In India’s 6th Poorest State, Hate Crimes Pushing Families Deeper Into Penury


Haleem Ansari (85) and Sameeran Bibi (65) from Taljhari village in Jharkhand’s Godda district worry about the family’s next meal. On June 13, 2018, their 25-year-old son Murtuja was lynched by a mob from a Hindu village, Dulu, on the suspicion that he and another cattle-trader from his village had stolen buffaloes. Hate crimes are pushing victims into absolute penury, often forcing families to give up their fight for justice.

 

Taljhari village, Godda district (Jharkhand): Most days, 85-year-old Haleem Ansari spends his day worrying about his family’s next meal.

 

Every day, Ansari slowly pedals his old bicycle across Taljhari village, hoping someone will employ him for an odd job. Most refuse. “They look at me and say, this old man can’t do anything.”

 

This has been Ansari’s routine ever since his 25-year-old son Murtuja died, lynched in full public glare, allegedly by a mob of Hindu adivasi villagers on June 13, 2018. The mob suspected that Murtuja and Chiraguddin Ansari, a 45-year-old cattle trader, were stealing 13 buffaloes from their village.

 

The question spills over in his interactions with people as well, as it did when he met an official from the local district administration. Soon after Murtuja’s killing, Ansari made repeated requests and the official agreed to meet him. The official said the administration would give his family a poultry farm to manage, even a “colony” house (under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin). “I just told him, ‘Leave all that aside. What will I eat for lunch today?’”

 

Many victims of hate crimes and their families echo Ansari’s desperation in Jharkhand, India’s sixth-poorest state by per-capita income, with lower literacy and higher maternal mortality than the Indian average.

 

Jharkhand is also India’s second-deadliest state for religion-driven hate crimes, accounting for nine deaths, according to Hate Crime Watch, a FactChecker database that tracks such crimes. (Uttar Pradesh is the deadliest, with 23 deaths recorded.)

 

In this third story in FactChecker’s five-part series investigating hate crimes in Jharkhand, we explore some far-reaching consequences, beyond the obvious. Often, a hate crime pushes victims into destitution--with livelihoods snatched away and breadwinners dead. Meanwhile, the administration often looks away, offering paltry amounts as compensation.

 

In at least three of the seven crimes we investigated across six districts, the crime was linked directly to the victim’s profession itself, leaving the families too scared to resume the family profession. In some cases, such hate crime-induced poverty had forced families to give up their fight for justice.

 

‘I don’t know how to bring food to the table’

 

Murtuja was the sole earner in his eight-member family. Now, Ansari is desperate and lost. “I want to work but no one gives me work. I am finished,” he said, matter-of-factly.

 

Eleven months have passed since a government official offered his family compensation for Murtuja’s death.

 

The administration has hired Murtuja’s wife as a part-time sweeper in a local government school and pays her Rs 1,000 a month. Unable to sustain a family of seven on that amount, Ansari has been selling off family cattle. “Murtuja had bought cattle to trade, just before he died. We keep selling it, one at a time, and survive on that money.”

 

Across the village, Murtuja was known as a “forward” person. “He was doing very well for himself, everyone saw how he rose through the profession--starting with trading in chickens to trading in cows and buffaloes,” said a local villager, Aseemuddin.

 

Murtuja’s earnings had enabled his father Ansari to retire from his work as a bullock-cart driver. “I would do small-time farming in our fields but that was barely any work. We were satisfied with the income that would come in,” Ansari told FactChecker.

 

Murtuja’s violent death--his family alleged that his eyeballs were gouged out--has snuffed out the family’s dreams. “I don’t know how to bring food to the table. My hands tremble at the thought of what will happen to my family if I die today,” Ansari added.

 

After hate crime, a dilemma--justice or survival?

 

For 32-year-old Anita Minj, the legal battle to get justice for her husband Ramesh has become a part of her raison d’etre.

 

In August 20, 2017, a mob rained lathis (rods) and sticks on him and cut his leg open with swords after they found him and a group of fellow Oraon adivasis (indigenous people) eating beef. Instead of admitting the injured to hospital, the police first arrested Ramesh on charges of cow slaughter and took him into custody, where he died three days later.  

 

Since that day, Anita has been determined to ensure that the accused get punished. But now, a dilemma is weakening her resolve. Deep in debt with no source of income, and fighting a medical condition, Anita is having second thoughts.

