In Jharkhand, Police Apathy And Bias As Fatal As Hate Crimes


When Sakina Bibi (second from right) saw WhatsApp videos that showed her husband Chiraguddin Ansari being lynched by a mob, she asked her son to rush to the police for help. The police turned up three hours later, by when her husband was dead.

 

Garhwa district, Jharkhand: An April 2019 incident in western Jharkhand reminded 32-year-old Anita Minj about her own ordeal.

 

On April 10, four Christian tribals were lynched by a mob of Hindu villagers when they were carving a dead ox in Jurmu village of western Jharkhand’s Gumla district. The mob then dumped the four on the road outside the nearest police station, where they lay for three hours, before the police intervened. One of the four, 58-year-old Prakash Lakda, died on the street outside the police station.

 

The next day, the police filed a case of cow slaughter against Lakda.

 

About two years ago, something similar had happened to Anita’s husband, Ramesh--the 37-year-old Oraon tribal was lynched by a mob of armed Hindu villagers, allegedly because he, along with a group of other Oraon tribals, had slaughtered a bull in Barkol village of Garhwa district on August 20, 2017.

 

It was not the lynching alone that haunted Anita. Immediately after Ramesh was attacked, he was taken to the police station--bruised, battered and bleeding--but not to record his statement against the alleged assaulters. Instead, he was arrested under the Jharkhand Bovine Animal Prohibition of Slaughter Act, 2005, for cow slaughter.

 

On hearing of the assault the next morning, Anita rushed to the police station. “I saw him in the lock up. He was still bleeding--his leg had a deep gash which had exposed his bone, his fingers were broken. He could barely even speak or stand up.”

 

Anita’s pleas to get him medical attention were ignored. Two days later, Ramesh died in police custody.

 

Across Jharkhand--the second deadliest state in terms of religious hate crimes--police investigations in such crimes are often characterised by callousness and partisan behaviour. This apathy can be deadly--FactChecker found at least two cases where victims’ families alleged that delay by the police had led to the victims’ deaths.

 

Since 2009, Jharkhand has accounted for 14 hate crimes motivated by religion and nine deaths recorded in Hate Crime Watch, a FactChecker database that tracks such crimes. This makes it the second-deadliest state after Uttar Pradesh (23 dead), and all incidents have been reported after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won general and state elections in 2014. This reporting happened on the eve of the recent national elections, where the BJP won 11 of 14 parliamentary seats in Jharkhand.

 

Nationwide, over a decade to 2019, 93% of 287 hate crimes motivated by religious bias--claiming 98 lives–were reported after 2014, according to Hate Crime Watch.

 

Victims in Jharkhand must contend with police apathy, often made more potent when combined with religious prejudice.

 

A day after the assault on Ramesh, Anita took food for him to the police station. “The policeman on duty asked me what it was. When I said it was dal-chawal and a sabji (vegetable), he looked at me and said, ‘Why dal-chawal? You should have fed him beef’,” Anita told FactChecker. Scared and disheartened, Anita was unable to ask the police to transfer her husband to hospital, to register a complaint against the assailants, or even to let her meet Ramesh. “I could not say a word. They would scream at me, throw swear words at me constantly. What could I even do--we were at fault, after all.”

 

The same evening, Ramesh was produced in a local court and remanded to judicial custody. The next day morning, on August 21, 2017, he died.

 

Anita Minj's husband, Ramesh, was assaulted by a mob of Hindu villagers, for slaughtering a bull. When she went to meet him at the police station and brought food for him, the policeman taunted her. "He looked at me and said, ‘Why dal-chawal? You should have fed him beef’.” Without timely medical treatment, Ramesh died in police custody two days later.

 

Parwez Shahid, an advocate at Garhwa Civil Court who is fighting Anita’s case, told FactChecker there is clear evidence pointing to police negligence and collusion. “He should have been transferred directly to the hospital from the police station. By not giving him medical attention, the police were clearly hand-in-glove with the accused persons,” he said, pointing to the serial numbers of the two first information reports (FIRs) filed in the case.

 

The first FIR, according to police records, was filed against Ramesh and 12 others on charges of cow slaughter along with rioting and outraging religious sentiments, on August 21, a day after the assault. It was only after this FIR that the police filed another one, against those who had lynched Ramesh.  

