In the early morning of 18th May, 2017, Sobhapur (Dist. – Saraikela, P.S. – Rajnagar, Jharkhand) witnessed the brutal torture and subsequent killing of Sheikh Naim, Sheikh Siraj, Md. Sajjad, and Sheikh Halim by a mob, on the suspicion of kidnapping children (‘bachchachor’ in local language). On the same day, Goutam Verma (age 27) from Nagdi village (P.S. – Bagpeda) and his brother Bikash Verma and friend Gangesh Gupta were killed in the East Singbhum district (Jamshedpur) due to the same accusation. From Md. Akhlaq in Dadri to Gangesh Gupta, and many more innocent people had died due to several attacks on Dalits and Muslims, throughout the country, and such incidents seem to be a part of bigger conspiracy against them. National Co-ordination of Human Rights Organizations (NCHRO) took initiative to find the facts behind these two heinous crimes, and requested Bandi Mukti Committee to join the fact finding team. Bandi Mukti Committee considered the request from NCHRO as of great importance and timely one, and decided to be a part of the team. Though the fact finding team was formed by joint participation of NCHRO and Bandi Mukti Committee, the members of NCHRO voluntarily carried out the responsibilities of necessary arrangements.
Initially, NCHRO fixed the date of 25th-26th May to visit the places. However, there was a pre-decided activity of rallying and deputation to the Jharkhand chief minister, protesting these killings, and thus, 27th May, 2017 was finalized for the visit. The team members on the part of NCHRO were – 1) Shamim Akhtar, 2) Abdul Mannan (state committee member of PFI, Jharkhand), 3) Aftab Alam (social activist). The members from Bandi Mukti Committee were – 1) Chhoton Das (General Secretary), 2) Bhanu Sarkar (member of state editorial committee), 3) Pradip Dashgupta, bachik artist (member of state executive committee), 5) Swapan Chatterjee (member of Bandi Mukti Committee, resident of Jamshedpur).
At first the team reached Tatanagar on 27th May. There is no hesitation to mention that due to the organizational weakness and financial constraints of Bandi Mukti Committee we could not perform fact finding in Bagpeda. However, we have come to know that PUCL, a national level human rights organization, executed a primary fact finding of Bagpeda incident. The members of Bandi Mukti Committee and NCHRO went to Sobhapur for fact finding on 27th and 28th May, 2017.
At the very beginning the members faced a transportation problem. Even if a car was booked in advanced, later on the driver refused to go to Sobhapur village, where one of the incidents took place. Ten days were passed since the date of the crime, but still an atmosphere of tension remained in the adjoining areas of Jamshedpur. We became a little bit offended as our plan stumbled, but later understood that there was valid reason for the driver to refuse to go there. Sheikh Siraj, who was among the four who killed in Sobhapur, was a car-driver. However, later on we were able to book another car after spending two more hours there. Overcoming the initial hurdles we started our journey at 2:10 PM in the afternoon. Still few problems prevailed, because of panic and fear. We were not confident enough to associate any local Muslim person in our team. We were all from a place which is outside the district and the state, and thus, there was no question of knowing the exact location of Sobhapur. Only Swapan-da among the team members was a person to whom we could rely. He was able to guide us to some extent, but it was impossible for him also to locate the exact position of the village. Finally, we were able to locate the village by taking help from the passer-by and few villagers passing by the road. After entering the village from the main road, we crossed the exact place of the incident and moved forward to further interior places in the village. We found that a meeting of RSS was going on there. We reached at the Muslim slum, where the incident took place in Sobhapur. While entering the village, we already witnessed only two policemen, who were posted there in a camp to provide ‘security to the villagers’. Few villagers gathered. When we were getting down from the car, they approached us and expressed their cordial welcome. After knowing that we had come on behalf of human rights organization, they arranged for our sitting even in this grave situation. They brought tea for us. Slowly they started to speak with fear mixed in it. Among the 254 villages in Rajnagar block in Saraikela district, 80-85 Muslim families live. It is better to say, that it was a small Muslim hamlet. Adivasis reside in the rest of the locality.
