.53% of population) have been targets in 87% (13 of 15) hate crimes motivated by religious bias since 2009, Hate Crime Watch data show. The victims in the other two cases were Christians.

All 15 religious hate crimes were recorded after 2014, when the BJP resumed power in state elections. Jharkhand is set to go to the polls at the end of this year.

Nationwide, over a decade to 2019, 91.6% of 288 hate crimes motivated by religious bias– claiming 99 lives–were reported after 2014. Muslims, who form 14% of India’s population, account for 58.7% of victims in such hate crimes, according to Hate Crime Watch while Christians who form 2.3% of the population were victims in 14.6% of cases.

Hindus, 79.8% of the population, account for 13.5% of victims. In 203 cases where the perpetrators religious identity is known, 82% involved Hindu, the data show.

Like the latest case of Tabrez Ansari in Jharkhand, in at least 23% of religious hate crimes across India (65 of 288 cases), police acted against the victims, Hate Crime Watch data show. In 57 cases (20%) it is not known if the victims were penalised. 

Ansari's kin allege the police ignored his health condition and did not provide proper medical treatment. “Tabrez got no relief in police custody,” said an inconsolable Parveen holding the return train ticket to Pune in her hand. Weak with grief, she fainted on the morning of June 24, 2019--the day they were to travel--and is currently undergoing treatment, with intravenous drips, at her home.  

“The cops produced him before the court without providing proper medical treatment or even carrying out a requisite medical check-up,” she said. 

Sub-divisional police officer Avinash Kumar, however, denied the family’s claims: "We got a complaint from villagers of Dhatkidih accusing Tabrez of theft… We arrested him from the village where the villagers had kept him,” Kumar told Factchecker. “Acting on the villagers’ complaint we produced him before the court -- we also provided proper treatment before sending him to court. 

The station in-charge of Saraikela police station, also named Avinash Kumar, said that villagers had recovered a bike and some documents from Tabrez’s possession. The charges against Tabrez were framed on the basis of villagers’ complaint. Police recovered the bike and documents from the spot.

After assault turns to murder, Jharkhand police swing into action

A special investigative team (SIT) has been constituted to probe the matter, and two officers,  assistant sub-inspector Vipin Bihari Singh and station-in-charge officer Chandra Mohan, who were the first respondents on the scene, have been suspended for failing to convey the gravity of the incident to senior officials, superintendent of police Karthik S told Factchecker. 

The SIT will also probe allegations of police negligence in not providing medical treatment, bypassing the fitness test before producing the accused in court and allegations about the police arriving late despite being informed about the incident on the night of June 17 itself, Karthik said.

Police are also probing a video, which went viral, in which a group of people are seen forcing Ansari to chant Jai Shri Ram and Jai Hanuman. “The family had the video on June 19 but they only approached the police after [the victim’s] death. We have taken prompt action after the complaint,” Karthik said.

Director General of Police K N Choubey said the viral video would be sent for forensic examination. “Only after the forensic reports, it would be clear that villagers forced Tabrez to chant religious slogan(s) or not,” he said.

Aurangjeb Ansari, a local social activist from Jamshedpur, accused officers of the local police station of being ignorant of the incident. "The video clearly indicates that Tabrez was mob lynched for only one reason, his community,” said Aurangjeb. “People asked him to chant Jai Shri Ram and he repeated it due to fear. I have talked to Karthik and he has assured me that action will be taken against the accused."

“We have been conducting raids in Dhatkidih village to find the rest of those accused in the lynching but male members of households here have already fled the area,” police sources told Factchecker

The DGP said he suspects the authenticity of the video.

Tabrez’s lynching made villagers recall an incident from 14 years back in which Tabrez's father was found dead under suspicious circumstances. "Tabrez's father had gone to the forest area with his Hindu friends and then there was no news of him for two days,” said Lukman Ansari. “Two days after he disappeared, his body was found in the jungle. Lukman said police had registered a case against four friends of the deceased but six months after the incident, all four were found dead in the same forest”. Tabrez's uncle Mohammad Sadar Alam said it was murder but the police were not able to make any headway and the case was closed.