 

“I am constantly thinking if I should drop this case. I can’t bear these expenses anymore, especially because I don’t have a source of income and the government isn’t helping at all,” she told FactChecker on a recent April 2019 day.

 

Each time she visits Garhwa town in connection with the police case, she has to spend at least Rs 500 on two-way bus fare from her Bargad village, 80 km and nearly three hours from Garhwa. She can barely afford it. Last year, doctors diagnosed a non-cancerous growth in her uterus, medication for which costs her Rs 1,200 each month.

 

Surviving on a Rs 30,000 loan from a private moneylender, Minj is counting each rupee. She must choose between staying at home and letting the case suffer, or attending court and stretching her meagre finances even thinner. “I have four children. Now, I can no longer afford to take care of them, so I’ve had to request family members to foster them until my financial situation gets better,” she said, adding that she wants them to be well-educated.

 

After the August 2017 lynching, she could no longer stay in the same house, being penniless and fearful of what Hindu villagers might do after her complaint got some of the attackers arrested. So, she came to stay with her parents. “But there is no respite here. My father is seriously ill, and we don’t have the resources to get him the treatment that is needed,” she said.

 

Grappling with a choice

 

In Latehar district some 100 km away, another family grapples with such choices.

 

The path to Arhara village is hardly a road--unpaved, largely gravel laid out in undulations. The breeze kicks up dust, covering the dry brown shrubs and trees growing from the cracked earth.

 

Amid this backdrop, 50-year-old Ajad Khan’s house stands out for its bright, turquoise blue walls. The walls are in contrast to the darkness inside--there is no electricity and the long corridor-like living room is dark, even in the afternoon.

 

Khan’s 13-year-old son, Intiyazul, was one of the two cattle-traders lynched by a mob of cow vigilantes in Balumath, 20 km from the village, in March 2016, in one of the earliest religious hate crimes reported from the state.

 

After assaulting the two, the mob hanged them both from a tree.

 

Khan remembers the incident only too well--watching helpless from behind a bush. “I had no choice, the mob would have killed me if they saw me,” he told FactChecker, smiling uneasily as he sat in his living room, bare but for one khaat (cot) and a chair.

 

For generations, Khan’s family had been cattle traders. “There is nothing else to do here,” he said.

 

Small-time cattle-traders cannot afford motorised transport. They often walk long distances, sometimes for days on end, taking cattle to markets, buying and selling them in villages. Khan said he had made big strides in the business, until an accident had left his left leg so weak he could barely walk. He is now house-bound, and unable to work.

 

So, Intiyazul, at 11, had started to help his father in his business. “He would try and balance his studies while working. Despite the pressures, he remained so good at his studies,” said his mother, Najma Bibi, 44. He dreamed of getting his family onto a much stronger financial footing, getting his sisters married and buying a bigger house in Balumath town.

 

“When he was still around, we would get close to Rs 1,000-2,000 per week. Now, our income is zero,” Khan said, his thin voice growing softer.

 

Following an accident that had left his left leg so weak he could barely walk, cattle trader Ajad Khan (left) brought his son Intiyazul into the profession. In March 2016, cow vigilantes assaulted 13-year-old Inityazul and hanged him from a tree in Balumath, Latehar district, when he and another cattle-trader Majlum Ansari, were on their way to sell cattle at a trade fair. Their son's death has left the family with no source of income.

 

The family now depend on subsistence farming on a small landholding in the village. “We try and barter some of our produce with local shops in exchange for oil, soap and spices. That’s how we make do most times; other times, people help,” said Khan.

 

“We are struggling to get our daughters married. We don’t have any money to get them married,” Najma Bibi added.

 

The state government, they said, has been absent or even complicit. They had had no sunwai (hearing) from any minister or official yet on their efforts to get support from the government.

 

The government reportedly offered the family Rs 1 lakh as compensation, but they refused. “A job or a wholesome compensation--something,” Khan said, when asked what they wanted from the government, “These days, a person dying in a manhole gets more compensation than what we got offered for our 13-year-old son being hanged.”  

 

This is the third of a five-part series. You can read the first part here, the second here, the fourth here and the fifth here.

 

(Purohit is an independent journalist and an alumnus of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, writing on development, gender, right-wing politics and the intersections between them.)

