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India: Jharkhand’s Adivasi lynched to death by mob chanting Jai Shri Ram

20 April

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On 18 April 2019, Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, comprising of several activists and representatives of member organisations, released the report of fact-finding inquiry into the mob attack on Dumri block’s Adivasis. The press conference was addressed by Afzal Anees, Bharat Bhushan Choudhary, Saroj Hembrom, Shadab Ansri, Taramani Sahu and Ziaullah.

Jharkhand’s Adivasi lynched to death by mob chanting Jai Shri Ram

On 10 April 2019, Prakash Lakda, a 50-year old Adivasi of Jurmu village of Gumla’s Dumri block, was lynched to death by a mob of men from the Sahu community of neighbouring Jairagi village. Three other victims from Jurmu – Peter Kerketta, Belarius Minj and Janerius Minj – sustained severe injuries due to the beating by the mob. A fact-finding team of Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, comprising of several activists and representatives of member organisations, conducted a fact-finding inquiry into the incident on 14-15 April.

The team 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. The adivasis and other communities (such as Ghasis and Lohras) of this area traditionally eat beef. Some people from Jurmu were told by the owner of the dead ox to carve it for meat and its hide. While the Adivasis were doing so, they were attacked by a mob of about 35-40 persons from Jairagi. The mob was led by Sandeep Sahu, Santosh Sahu, Sanjay Sahu and his sons. While others managed to flee, Prakash, Peter, Belarius and Janerius were caught by the mob and beaten with lathis. They were beaten all the way to Jairagi chowk, about a kilometre away from the place where the violence started. The mob chanted slogans of Jai Shri Ram and Jai Bajrang Bali and also forced the victims to chant the slogans. They were beaten for refusing to chant the slogans or not chanting them loud enough.

After being beaten for around three hours, the victims were dumped by the perpetrators in front of the Dumri police thana at midnight. The perpetrators met the thana 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 centre, Prakash had already succumbed to his injuries. The doctor at the centre confirmed that Prakash was brought dead to the health centre and had probably died an hour before reaching the centre. He also shared that the police in-charge Amit Kumar tried to force him to make an entry in the centre register that Prakash was alive when he was brought to the hospital. However, the doctor refused and noted that Prakash was brought dead.

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. According to Amit Kumar, the FIR was filed on the basis of the thana chowkidar’s testimony, who was sent to the spot early morning on 11 April. Amit Kumar 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 centre. Of the seven perpetrators named by the victims, only two were arrested by 15 April.

According to the Adivasis of Jurmu, 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 11 persons (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. This violence is also 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.

Last year, perpetrators of a mob lynching in Ramgarh and Godda were felicitated by Jayant Sinha, a union minister and Nishikant Dubey a Member of Parliament from the BJP respectively. 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 till 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.

Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha demands that the government immediately 1) withdraws the false case of cow slaughter filed against the Adivasis of Jurmu, 2) arrests all the perpetrators involved in the mob violence and file charges against them under The Scheduled Castes And The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act, 3) takes action against the local police for its long delay in arranging medical treatment for the victims and filing of false case of cow slaughter, 4) provides interim compensation of Rs 15 lakh to the deceased’s family and Rs. 10 lakhs each to the injured victims, 5) complies with the recent Supreme Court judgement on lynching, 6) repeals 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 7) protects people’s right to food of one’s choice.

Mahasabha also demands the opposition mahagathbandhan which has kept quiet on this incidence to rise up to the occasion and stand with the Adivasis.

Testimony of victims, doctor and ox-owner can be seen at https://youtu.be/yqJXrnYtCEs . The fact-finding report, doctor’s reports and photographs can be downloaded from https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Tfzq9Xvbr_pJCSk6kjVrE0izavKjjIYW .For more details, please contact Afzal Anees (9234982712), Bharat Bhushan Choudhary (7838001177), Saroj Hembrom (8987447623), Shadab Ansari (9835044441), Siraj (9939819763), Taramani Sahu (9430742215) or Ziaullah (7979852347) or write at jharkhand.janadhikar.mahasabha[at]gmail.com