As Children Watch, 3 Bihar Men Lynched. ‘Unfortunate’ But Not A Lynching: CM


Raju Nat (left), his nephew Bidesh Nat (not in photo) and Naushad Alam (40) were beaten to death, watched by people, including many children, on allegations of cattle theft. The police and the chief minister say this was not a lynching.

Paigambarpur/Pithauri (Saran district, Bihar): In the video, three men lie on the ground, face down, hands tied and dust covered, motionless while they are beaten, watched by people, including many children. 

Band karo (stop recording),” says a voice, and the video ends.

The three men in the video were identified as Bidesh Nat (20), his uncle Raju Nat (35), both scheduled-caste tribals, and Naushad Alam (40), a Muslim, lynched by a mob, who accused the trio of being cattle thieves, in this western district of Bihar, 70 km northwest of state capital Patna.

The murder of the three men--they had no criminal record, the police said--on July 19, 2019, is not in question. Seven people, including two women, have been arrested, but the state government and the police questioned the description of the lynching as such. “It was not a lynching,” Saran district superintendent of police Har Kishore Rai told FactChecker at the district headquarters, Chhapra. “Lynching is when people are killed after rumour-mongering. That was not the case here. The three had come to steal when a scuffle broke out.”

Definitions Of Lynching
“If a group of people lynch someone, they kill that person without letting them have a trial, especially by hanging, because they believe that the person has committed a crime.” Collins Dictionary
“A lynching is an unlawful murder by an angry mob of people. Throughout history, dominant groups have used lynchings as a way of controlling minorities.” Vocabulary.com
“To put to death (as by hanging) by mob action without legal approval or permission.” Merriam-Webster
“The act of killing someone without a legal trial, usually by hanging (= killing using a rope around the neck)” Cambridge Dictionary

Rai was echoing Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who was quoted as saying: “It is an unfortunate incident but should not be seen as mob lynching. The incident occurred when the three were caught red-handed stealing cattle. Angry villagers beat them up, leading to their deaths.”

This is the eighth such hate crime related to cattle in Bihar and the 133rd in India over 10 years to 2019, 98% reported after 2014, according to a FactChecker database that tracks such violence. Up to 74% of victims of such cattle-related hate crimes have been Muslim and 20% Hindu, including scheduled castes.

Asked about his department’s contention that the trio were cattle lifters, Rai said: “Yes, this is confirmed. We have recovered the stolen cattle and seized the van in which the buffalo and her calf were loaded.”

The family of the slain men accused the police of lying and demanded to know how--even if they had stolen anything--murder could be justified.

‘Why were they murdered?’

“Whatever the police are claiming are lies,” said Shailesh Nat, elder brother of Bidesh, who was engaged to be married in September. “And if they had done anything wrong, the administration should have been informed. Why were they murdered?”

Shailesh Nat and others from his family said his brother and uncle hired Alam’s van--all three lived in Paigambarpur village--to ferry two buffalo they intended to buy from Nandlal Tola, a hamlet in Pithauri village, 5 km away.

“Uncle had even paid an advance of Rs 15,000 for the buffalo (to a man called Motilal),” said Shailesh Nat, from a poor community whose livelihood is buying and selling cattle. “Only Rs 4,000 was due.” His aunt and Raju Nat’s wife, Kanti Devi (34), backed this account.

Raju Nat’s wife Kanti Devi (34) and her six children near their home in Paigambarpur village in Bihar’s Saran district. Kanti Devi is worried about their future. “How will I look after my children?” she asks. “I have no land to cultivate.”

FactChecker could not contact Motilal. He was not at Pithauri, and no one there appeared to have his phone number. Raju Nat’s mobile phone, the call records of which could have established that the two spoke, is missing.

“He [Motilal] had told my husband that he could come to collect the buffaloes anytime,” said Kanti Devi. “He had planned to go in the evening, but I told him to go in the morning. Hence, they left early Friday.”

Station house officer (SHO) Sujeet Kumar of the Baniapur police station told FactChecker no such deal “for sale and purchase of cattle” had been struck. SP Rai said the dead men had also stolen goats two hours before the lynching.