 

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

 

Haleem Ansari (85) and Sameeran Bibi (65) from Taljhari village in Jharkhand’s Godda district worry about the family’s next meal. On June 13, 2018, their 25-year-old son Murtuja was lynched by a mob from a Hindu village, Dulu, on the suspicion that he and another cattle-trader from his village had stolen buffaloes. Hate crimes are pushing victims into absolute penury, often forcing families to give up their fight for justice.

 

Taljhari village, Godda district (Jharkhand): Most days, 85-year-old Haleem Ansari spends his day worrying about his family’s next meal.

 

Every day, Ansari slowly pedals his old bicycle across Taljhari village, hoping someone will employ him for an odd job. Most refuse. “They look at me and say, this old man can’t do anything.”

 

This has been Ansari’s routine ever since his 25-year-old son Murtuja died, lynched in full public glare, allegedly by a mob of Hindu adivasi villagers on June 13, 2018. The mob suspected that Murtuja and Chiraguddin Ansari, a 45-year-old cattle trader, were stealing 13 buffaloes from their village.

 

The question spills over in his interactions with people as well, as it did when he met an official from the local district administration. Soon after Murtuja’s killing, Ansari made repeated requests and the official agreed to meet him. The official said the administration would give his family a poultry farm to manage, even a “colony” house (under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin). “I just told him, ‘Leave all that aside. What will I eat for lunch today?’”

 

Many victims of hate crimes and their families echo Ansari’s desperation in Jharkhand, India’s sixth-poorest state by per-capita income, with lower literacy and higher maternal mortality than the Indian average.

 

Jharkhand is also India’s second-deadliest state for religion-driven hate crimes, accounting for nine deaths, according to Hate Crime Watch, a FactChecker database that tracks such crimes. (Uttar Pradesh is the deadliest, with 23 deaths recorded.)

 

In this third story in FactChecker’s five-part series investigating hate crimes in Jharkhand, we explore some far-reaching consequences, beyond the obvious. Often, a hate crime pushes victims into destitution--with livelihoods snatched away and breadwinners dead. Meanwhile, the administration often looks away, offering paltry amounts as compensation.

 

In at least three of the seven crimes we investigated across six districts, the crime was linked directly to the victim’s profession itself, leaving the families too scared to resume the family profession. In some cases, such hate crime-induced poverty had forced families to give up their fight for justice.

 

‘I don’t know how to bring food to the table’

 

Murtuja was the sole earner in his eight-member family. Now, Ansari is desperate and lost. “I want to work but no one gives me work. I am finished,” he said, matter-of-factly.

 

Eleven months have passed since a government official offered his family compensation for Murtuja’s death.

 

The administration has hired Murtuja’s wife as a part-time sweeper in a local government school and pays her Rs 1,000 a month. Unable to sustain a family of seven on that amount, Ansari has been selling off family cattle. “Murtuja had bought cattle to trade, just before he died. We keep selling it, one at a time, and survive on that money.”

 

Across the village, Murtuja was known as a “forward” person. “He was doing very well for himself, everyone saw how he rose through the profession--starting with trading in chickens to trading in cows and buffaloes,” said a local villager, Aseemuddin.

 

Murtuja’s earnings had enabled his father Ansari to retire from his work as a bullock-cart driver. “I would do small-time farming in our fields but that was barely any work. We were satisfied with the income that would come in,” Ansari told FactChecker.

 

Murtuja’s violent death--his family alleged that his eyeballs were gouged out--has snuffed out the family’s dreams. “I don’t know how to bring food to the table. My hands tremble at the thought of what will happen to my family if I die today,” Ansari added.

 

After hate crime, a dilemma--justice or survival?

 

For 32-year-old Anita Minj, the legal battle to get justice for her husband Ramesh has become a part of her raison d’etre.

 

In August 20, 2017, a mob rained lathis (rods) and sticks on him and cut his leg open with swords after they found him and a group of fellow Oraon adivasis (indigenous people) eating beef. Instead of admitting the injured to hospital, the police first arrested Ramesh on charges of cow slaughter and took him into custody, where he died three days later.  

 

Since that day, Anita has been determined to ensure that the accused get punished. But now, a dilemma is weakening her resolve. Deep in debt with no source of income, and fighting a medical condition, Anita is having second thoughts.