 

A few days after Ramesh died, Anita decided to check the FIR. “I was stunned--despite the mob having 30-40 people, the police FIR had named only 14 people,” she said.

 

So, widowed with four young children, bereft of the family’s sole earner, Anita set about making inquiries about the identities of those who had been part of the mob. “I started asking other victims who had been assaulted, eyewitnesses, locals, anyone who could know more about the lynching. I wanted their names to be a part of the FIR and decided that I wouldn’t rest until that happened.”

 

Six days later, Anita managed to name 34 people. “But the police refused to take heed. They said, whatever had to be done had been done already,” she said.

 

Two years later, Anita is still fighting the battle, with Shahid fighting the case pro bono. But her determination is now running thin, as crippling financial constraints and poor health bog her down. With no income, Anita has been forced to send her four children to live with different family members, and she herself lives with her parents.  

 

Despite numerous calls and messages, Garhwa’s Superintendent of Police Shivani Tiwari did not respond to FactChecker’s attempts to get her comment.

 

A Jharkhand Police spokesperson refused to comment on the case. “I am not aware of the specifics of this case because I haven’t looked at it. But there must be some solid reasons behind police action. We don’t let such negligence happen,” said ML Meena, additional director-general, Jharkhand Police.

 

‘Who do we blame?’

 

A similar story unfolded on June 13, 2018, in eastern Jharkhand’s Dulu village.

 

As soon as she saw the village pradhan (headman) running towards her house at 8 am that morning, 40-year-old Sakina Bibi said, she had a feeling that something was amiss. The pradhan confirmed her fears--her husband, Chiraguddin Ansari, 45, and another villager, Murtuja Ansari, 25, were being beaten up by villagers from Dulu village 20 km away.

 

Bibi was afraid of sending her sons to that spot, fearing for their safety. So she asked her eldest son, Imran, 21, to rush to the Deodanr police station instead.

 

What happened next left her dumbfounded, Bibi said, sitting in a plastic chair outside her house, barefoot. “When he went there, the police refused to intervene, saying they had no tel [fuel] in their car. So, my son gave them Rs 1,000 to fill fuel and asked them to go to the spot immediately,” she recalled.

 

Ansari’s 85-year-old father, Haleem, also went to the police station twice, only to be told that a team had already been dispatched.

 

By then, videos of the assault were streaming on WhatsApp, showing the two men being hit repeatedly and then stripped naked, strung over poles and dragged through streets. The videos also captured the mob trying to hoist Ansari on a bicycle.

 

Horrified, Bibi sent her son Aman, 18, to the spot. Aman said his father was struggling to breathe, bloodied and badly disfigured. “He was asking for water, but the mob refused. Instead, some people said, ‘We’ll feed him our urine.’ They were constantly saying ‘Maaro, saala miyaan ko maaro [Beat this Muslim man].”

 

Guessing Aman’s identity, the crowd turned on him, but he managed to flee.

 

The police finally turned up at around 11.30 am, more than three hours after they had been informed, according to villagers. By then, both victims had died.

 

Chiraguddin Ansari, who was lynched in eastern Jharkhand’s Dulu village while the police claimed they could not reach the spot because their car was out of fuel. His son gave the police Rs 1,000 for fuel, yet they reached three hours later, by when he was dead.

 

“He didn’t deserve to die. Had the police reached the spot in time, my husband would still be alive,” said Bibi. The 40-year-old keeps up with the conversation even as she breastfeeds her one-year-old, Mohsin, while her wailing three-year-old son Zayaz lies at her feet, tugging at her crumpled checked saree.

 

The incident happened just days before Eid 2018. A year later, the village continues to be angry and distraught. Some, like Bibi, are angry and lost, deep in penury. She has nine children and only her oldest son, Imran earns. “But, he also has his own family to take care of,” says Bibi, who was given a part-time sweeper’s job at the local school. For months, though, she says she has not been paid.

 

Others, like Aseemuddin (he wanted to give only one name), a local activist who has been assisting the family in fighting the legal battle, are more philosophical. “The police could have come in early and saved him. But maybe it was in his destiny to die. Should we blame the cops or kismet [destiny]?”