The description of the incident that was provided by the elders in the village (the names are not provided due to security measures) is as follows (though it was requested by them not to write these):
Few elders were preparing for the Namaj in the early morning. The rest of the village were sleeping then. Suddenly, they heard a huge screaming of ‘bachchachor-bachchachor’. A large number of people from adjacent village areas surrounded this small Muslim hamlet. The angry mob were threatening that the child-kidnappers are hiding in any of the homes in this village. If they were not produced to the mob then they will burn the whole village. Naim and their friends were chased and took shelter in this hamlet to save their lives. The car in front of the Masjid was its proof. Sheikh Naim took shelter in his relative Mortaja’s house. The elders in the village came forward and tried to calm down the angry mob; subsequently they made repeated attempts to inform the police. They tried for three hours to resist the agitated mob, and at the same time also constantly tried to contact the high-ranked (SP, DSP) police officials. In spite of this, very few policemen reached the place from local Rajanagar police station. They also played the role of silent spectators. In the meantime, the agitated mob put fire to the Indigo car that belonged to Naim. Even some part of Mortaja’s house got damaged by the fire. Naim, being tensed, rushed out from a room and took shelter in a toilet, covered by plastic. Few attacking mob, who were coming from the lonely hill situated in the backside, watched him. Panic-stricken Naim then entered a side-by home to save his life. The agitated mob attacked Naim, pulled him out from the home, and took him out of the village with constant beating. Before going out of the village, the mob gathered all stuffs and trade-materials of the home, and put fire to those by bringing them outside. They even destroyed the ashes, garbage, and burnt plastic by throwing them in a village-well of drinking water. Helpless Sheikh Naim, who was an animal-trader by profession, from his possession gave Rs. 48000 to the mob, and bargained for his life. He requested earnestly and repeatedly to the mob that he was not a child-kidnapper, rather he was an animal-trader, and even few customer of him live in this village. But, unfortunately, some of his customers started inciting the mob by saying – “they will be cleansed from sin, if they kill Muslims”. Everything were finished when police came after a long wait of three to three and half hours, and ‘rescued’ Naim according to their version and took him to hospital. The attackers recorded a video of torturing Naim and made it viral through the Internet. Among the other three friends of Naim, driver Sheikh Siraj and Md. Sajjad, alias Sajju, were killed in Sosomoli Padmanamsahi, and Sheikh Halim was killed Garo Pahari in Sobhapur, in the same way. The local villagers have showed us the burnt car of Naim, Mortaja and his elder brother’s home that are damaged by the mob-attack, the well of drinking water, and the toilet in which Naim hid to save his life but failed.
While conversing with the elders of the village and roaming the village with them, they felt a bit relaxed, and some of them shared their phone numbers for further contact. Later on, when we contacted them through phone, they recognized the team members, and provided positive response to our queries.
It was already very close to evening, and we had to visit Haldifokhar. Thus, we exchanged courtesy with the villagers and rode in the car.
We started from Sobhapur at around 5 PM in the afternoon to Haldifokhar in order to pay visit to the relatives of the deceased. While exiting from the village, we noticed a car with a flag of BJP was entering the Muslim hamlet. After forty minutes of driving we reached Haldifokhar, the village of the killed Sheikh Halim, Md. Sajjad, and Sheikh Siraj. The other deceased Sheikh Naim’s house was in Fulpal in Ghatshila. We confirmed the address from the people in local market before entering Haldifokhar village. After getting our introduction and motive they cordially arranged sits for us. The family members and the friends of the three deceased men gathered around us. Before asking them anything they started explaining their painful conditions to us. What we had managed regarding the three deceased men from Haldifokhar, is as follows:
- Sheikh Halim – We talked with his father Sheikh Kajimuddin. Halim has two daughters and one son. The elder and the younger daughters are ten and eight years old, respectively, and the son is only one year old. Sheikh Halim used to run a trade of scrap materials. He was known as a very helpful person in his locality. He did not have any criminal record in past.
- Sheikh Siraj – Amir Khan, his father, died just eighteen days before the incident of mob-lynching took place. We talked with Imtiaj Khan, the elder brother of Sheikh Siraj. Sheikh Siraj was the driver of Halim’s car. He was married just two months ago. We could not establish any contact with his wife, as she has gone to her paternal home. Apart from scrap-trading, he was also involved in animal trade. He did not have any criminal record in past.