The three men left for Pithauri around 4:30 am, said Shailesh Nat. Alam’s elder brother Mohammed Azad corroborated the time and the fact that the Nats hired his brother’s pick-up van. “Around 4 am, Raju (Nat) called Naushad and hired his van,” said Azad. “Naushad left around 4:30 am.”

What happened next in Nandlal Tola is unclear. What is clear is that the trio was lynched.

‘We beat them in front of our house’

Azad said about 15 minutes after his brother, Raju Nat, and Bidesh Nat left, his brother called. “He said they were being beaten,” said Azad. “Within seconds, the call got disconnected. We kept trying to call back, but the phone was switched off. Within half an hour, we received news of his death.”

At Nandlal Tola, residents refused to talk to this reporter, but a local journalist, Abhay Kumar, shared with FactChecker a video he had shot. Abhay Kumar identified a man in the video as Mohit Ram, son of the main accused and Motilal’s neighbour Budh Ram.

“We surrounded and beat them in front of our house,” Mohit Ram, who had not been arrested, told Abhay Kumar. “In the morning, we informed the police and handed them over.” He did not say why the trio was being beaten.

Kumar, the Baniapur SHO, said the police got a call from Nandlal Tola at around 5 am. “We got a call from the locals, who said they had caught three cattle thieves,” said Kumar. “We reached the spot within minutes and found two dead and one barely alive. We immediately took them to hospital, where the third succumbed to his injuries.”

The police version of events, we found, had multiple timelines of the event.

Multiple timelines, cases against victims

While Saran SP Rai said the attack on the Nats and Alam occurred at around 4.30 am, SHO Kumar said it was 3 am.

“There is a Pandey tola adjacent to Nandlal tola,” said Kumar. “We talked to a few people there, and they told us they were woken up by a noise around 2.45 am.”

Two first information reports (FIRs) have been filed in Baniapur police station. The first FIR by the main suspect, Budh Ram, alleged cattle theft, and the second FIR by families of the three dead men against the Pithauri sarpanch, eight identified men, and 50 to 100 unknown persons under the Indian Penal Code, related to rioting, murder, and intentional insult, and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Budh Ram was arrested on Friday evening, along with Bhikhari Ram, Bhuban Ram, Tribhuban Ram, Dharmendra Ram, Anita Devi, and Prabhawati Devi.

“Prabhawati Devi and Bhikhari Ram [both of whom were beating the Nats and Alam] were arrested on the basis of an incident video that was put up on social media,” said Kumar.

This video shows three to four men beating the Nats and Alam, who are tied up and bleeding. The pink house in the background is Budh Ram’s, the police said.

Nats fear for lives, livelihood

The Nats are a scheduled-caste tribal community, who have been cattle traders for generations. About 15-16 Nat families live in Paigambarpur village.

Bidesh Nat’s father Gafoor Nat showed this reporter his backyard, where four buffalo were resting. “Our forefathers were in this business,” said Gafoor Nat. “We inherited it. We have no other means to survive.”

Almost every Nat house has cattle. Locals said they buy buffalo and cows and sell them whenever they find customers. Sometimes, they visit cattle fairs.

After the lynching, the Nats said they feared for their lives and livelihood and were scared of visiting villages to buy or sell cattle.

The lynching traumatised Bidesh Nat’s fiancee and his mother Lakshmi Devi (40), who had not eaten, had been crying and talking incoherently, said Shailesh Nat. 

The house of 20-year-old Bidesh Nat, who was lynched on suspicion of being a cattle thief, in Paigambarpur village in Bihar’s Saran district. “Our forefathers were in this business,” says his father Gafoor Nat, showing his backyard where four buffalo rest. “We inherited it. We have no other means to survive.”

Raju Nat had six children, three boys and three girls, and his wife Kanti Devi is worried about their future. “How will I look after my children?” she asked. “I have no land to cultivate.”

Alam’s son Firoz, an engineering student in Hyderabad, Telangana, may not now be able to pay his tuition. “The government must take responsibility for Firoz’s further studies,” said Alam’s elder brother Azad.

Correction: The story was updated to show that a call was made by Naushad Alam to his brother Mohammed Azad informing his of the attack, and not by Bidesh Nat to his brother Shailesh Nat as we said earlier. We regret the error.