 

The police are clear--this was a case of cattle-theft, where villagers, angry at the theft, had lynched two “thieves”. Of the two, Ansari even had a criminal case lodged against him for cattle theft in the past, said Sanjay Janak Murty, officer-in-charge, Deodanr police station. Ansari’s family confirmed that there was a case but said it was from a long time ago.

 

“These two people were trying to steal 13 kaada [buffaloes] from Dulu village when someone from Bankatti village spotted the cattle and informed the Dulu villagers,” added Murty. He refuted allegations by the families of victims that the lynchings were influenced by the victims’ religion. “There is nothing communal about it, it was simply a case where villagers were angry at the theft. The religion of the victims and the accused had no role to play.”

 

Dulu village, where the origin of the hate crime lies, is remote and disconnected, being the last village of Godda tehsil. Most houses are made entirely of mud with each of them having cattle tied outside, along its walls. There is no electricity supply through most of the day, villagers said.

 

The population is entirely Santhal tribals, most of whom practice Hinduism.

 

Sonalal Murmu, the owner of the 13 buffaloes that were stolen and the brother of the main lynching accused, Munshi Murmu, said the police had framed his brother. “There were so many others in the mob. How did the police only narrow down on four people from the mob?”

 

According to Sonalal, the two victims were regular cattle-thieves. “When they were caught by villagers, the two confessed to committing previous thefts in the area.”

 

Sonalal, a farmer by profession, said the two had stolen 13 buffaloes from under his brother Munshi’s watch in the wee hours of June 13 when he had fallen asleep. He woke up and started looking for them, calling up relatives and acquaintances in villages around his when he got a call from Bankatti, saying that his cattle had been spotted.

 

“The two men were caught, assaulted and killed in Bankatti. How can they blame my brother, who was sitting here, for it?” asks Sonalal, a bespectacled man, wearing a sleeveless white vest.

 

Dulu shares little in common with Taljhari village, from where the two victims hailed. The tragedy, however, has made sure both villages share one commonality--a firm belief that delay in police intervention led to the two deaths.

 

“The police was informed about this very early in the day. Despite that, the police did not arrive anytime soon,” Sonalal says, pausing to look up and adding, “Had they arrived in time, the mob would not have been able to kill the two.”

 

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

 

Next: How Hate Crimes Destroy Old Friendships, Social Relations

 

(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.

 

When Sakina Bibi (second from right) saw WhatsApp videos that showed her husband Chiraguddin Ansari being lynched by a mob, she asked her son to rush to the police for help. The police turned up three hours later, by when her husband was dead.

 

Garhwa district, Jharkhand: An April 2019 incident in western Jharkhand reminded 32-year-old Anita Minj about her own ordeal.

 

On April 10, four Christian tribals were lynched by a mob of Hindu villagers when they were carving a dead ox in Jurmu village of western Jharkhand’s Gumla district. The mob then dumped the four on the road outside the nearest police station, where they lay for three hours, before the police intervened. One of the four, 58-year-old Prakash Lakda, died on the street outside the police station.

 

The next day, the police filed a case of cow slaughter against Lakda.

 

About two years ago, something similar had happened to Anita’s husband, Ramesh--the 37-year-old Oraon tribal was lynched by a mob of armed Hindu villagers, allegedly because he, along with a group of other Oraon tribals, had slaughtered a bull in Barkol village of Garhwa district on August 20, 2017.

 

It was not the lynching alone that haunted Anita. Immediately after Ramesh was attacked, he was taken to the police station--bruised, battered and bleeding--but not to record his statement against the alleged assaulters. Instead, he was arrested under the Jharkhand Bovine Animal Prohibition of Slaughter Act, 2005, for cow slaughter.

 

On hearing of the assault the next morning, Anita rushed to the police station. “I saw him in the lock up. He was still bleeding--his leg had a deep gash which had exposed his bone, his fingers were broken. He could barely even speak or stand up.”

 

Anita’s pleas to get him medical attention were ignored. Two days later, Ramesh died in police custody.

 

Across Jharkhand--the second deadliest state in terms of religious hate crimes--police investigations in such crimes are often characterised by callousness and partisan behaviour. This apathy can be deadly--FactChecker found at least two cases where victims’ families alleged that delay by the police had led to the victims’ deaths.