- Md. Sajjad – His father Hasmat Ali was no longer alive. Md. Salim is his elder brother. Villagers took us to the house of Md. Salim. From him we came to know that Sajjad was married since 2013. Sajjad has two daughters. The elder one is three years old, and the younger one is of three months. Sajjad used to do plumbing works in Saudi Arabia, and for the last seven to eight months he was in home, after coming back from Saudi Arabia.
The family members and the villagers informed us that nine days were passed, but still no one on behalf of the Government came to their place to pay condolence. Even no one came from any political party and social organization.
The address of these three deceased persons is same and as follows:
Village – Haldifokhar, Police Station – Kuwali, Post Office – Haldifokhar, Block – Kotka, District – East Singbhum.
Next we met Syed Jabiullah, the Mukhiya of Haldifokhar village. He informed us that at the time of the incident the family members of the deceased came to him. He constantly kept on contacting SP (Police Super), DC (Deputy Commissioner) since morning. In spite of giving verbal assurance, they sent police after a long time. They were late for more than four hours. Everything was finished by then. He further told that it was impossible to gather thousands of villagers in such an early morning without prior planning and provocation. On the behalf of the three families three separate FIRs were lodged (29/17, 30/17, 31/17) in the local Rajnagar police station.
It was night when we finished the fact finding for that day. We all returned back to Jamshedpur. The next day morning (28/05/2017) we proceed towards Ghatshila by taking a train from Tatanagar, to reach Sheikh Naim’s home in Fulpal. There also we faced the same problem, i.e. the lack of local people’s contact. Initially, the drivers of the auto-stand adjacent to the Ghashila station could not recognize the village due to our mistake in pronouncing the exact name of the village. Then NCHRO called Mortaja in Sobhapur, and got the name of the village and the address correctly from him. The attackers had already made the video recordings of brutal torture on Naim viral through the Internet.
Sheikh Naim – His father’s name is Sheikh Mortaja Hajij. Sub-Mukhiya Salma Bibi is his wife. Naim was a father of two sons and one daughter. The ages of the sons are three years and four years, respectively, and the daughter is eight year old. The address of his residence is as follows:
Village – Fulpal, P.O. – Bonkati, P.S. – Ghatshila, Block – Ghatshila, District – East Singbhum.
After our introduction to each other, father Sheikh Mortaja Hajij and wife Salma Bibi broke into tears. Listening to that, a heart-patient and paralyzed mother of Naim somehow came outside, and she also started crying in pain of losing her son. It was impossible for us to converse with them in such a situation. However, at last Naim’s father Sheikh Mortaja Hajij started telling us few incidents. His wife Salma Bibi told us that in the month of Ramadan Naim went to buy cow for his trade-purpose, and for that he borrowed Rs.7-8 lakhs from others. The creditors are now demanding for payments. The younger son is suffering from Thalassemia, and he is supposed to provide blood from time to time. Expenses are there due to the medicines for mother. Salma Bibi, the sub-Mukhiya was awaiting for the dark days in future. Apart from explaining the financial burdens of the family, she also told – “If Sheikh Naim was to be murdered, then he should be killed directly. What was the need of such brutal torture of three-four hours? What was the need to make the video recordings of the torture viral through the Internet?” Sheikh Mortaja informed us that some senior officials from Jharkhand police along with DCP, SP came to him. He told us – “I didn’t allow anyone of them to enter our house. I told them have you come here to safeguard your jobs? My son endured three-four hours of brutal torture. He was murdered. You did not try to save him in spite of requesting you several times. Now there is no need of you. You may go now. Out of anger and pain I could have done anything at that time.” He further informed us that 7-8 thousands people came to Naim’s funeral. Had he been a child-kidnapper, would they come? While conversing with us he also told that none of the established political parties came to meet his grief-stricken family. We were the first ones. We also told that we are fighting against the RSS and Sangh Parivar’s agenda of spilling hatred against Muslims and Dalits. The members also assured them that they will try their best to provide legal help so that the deceased receive fair justice. On behalf of Sheikh Naim’s family FIR was issued to Rajnagar police station. The details are as follows:
Case No. 29/17, dated – 18/5/2017; U/S – 147/148/149/353/325/427/452/435/332/333/506/504, and 427/435/302/333/535/504/506 IPC.