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

We welcome feedback. Please write to respond@indiaspend.org. We reserve the right to edit responses for language and grammar.

Raju Nat (left), his nephew Bidesh Nat (not in photo) and Naushad Alam (40) were beaten to death, watched by people, including many children, on allegations of cattle theft. The police and the chief minister say this was not a lynching.

Paigambarpur/Pithauri (Saran district, Bihar): In the video, three men lie on the ground, face down, hands tied and dust covered, motionless while they are beaten, watched by people, including many children. 

Band karo (stop recording),” says a voice, and the video ends.

The three men in the video were identified as Bidesh Nat (20), his uncle Raju Nat (35), both scheduled-caste tribals, and Naushad Alam (40), a Muslim, lynched by a mob, who accused the trio of being cattle thieves, in this western district of Bihar, 70 km northwest of state capital Patna.

The murder of the three men--they had no criminal record, the police said--on July 19, 2019, is not in question. Seven people, including two women, have been arrested, but the state government and the police questioned the description of the lynching as such. “It was not a lynching,” Saran district superintendent of police Har Kishore Rai told FactChecker at the district headquarters, Chhapra. “Lynching is when people are killed after rumour-mongering. That was not the case here. The three had come to steal when a scuffle broke out.”

Definitions Of Lynching
“If a group of people lynch someone, they kill that person without letting them have a trial, especially by hanging, because they believe that the person has committed a crime.” Collins Dictionary
“A lynching is an unlawful murder by an angry mob of people. Throughout history, dominant groups have used lynchings as a way of controlling minorities.” Vocabulary.com
“To put to death (as by hanging) by mob action without legal approval or permission.” Merriam-Webster
“The act of killing someone without a legal trial, usually by hanging (= killing using a rope around the neck)” Cambridge Dictionary

Rai was echoing Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who was quoted as saying: “It is an unfortunate incident but should not be seen as mob lynching. The incident occurred when the three were caught red-handed stealing cattle. Angry villagers beat them up, leading to their deaths.”

This is the eighth such hate crime related to cattle in Bihar and the 133rd in India over 10 years to 2019, 98% reported after 2014, according to a FactChecker database that tracks such violence. Up to 74% of victims of such cattle-related hate crimes have been Muslim and 20% Hindu, including scheduled castes.

Asked about his department’s contention that the trio were cattle lifters, Rai said: “Yes, this is confirmed. We have recovered the stolen cattle and seized the van in which the buffalo and her calf were loaded.”

The family of the slain men accused the police of lying and demanded to know how--even if they had stolen anything--murder could be justified.

‘Why were they murdered?’

“Whatever the police are claiming are lies,” said Shailesh Nat, elder brother of Bidesh, who was engaged to be married in September. “And if they had done anything wrong, the administration should have been informed. Why were they murdered?”

Shailesh Nat and others from his family said his brother and uncle hired Alam’s van--all three lived in Paigambarpur village--to ferry two buffalo they intended to buy from Nandlal Tola, a hamlet in Pithauri village, 5 km away.

“Uncle had even paid an advance of Rs 15,000 for the buffalo (to a man called Motilal),” said Shailesh Nat, from a poor community whose livelihood is buying and selling cattle. “Only Rs 4,000 was due.” His aunt and Raju Nat’s wife, Kanti Devi (34), backed this account.

Raju Nat’s wife Kanti Devi (34) and her six children near their home in Paigambarpur village in Bihar’s Saran district. Kanti Devi is worried about their future. “How will I look after my children?” she asks. “I have no land to cultivate.”

FactChecker could not contact Motilal. He was not at Pithauri, and no one there appeared to have his phone number. Raju Nat’s mobile phone, the call records of which could have established that the two spoke, is missing.

“He [Motilal] had told my husband that he could come to collect the buffaloes anytime,” said Kanti Devi. “He had planned to go in the evening, but I told him to go in the morning. Hence, they left early Friday.”

Station house officer (SHO) Sujeet Kumar of the Baniapur police station told FactChecker no such deal “for sale and purchase of cattle” had been struck. SP Rai said the dead men had also stolen goats two hours before the lynching.

The three men left for Pithauri around 4:30 am, said Shailesh Nat. Alam’s elder brother Mohammed Azad corroborated the time and the fact that the Nats hired his brother’s pick-up van. “Around 4 am, Raju (Nat) called Naushad and hired his van,” said Azad. “Naushad left around 4:30 am.”