 

Since 2009, Jharkhand has accounted for 14 hate crimes motivated by religion and nine deaths recorded in Hate Crime Watch, a FactChecker database that tracks such crimes. This makes it the second-deadliest state after Uttar Pradesh (23 dead), and all incidents have been reported after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won general and state elections in 2014. This reporting happened on the eve of the recent national elections, where the BJP won 11 of 14 parliamentary seats in Jharkhand.

 

Nationwide, over a decade to 2019, 93% of 287 hate crimes motivated by religious bias--claiming 98 lives–were reported after 2014, according to Hate Crime Watch.

 

Victims in Jharkhand must contend with police apathy, often made more potent when combined with religious prejudice.

 

A day after the assault on Ramesh, Anita took food for him to the police station. “The policeman on duty asked me what it was. When I said it was dal-chawal and a sabji (vegetable), he looked at me and said, ‘Why dal-chawal? You should have fed him beef’,” Anita told FactChecker. Scared and disheartened, Anita was unable to ask the police to transfer her husband to hospital, to register a complaint against the assailants, or even to let her meet Ramesh. “I could not say a word. They would scream at me, throw swear words at me constantly. What could I even do--we were at fault, after all.”

 

The same evening, Ramesh was produced in a local court and remanded to judicial custody. The next day morning, on August 21, 2017, he died.

 

Anita Minj's husband, Ramesh, was assaulted by a mob of Hindu villagers, for slaughtering a bull. When she went to meet him at the police station and brought food for him, the policeman taunted her. "He looked at me and said, ‘Why dal-chawal? You should have fed him beef’.” Without timely medical treatment, Ramesh died in police custody two days later.

 

Parwez Shahid, an advocate at Garhwa Civil Court who is fighting Anita’s case, told FactChecker there is clear evidence pointing to police negligence and collusion. “He should have been transferred directly to the hospital from the police station. By not giving him medical attention, the police were clearly hand-in-glove with the accused persons,” he said, pointing to the serial numbers of the two first information reports (FIRs) filed in the case.

 

The first FIR, according to police records, was filed against Ramesh and 12 others on charges of cow slaughter along with rioting and outraging religious sentiments, on August 21, a day after the assault. It was only after this FIR that the police filed another one, against those who had lynched Ramesh.  

 

A few days after Ramesh died, Anita decided to check the FIR. “I was stunned--despite the mob having 30-40 people, the police FIR had named only 14 people,” she said.

 

So, widowed with four young children, bereft of the family’s sole earner, Anita set about making inquiries about the identities of those who had been part of the mob. “I started asking other victims who had been assaulted, eyewitnesses, locals, anyone who could know more about the lynching. I wanted their names to be a part of the FIR and decided that I wouldn’t rest until that happened.”

 

Six days later, Anita managed to name 34 people. “But the police refused to take heed. They said, whatever had to be done had been done already,” she said.

 

Two years later, Anita is still fighting the battle, with Shahid fighting the case pro bono. But her determination is now running thin, as crippling financial constraints and poor health bog her down. With no income, Anita has been forced to send her four children to live with different family members, and she herself lives with her parents.  

 

Despite numerous calls and messages, Garhwa’s Superintendent of Police Shivani Tiwari did not respond to FactChecker’s attempts to get her comment.

 

A Jharkhand Police spokesperson refused to comment on the case. “I am not aware of the specifics of this case because I haven’t looked at it. But there must be some solid reasons behind police action. We don’t let such negligence happen,” said ML Meena, additional director-general, Jharkhand Police.

 

‘Who do we blame?’

 

A similar story unfolded on June 13, 2018, in eastern Jharkhand’s Dulu village.

 

As soon as she saw the village pradhan (headman) running towards her house at 8 am that morning, 40-year-old Sakina Bibi said, she had a feeling that something was amiss. The pradhan confirmed her fears--her husband, Chiraguddin Ansari, 45, and another villager, Murtuja Ansari, 25, were being beaten up by villagers from Dulu village 20 km away.

 

Bibi was afraid of sending her sons to that spot, fearing for their safety. So she asked her eldest son, Imran, 21, to rush to the Deodanr police station instead.

 

What happened next left her dumbfounded, Bibi said, sitting in a plastic chair outside her house, barefoot. “When he went there, the police refused to intervene, saying they had no tel [fuel] in their car. So, my son gave them Rs 1,000 to fill fuel and asked them to go to the spot immediately,” she recalled.