When we were about to leave Sheikh Naim’s home, his elder brother told us while crying – “For the last fifteen years my brother is involved in animal trading in Odisha, West Bengal, and Jharkhand. If anyone is able to show any of his misdeeds, then I am ready to hang myself.”
- RSS and Sangh Parivar are exploiting the facilities of free Internet system to spill hatred against the Muslims and Dalits. In spite of this, even after the incident the hearty relation between the Muslim residents with adivasi neighbors is not hampered.
- These four persons were murdered by the false accusation of ‘bachchachor’ (child kidnapper). However, the families of the deceased inform the team members that there was not a single complaint of child-theft throughout the Jharkhand.
- The crime was perpetrated at early morning. The elders of the village were preparing for the morning Namaz. The rest of the village were still sleeping. Without the pre-planning and organized provocation of RSS and the Sangh Parivar in the background, a gathering of thousands of people is impossible.
- RSS and Sangh Parivar are systematically spreading their ideology among the adivasis. They are also gaining success in this. Far from the cities, the presence of ‘bhagwa jhanda’ and Hanuman Mandir in few footstep distances in the adivasi villages are the proofs of these.
Our particular demands:
- Judicial enquiry of the incident under the leadership of the judge of the Supreme Court.
- Giving necessary punishment to the perpetrators of such heinous crime.
- Immediately punishing the propagandist who are spreading hatred against Islam throughout the country.
- Inquiring the planned inertness of police and administration and punish them accordingly.
- Government job to at least one of the family members of the deceased along with necessary compensation must be provided.
- The Government must perform the constitutional responsibility of protecting life and wealth of the citizens.
The atrocities of the cow-vigilante groups:
- In early April of 2017, a cow vigilante group attacked a 55 year old Muslim Pehelu Khan in Haryana. The accusation against him was that he was carrying cow through the Alwar highway. He died due to the attack. Source: The Wire, 12.05.17.
- A cow-vigilante group attacked three persons near Kalkaji metro station (Delhi). The accusation against them was that they were carrying buffaloes in a truck.
- A cow-vigilante group attacked five men and a girl in Riasi district in Jammu & Kashmir. They were passing by a road with a cow.
- A train was stopped in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, and 20 cows were being taken by a cow-vigilante group. Later on, it was found that the cows were taken to a government-run dairy farm in Meghalaya. Police filed charges of robbing and rioting against the accused. Source: The Indian Express, 26.05.17.
- A cow-vigilante group attacked a man Allu Malavya and left him wounded near Ujjain town. The accusation against him was that he is a cow-trader by profession. Source: The Indian Express, 15.05.17.
- Muhammad Akhlaq in Dadri was murdered on 28th September, 2015, due to the false suspicion that he kept cow-meat in his refrigerator.
- Yuva Bahini was formed in the year 2002. The families that are married outside their own religion (Hindu girl and Muslim boy), are targeted by this group.
- Gulam Muhammad, a peasant in Bulandsahar, Uttar Pradesh, was murdered in May, 2017. He was accused of helping a Hindu girl in marrying a Muslim boy.
- In July 2016, a cow-vigilante group comprised of 35 persons attacked 7 dalits in Una, Gujrat. The accusation against them that they were reaping the skin of a dead cow. They were brought to Una town, and brutally lashed by the group there.
- In April, 2016, the dead-body of Mustan was found in Kurukhsetra. He was missing from Saharanpur. His father lodged complaint against cow-vigilante group.
- On 20th March, 2016, animal trader Muhammad Majlum (age 35) and a child Inayatullah Khan (age 12) from Latehar were beaten to death and hanged in a tree by a cow-vigilante group.
- On 18th May, 2017, Naim from Ghatshila was passing from Sobhapur area in East Singbhum district. A rumor was spread through WhatsApp that child-kidnappers are roaming around the area, and later on just based on that suspicion Naim was beaten to death by an agitated mob.
- On 16th June, 2017, few municipal workers in Pratapgarh were capturing photos of defecating women in the morning, in the name of Swachh Bharat Abhijan. Zafar Hossain protested against this. In the presence of councilor Ashok Jain, the furious municipal workers killed Zafar by beating him in front of his wife and daughter. Zafar Hossain was a leader of CPI (ML) Liberation.