 

“I am constantly thinking if I should drop this case. I can’t bear these expenses anymore, especially because I don’t have a source of income and the government isn’t helping at all,” she told FactChecker on a recent April 2019 day.

 

Each time she visits Garhwa town in connection with the police case, she has to spend at least Rs 500 on two-way bus fare from her Bargad village, 80 km and nearly three hours from Garhwa. She can barely afford it. Last year, doctors diagnosed a non-cancerous growth in her uterus, medication for which costs her Rs 1,200 each month.

 

Surviving on a Rs 30,000 loan from a private moneylender, Minj is counting each rupee. She must choose between staying at home and letting the case suffer, or attending court and stretching her meagre finances even thinner. “I have four children. Now, I can no longer afford to take care of them, so I’ve had to request family members to foster them until my financial situation gets better,” she said, adding that she wants them to be well-educated.

 

After the August 2017 lynching, she could no longer stay in the same house, being penniless and fearful of what Hindu villagers might do after her complaint got some of the attackers arrested. So, she came to stay with her parents. “But there is no respite here. My father is seriously ill, and we don’t have the resources to get him the treatment that is needed,” she said.

 

Grappling with a choice

 

In Latehar district some 100 km away, another family grapples with such choices.

 

The path to Arhara village is hardly a road--unpaved, largely gravel laid out in undulations. The breeze kicks up dust, covering the dry brown shrubs and trees growing from the cracked earth.

 

Amid this backdrop, 50-year-old Ajad Khan’s house stands out for its bright, turquoise blue walls. The walls are in contrast to the darkness inside--there is no electricity and the long corridor-like living room is dark, even in the afternoon.

 

Khan’s 13-year-old son, Intiyazul, was one of the two cattle-traders lynched by a mob of cow vigilantes in Balumath, 20 km from the village, in March 2016, in one of the earliest religious hate crimes reported from the state.

 

After assaulting the two, the mob hanged them both from a tree.

 

Khan remembers the incident only too well--watching helpless from behind a bush. “I had no choice, the mob would have killed me if they saw me,” he told FactChecker, smiling uneasily as he sat in his living room, bare but for one khaat (cot) and a chair.

 

For generations, Khan’s family had been cattle traders. “There is nothing else to do here,” he said.

 

Small-time cattle-traders cannot afford motorised transport. They often walk long distances, sometimes for days on end, taking cattle to markets, buying and selling them in villages. Khan said he had made big strides in the business, until an accident had left his left leg so weak he could barely walk. He is now house-bound, and unable to work.

 

So, Intiyazul, at 11, had started to help his father in his business. “He would try and balance his studies while working. Despite the pressures, he remained so good at his studies,” said his mother, Najma Bibi, 44. He dreamed of getting his family onto a much stronger financial footing, getting his sisters married and buying a bigger house in Balumath town.

 

“When he was still around, we would get close to Rs 1,000-2,000 per week. Now, our income is zero,” Khan said, his thin voice growing softer.

 

Following an accident that had left his left leg so weak he could barely walk, cattle trader Ajad Khan (left) brought his son Intiyazul into the profession. In March 2016, cow vigilantes assaulted 13-year-old Inityazul and hanged him from a tree in Balumath, Latehar district, when he and another cattle-trader Majlum Ansari, were on their way to sell cattle at a trade fair. Their son's death has left the family with no source of income.

 

The family now depend on subsistence farming on a small landholding in the village. “We try and barter some of our produce with local shops in exchange for oil, soap and spices. That’s how we make do most times; other times, people help,” said Khan.

 

“We are struggling to get our daughters married. We don’t have any money to get them married,” Najma Bibi added.

 

The state government, they said, has been absent or even complicit. They had had no sunwai (hearing) from any minister or official yet on their efforts to get support from the government.

 

The government reportedly offered the family Rs 1 lakh as compensation, but they refused. “A job or a wholesome compensation--something,” Khan said, when asked what they wanted from the government, “These days, a person dying in a manhole gets more compensation than what we got offered for our 13-year-old son being hanged.”  

 

This is the third of a five-part series. You can read the first part here, the second here, the fourth here and the fifth here.

 

(Purohit is an independent journalist and an alumnus of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, writing on development, gender, right-wing politics and the intersections between them.)

 

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

 

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