What happened next in Nandlal Tola is unclear. What is clear is that the trio was lynched.

‘We beat them in front of our house’

Azad said about 15 minutes after his brother, Raju Nat, and Bidesh Nat left, his brother called. “He said they were being beaten,” said Azad. “Within seconds, the call got disconnected. We kept trying to call back, but the phone was switched off. Within half an hour, we received news of his death.”

At Nandlal Tola, residents refused to talk to this reporter, but a local journalist, Abhay Kumar, shared with FactChecker a video he had shot. Abhay Kumar identified a man in the video as Mohit Ram, son of the main accused and Motilal’s neighbour Budh Ram.

“We surrounded and beat them in front of our house,” Mohit Ram, who had not been arrested, told Abhay Kumar. “In the morning, we informed the police and handed them over.” He did not say why the trio was being beaten.

Kumar, the Baniapur SHO, said the police got a call from Nandlal Tola at around 5 am. “We got a call from the locals, who said they had caught three cattle thieves,” said Kumar. “We reached the spot within minutes and found two dead and one barely alive. We immediately took them to hospital, where the third succumbed to his injuries.”

The police version of events, we found, had multiple timelines of the event.

Multiple timelines, cases against victims

While Saran SP Rai said the attack on the Nats and Alam occurred at around 4.30 am, SHO Kumar said it was 3 am.

“There is a Pandey tola adjacent to Nandlal tola,” said Kumar. “We talked to a few people there, and they told us they were woken up by a noise around 2.45 am.”

Two first information reports (FIRs) have been filed in Baniapur police station. The first FIR by the main suspect, Budh Ram, alleged cattle theft, and the second FIR by families of the three dead men against the Pithauri sarpanch, eight identified men, and 50 to 100 unknown persons under the Indian Penal Code, related to rioting, murder, and intentional insult, and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Budh Ram was arrested on Friday evening, along with Bhikhari Ram, Bhuban Ram, Tribhuban Ram, Dharmendra Ram, Anita Devi, and Prabhawati Devi.

“Prabhawati Devi and Bhikhari Ram [both of whom were beating the Nats and Alam] were arrested on the basis of an incident video that was put up on social media,” said Kumar.

This video shows three to four men beating the Nats and Alam, who are tied up and bleeding. The pink house in the background is Budh Ram’s, the police said.

Nats fear for lives, livelihood

The Nats are a scheduled-caste tribal community, who have been cattle traders for generations. About 15-16 Nat families live in Paigambarpur village.

Bidesh Nat’s father Gafoor Nat showed this reporter his backyard, where four buffalo were resting. “Our forefathers were in this business,” said Gafoor Nat. “We inherited it. We have no other means to survive.”

Almost every Nat house has cattle. Locals said they buy buffalo and cows and sell them whenever they find customers. Sometimes, they visit cattle fairs.

After the lynching, the Nats said they feared for their lives and livelihood and were scared of visiting villages to buy or sell cattle.

The lynching traumatised Bidesh Nat’s fiancee and his mother Lakshmi Devi (40), who had not eaten, had been crying and talking incoherently, said Shailesh Nat. 

The house of 20-year-old Bidesh Nat, who was lynched on suspicion of being a cattle thief, in Paigambarpur village in Bihar’s Saran district. “Our forefathers were in this business,” says his father Gafoor Nat, showing his backyard where four buffalo rest. “We inherited it. We have no other means to survive.”

Raju Nat had six children, three boys and three girls, and his wife Kanti Devi is worried about their future. “How will I look after my children?” she asked. “I have no land to cultivate.”

Alam’s son Firoz, an engineering student in Hyderabad, Telangana, may not now be able to pay his tuition. “The government must take responsibility for Firoz’s further studies,” said Alam’s elder brother Azad.

Correction: The story was updated to show that a call was made by Naushad Alam to his brother Mohammed Azad informing his of the attack, and not by Bidesh Nat to his brother Shailesh Nat as we said earlier. We regret the error.

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

We welcome feedback. Please write to respond@indiaspend.org. We reserve the right to edit responses for language and grammar.

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