After his father's death, Tabrez had to become the family's breadwinner at the young age of 10. He had lost his mother when he was three and his sister was one, after which his father had remarried.

“Tabrez was able to bring his life back on track back after he started working in a fabrication workshop in Pune. He married Shaista on April 27 this year and had booked his return ticket to go back to Pune with her,” neighbour Lukman Ansari said.

"I cannot believe the charges of theft against Tabrez. He used to believe in hard work. We are witnessing a communal tension in the area and this incident is a result of that tension."

Correction: In 203 cases where the perpetrators' religious identity is known, 82% involved Hindus -- not 88% as we previously reported. We regret the error.

(Mishra is a Bhopal-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)

Seraikela, Jharkhand: In the 11th hate crime motivated by religious bias to be recorded in 2019, on June 17, 2019, 24-year-old Tabrez Ansari, and his two friends, Mohammed Irfaan (25) and Numer Ali (26), were accosted by a mob of villagers in Dhatkidih village in Seraikela Kharsawan district, south-east Jharkhand. 

The three were on their way home to Kadamdiha village after a family event. While Ansari’s friends managed to flee, he was tied to a pole and beaten with sticks for over 18 hours before he was handed over to the police. He died four days later. 

Ansari, a welder, was in Jharkhand to celebrate Eid and his recent wedding. He was due to return to Pune in western Maharashtra with his new wife, Shaista Parveen (21) on June 24, 2019, to resume work at an iron-fabrication unit. 

“They were on their way back from Jamshedpur… around 100 people stopped them at Dhatkidih village and asked their name… when they found out he is Muslim, they forced him to chant ‘Jai Shree Ram’, said Ansari’s wife Shaista (21), in her complaint to the police. “His two friends managed to flee but the villagers caught Tabrez and tied him to a pole... they brutally beat him the whole night until the police come to the spot the next morning. ” 

Factchecker has a copy of this complaint. Ansari’s friends Irfaan and Ali are still missing.

Acting on the complaint of villagers from Dhatkidih, police arrested Ansari for theft of a motorcycle on June 18, 2019. They however did not take into account the mob assault on him or his injured physical condition. 

On June 22, 2019, four days after he was remanded to judicial custody, Ansari was found unconscious in jail and admitted to Seraikela Sadar (district) hospital for treatment, where he succumbed to his injuries. 

"We have booked a case against unidentified accused following a complaint filed by the wife of the deceased, under relevant sections of the IPC for beating a man to death and for inciting communal sentiments," said Karthik S, Superintendent of Police, Seraikela Kharsawan district. He added that so far the police have arrested eleven persons involved in the attack. “We are trying to arrest more of the accused.”

This is the 15th hate crime motivated by religious bias to be recorded In Jharkhand--the second deadliest state for such violence--according to Hate Crime Watch, a FactChecker database that tracks these crimes from 2009 to-date. In the state, run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is also in power at the Centre, Muslims (14.53% of population) have been targets in 87% (13 of 15) hate crimes motivated by religious bias since 2009, Hate Crime Watch data show. The victims in the other two cases were Christians.

All 15 religious hate crimes were recorded after 2014, when the BJP resumed power in state elections. Jharkhand is set to go to the polls at the end of this year.

Nationwide, over a decade to 2019, 91.6% of 288 hate crimes motivated by religious bias– claiming 99 lives–were reported after 2014. Muslims, who form 14% of India’s population, account for 58.7% of victims in such hate crimes, according to Hate Crime Watch while Christians who form 2.3% of the population were victims in 14.6% of cases.

Hindus, 79.8% of the population, account for 13.5% of victims. In 203 cases where the perpetrators religious identity is known, 82% involved Hindu, the data show.

