Adivasi lynching: Fact-finding team questions police role
A fact-finding team that probed the lynching of Christian Adivasis in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand has questioned the local police’s inaction and opposition parties’ silence.
“The actions of the local police raise several questions. While the victims kept saying that they were carving an ox that had died, the police filed an FIR against them and 20-25 unnamed persons of their village on charges of cow slaughter,” says a statement from the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (grand council of Jharkhand people’s right)
The team visited the place of incident April 14-15.
Earlier on April 10, a mob lynched to death Prakash Lakda of Jurmu village in Gumla district’s Dumri block. While the victim was an Adivasi, his attackers were men from the Sahu community of neighboring Jairagi village, says the fact-finding team.
Three other Adivsasis from Jurmu – Peter Kerketta, Belarius Minj and Janerius Minj – suffered severe injuries in the mob attack, said the team comprising several activists and representatives of member organizations.
The team’s statement said they learnt that the four victims, along with other men and children of their village, were carving a dead ox on the bank of a river that flows near their village. Local Adivasis and other communities (such as Ghasis and Lohras) traditionally eat beef.
The Jurmu villagers told the team that the ox’s owner had asked some of them to carve the carcass for meat and its hide. While the Adivasis were doing so, about 35-40 people from Jairagi attacked them.
The mob was led by Sandeep Sahu, Santosh Sahu, Sanjay Sahu and his sons, the team statement alleges.
While other Jurmu villagers managed to flee, the mob caught the four and beat them with sticks and led them to Jairagi chowk, about a kilometer away. The mob shouted “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jai Bajrang Bali” and other slogans and forced the victims to repeat them. They were beaten for not chanting loud enough.
After three hours of beating, the mob brought the four to the Dumri police station at midnight.
“The perpetrators met the police and left. Instead of immediately rushing the victims to a hospital, the police made them wait outside in the cold for around four hours. By the time they were taken to the local health center, Prakash had already succumbed to his injuries,” the statement says.
The doctor at the center confirmed to the team that Prakash was dead when he was brought to the health center and had probably died an hour earlier. He also told the team that the police in-charge Amit Kumar tried to force him to make an entry in the center’s register that Prakash was alive when he was brought to the hospital. However, the doctor refused and noted that Prakash was brought dead.
According to Kumar, the FIR was filed on the basis of the testimony of the police guard, who was sent to the spot on April 11 morning.
The police official was unable to recall the sequence of events after the lynching and there were several discrepancies between his account and those given by the victims and the doctor at the health center, the fact-finding team says.
It also lamented that only two of the seven perpetrators named by the victims were arrested by April 15.
The Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha has asked the state government to immediately withdraw “the false case of cow slaughter” filed against the Adivasis of Jurmu; and arrest all those involved in the mob violence and file charges against them under The Scheduled Castes And The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act, 3).
It also wants action taken against the local police for its delay in arranging medical treatment for the victims and filing of false case of cow slaughter.
Another demand is an interim compensation of 1.5 million rupees to be given to the deceased’s family and 1 million rupees to each of the wounded victims in compliance with a recent Supreme Court judgment.
The team has also demanded repeal of the Bovine Animal Prohibition of Slaughter Act as it is a direct attack on people’s livelihood and right to eat food of their choice.
The team wants to government to protect people’s right to food of one’s choice.
The team decried the silence of the opposition Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) that, it alleged, had kept quiet on the incidence.
“Rise up to the occasion and stand with the Adivasis,” the fact-finding team asked the opposition alliance..
The Adivasis of Jurmu told the team that the people of other communities, including Sahus, routinely ask them to take away dead bovines. Dispute over the consumption of bovine meat never took place amongst the different communities of the village in the past.
“This is one more incident in the long list of lynchings in Jharkhand. Over the last five years, at least nine Muslims and two Adivasis were lynched and eight more beaten by mobs in the name of cow protection or over other communal issues. The roles of the local administration and police in most of the cases leave a lot to be desired,” the team says.
According to the team, the latest incident is an attack on people’s right to eat the food of their choice, which itself endangers the right to life. “Beef is one of cheapest sources of proteins available to people in Jharkhand, who suffer from alarming levels of hunger and undernutrition,” it says.
In 2018, a mob that indulged in lynching Ramgarh and Godda were felicitated by Jayant Sinha, a federal minister, and Nishikant Dubey, a Member of Parliament from the BJP.
The current Lok Sabha MP from the constituency of Jurmu, Surarshan Bhagat from BJP, is yet to meet the victims’ families or visit the village. No BJP leader has even condemned the incident until now. “The silence of the BJP indicates its tacit approval of the incident. It is another example of the rising intolerance and repression against the Adivasis, Dalits and religious minorities under the BJP rule. It also exposes the plans of the party to polarise votes in the Lok Sabha elections on religious lines,” the team alleges.