 

Ansari’s 85-year-old father, Haleem, also went to the police station twice, only to be told that a team had already been dispatched.

 

By then, videos of the assault were streaming on WhatsApp, showing the two men being hit repeatedly and then stripped naked, strung over poles and dragged through streets. The videos also captured the mob trying to hoist Ansari on a bicycle.

 

Horrified, Bibi sent her son Aman, 18, to the spot. Aman said his father was struggling to breathe, bloodied and badly disfigured. “He was asking for water, but the mob refused. Instead, some people said, ‘We’ll feed him our urine.’ They were constantly saying ‘Maaro, saala miyaan ko maaro [Beat this Muslim man].”

 

Guessing Aman’s identity, the crowd turned on him, but he managed to flee.

 

The police finally turned up at around 11.30 am, more than three hours after they had been informed, according to villagers. By then, both victims had died.

 

Chiraguddin Ansari, who was lynched in eastern Jharkhand’s Dulu village while the police claimed they could not reach the spot because their car was out of fuel. His son gave the police Rs 1,000 for fuel, yet they reached three hours later, by when he was dead.

 

“He didn’t deserve to die. Had the police reached the spot in time, my husband would still be alive,” said Bibi. The 40-year-old keeps up with the conversation even as she breastfeeds her one-year-old, Mohsin, while her wailing three-year-old son Zayaz lies at her feet, tugging at her crumpled checked saree.

 

The incident happened just days before Eid 2018. A year later, the village continues to be angry and distraught. Some, like Bibi, are angry and lost, deep in penury. She has nine children and only her oldest son, Imran earns. “But, he also has his own family to take care of,” says Bibi, who was given a part-time sweeper’s job at the local school. For months, though, she says she has not been paid.

 

Others, like Aseemuddin (he wanted to give only one name), a local activist who has been assisting the family in fighting the legal battle, are more philosophical. “The police could have come in early and saved him. But maybe it was in his destiny to die. Should we blame the cops or kismet [destiny]?”

 

The police are clear--this was a case of cattle-theft, where villagers, angry at the theft, had lynched two “thieves”. Of the two, Ansari even had a criminal case lodged against him for cattle theft in the past, said Sanjay Janak Murty, officer-in-charge, Deodanr police station. Ansari’s family confirmed that there was a case but said it was from a long time ago.

 

“These two people were trying to steal 13 kaada [buffaloes] from Dulu village when someone from Bankatti village spotted the cattle and informed the Dulu villagers,” added Murty. He refuted allegations by the families of victims that the lynchings were influenced by the victims’ religion. “There is nothing communal about it, it was simply a case where villagers were angry at the theft. The religion of the victims and the accused had no role to play.”

 

Dulu village, where the origin of the hate crime lies, is remote and disconnected, being the last village of Godda tehsil. Most houses are made entirely of mud with each of them having cattle tied outside, along its walls. There is no electricity supply through most of the day, villagers said.

 

The population is entirely Santhal tribals, most of whom practice Hinduism.

 

Sonalal Murmu, the owner of the 13 buffaloes that were stolen and the brother of the main lynching accused, Munshi Murmu, said the police had framed his brother. “There were so many others in the mob. How did the police only narrow down on four people from the mob?”

 

According to Sonalal, the two victims were regular cattle-thieves. “When they were caught by villagers, the two confessed to committing previous thefts in the area.”

 

Sonalal, a farmer by profession, said the two had stolen 13 buffaloes from under his brother Munshi’s watch in the wee hours of June 13 when he had fallen asleep. He woke up and started looking for them, calling up relatives and acquaintances in villages around his when he got a call from Bankatti, saying that his cattle had been spotted.

 

“The two men were caught, assaulted and killed in Bankatti. How can they blame my brother, who was sitting here, for it?” asks Sonalal, a bespectacled man, wearing a sleeveless white vest.

 

Dulu shares little in common with Taljhari village, from where the two victims hailed. The tragedy, however, has made sure both villages share one commonality--a firm belief that delay in police intervention led to the two deaths.

 

“The police was informed about this very early in the day. Despite that, the police did not arrive anytime soon,” Sonalal says, pausing to look up and adding, “Had they arrived in time, the mob would not have been able to kill the two.”

 

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

 

Next: How Hate Crimes Destroy Old Friendships, Social Relations

 

(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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