Like the latest case of Tabrez Ansari in Jharkhand, in at least 23% of religious hate crimes across India (65 of 288 cases), police acted against the victims, Hate Crime Watch data show. In 57 cases (20%) it is not known if the victims were penalised. 

Ansari's kin allege the police ignored his health condition and did not provide proper medical treatment. “Tabrez got no relief in police custody,” said an inconsolable Parveen holding the return train ticket to Pune in her hand. Weak with grief, she fainted on the morning of June 24, 2019--the day they were to travel--and is currently undergoing treatment, with intravenous drips, at her home.  

“The cops produced him before the court without providing proper medical treatment or even carrying out a requisite medical check-up,” she said. 

Sub-divisional police officer Avinash Kumar, however, denied the family’s claims: "We got a complaint from villagers of Dhatkidih accusing Tabrez of theft… We arrested him from the village where the villagers had kept him,” Kumar told Factchecker. “Acting on the villagers’ complaint we produced him before the court -- we also provided proper treatment before sending him to court. 

The station in-charge of Saraikela police station, also named Avinash Kumar, said that villagers had recovered a bike and some documents from Tabrez’s possession. The charges against Tabrez were framed on the basis of villagers’ complaint. Police recovered the bike and documents from the spot.

After assault turns to murder, Jharkhand police swing into action

A special investigative team (SIT) has been constituted to probe the matter, and two officers,  assistant sub-inspector Vipin Bihari Singh and station-in-charge officer Chandra Mohan, who were the first respondents on the scene, have been suspended for failing to convey the gravity of the incident to senior officials, superintendent of police Karthik S told Factchecker. 

The SIT will also probe allegations of police negligence in not providing medical treatment, bypassing the fitness test before producing the accused in court and allegations about the police arriving late despite being informed about the incident on the night of June 17 itself, Karthik said.

Police are also probing a video, which went viral, in which a group of people are seen forcing Ansari to chant Jai Shri Ram and Jai Hanuman. “The family had the video on June 19 but they only approached the police after [the victim’s] death. We have taken prompt action after the complaint,” Karthik said.

Director General of Police K N Choubey said the viral video would be sent for forensic examination. “Only after the forensic reports, it would be clear that villagers forced Tabrez to chant religious slogan(s) or not,” he said.

Aurangjeb Ansari, a local social activist from Jamshedpur, accused officers of the local police station of being ignorant of the incident. "The video clearly indicates that Tabrez was mob lynched for only one reason, his community,” said Aurangjeb. “People asked him to chant Jai Shri Ram and he repeated it due to fear. I have talked to Karthik and he has assured me that action will be taken against the accused."

“We have been conducting raids in Dhatkidih village to find the rest of those accused in the lynching but male members of households here have already fled the area,” police sources told Factchecker

The DGP said he suspects the authenticity of the video.

Tabrez’s lynching made villagers recall an incident from 14 years back in which Tabrez's father was found dead under suspicious circumstances. "Tabrez's father had gone to the forest area with his Hindu friends and then there was no news of him for two days,” said Lukman Ansari. “Two days after he disappeared, his body was found in the jungle. Lukman said police had registered a case against four friends of the deceased but six months after the incident, all four were found dead in the same forest”. Tabrez's uncle Mohammad Sadar Alam said it was murder but the police were not able to make any headway and the case was closed.

After his father's death, Tabrez had to become the family's breadwinner at the young age of 10. He had lost his mother when he was three and his sister was one, after which his father had remarried.

“Tabrez was able to bring his life back on track back after he started working in a fabrication workshop in Pune. He married Shaista on April 27 this year and had booked his return ticket to go back to Pune with her,” neighbour Lukman Ansari said.

"I cannot believe the charges of theft against Tabrez. He used to believe in hard work. We are witnessing a communal tension in the area and this incident is a result of that tension."

Correction: In 203 cases where the perpetrators' religious identity is known, 82% involved Hindus -- not 88% as we previously reported. We regret the error.

(Mishra is a Bhopal-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)

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