'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
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Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Dadri Beef Rumour Lynching - Observations after a visit to Bisara village on Oct 3, 2015
New Delhi, 05/10/2015
Team members: Bonojit Hussain (New Socialist Initiative),
Deepti Sharma (Saheli), Kiran Shaheen (writer and activist), Naveen Chander
(New Socialist Initiative), Sanjay Kumar (People’s Alliance for Democracy and
Secularism and New Socialist Initiative) and Sanjeev Kumar (Delhi Solidarity
On the night of 28 September, in a heinous instance of hate
crime Mdohammad Akhlaq a resident of Bisara village of Dadri in western Uttar
Pradesh was lynched to death and his son Danish brutally assaulted by a mob of
villager over a rumour that Mr. Akhlaq and his family had slaughtered a
calf and consumed its meat. Just before the lynching, an announcement was made
from the local temple to spread the rumour, within moments a mob constituted
itself and attacked Mr. Akhlaq resulting in his lynching.
Mr. Akhlaq’s son Danish has been in hospital since that night and despite
undergoing two brain surgeries his condition is still said to be critical.
We, a six member team of activists, went to Bisara village
in Dadri on 03 October 2015, the day when there were news reports that a thousand
women have been mobilized to prevent the media from entering the village. The
women pelted stones at media personnel and OB vans because of the
alleged’disrepute’ they were bringing to the village and for disrupting
We arrived in the afternoon and encountered some media OB
vans on the road leading up to the village. As we proceeded towards the
village, the visibility of police presence kept increasing. At one point we
stopped to talk to the police about the situation in the village and we were
told very clearly that the villagers were very angry about outsiders coming in
and they can’t really tell us what kind of reactions we might face from the
villagers. The police strongly advised us to not go in to the village and also
told us that if something were to happen then it would not be their
We managed to proceed to the village after speaking on the
phone to the village Pradhan,Sanjeev Rana, who sent someone to ‘safely’ escort
usto his house, where we met him and some other men from the village. After
that, we visited Mohammad Akhlaq’s house and met his family. We also briefly
attended a meeting of village elders called by the District Magistratewho upon
figuring out that we are not from the village requested us to leave saying they
are trying to resolve issues internally. In addition, there was some
interaction with men who were around.
1. Some Facts about Bisara Village
Bisara is a large villagein Western UP. It has an
inter-college, a market and the presence of many industrial plants in the
surrounding areas. A canal runs close to the village. The village appeared to
have a thriving agricultural economy. However, we were told that a substantial
number of men also work outside the village. The area has recently been
re-categorized from rural to an urban zone. It now comes under Greater Noida
urban administrative zone, due to which it is not going to have village
panchayat elections again.
The numbers for the total population we got varied from
15000 to 18000 people. 300 were reported to be Muslim. Rajputs (who mainly use
the Rana surname) are the dominant caste, owning most of the land. We were told
that there are also over 100 Jatav families, and approximately similar numbers
of Valmiki families. Muslims appear to belargely landless artisans.
Mohammad Akhlaq owned a shop in front of the village
inter-college where he repaired iron implements. Three Muslim households live
in the main part of the village, in a narrow lane behind village pradhan’s
house. Akhlaq’s house is one of these. All other Muslim families live in
another part of the village. The village apparently has an old mosque
(approximately 70-80 years old) and an Idgah. It is possible that before 1947
it was home to a substantial number of Muslim Rajputs, who migrated out to
Pakistan. We were told that the Muslims now living there are Saifis (a caste of
Muslim ironsmiths or Lohars).
2. Narratives in the Village
(a) The three village youth we talked to outside the village
near the canal told us in hushed voices that the meat in the Akhlaq’s fridge
indeed was beef (“Large hoofs, ears and white skin, it could only be cow!” was
their refrain). They all said they had heard it from others who had seen these.
They had little remorse over the murder.
These three village youth were Class XI/XII students in the
village inter-college. When we asked how and what happened. Their first
reaction was what happened was both “good and bad”. Bad because somebody lost
his life and good because by slaughtering a cow Akhlaq betrayed the goodwill of
the Hindus. The Mosque and the Idgah stands on Hindu land, despite the
benevolence of the majority community what Akhlaq did can be captured by the
saying “jis thali main khaya, usi main ched kiya”. These youths also strongly
asserted that “Akhlaq’s family will get new house and compensation from the
Government, what else do they want?”
(b) A man on a motorbike with milk cans argued vociferously
against media induced disruption of ordinary life. His refrain was ’our
children are unable to go to school and college’ and ‘an internal matter of the
village has been unnecessarily made into this big issue’. However, we did later
see two 7-8 year old girls in uniform with big school bags, though perhaps they
were coming from one of the private schools, or tuition. The village has a
Sarawati Shishu Mandir school, with a large new board, close to the inter
college on the main village road.
(c) The village pradhan and others emphasized on how the
Hindus have always cared for Muslims in the village. The pradhan said that he
had given Rs. 40,000/- from his own pocketfor the renovation of village mosque
because the Muslimcommunity did not have the resources to renovate it by
themselves. He said that other Rajputs of the village too had contributed. To
further illustrate this goodwill amongst communities in the village, he
narrated an incident of last year when the Rajputs from the village had sat on
a dharna in Dadri, after a Muslim woman (from the village, but married outside)
was killed in a road accident. Apparently, men from the village were still
facing a court case because of that protest.
When asked about what according to him transpired on the
night of the murder, the pradhan told us that he was in his farm house that
night, which is two kilometres away from the village. He claims that he became
aware in the incident only after the announcement from the village temple had
been made and the mob had already proceeded towards Akhlaq’s house, and by the
time he managed to reach the village Mr. Akhlaq’s was already dead.
According to him, only young men were ‘involved’ and elders came to know about
it after the murder.
(d) Relatives/ family friends of Mr. Akhlaq thought he
was targeted because theirs’ was a relatively well-off Muslim
family.Mr. Akhlaq’s elder brother in the meeting of village elders called
by the DM said that lumpenisation, everydayness of ruckus after drinking, and
petty crimes were on rise in the village for some time. But villagers had not
taken any action.
The DM in the meeting with village elders was trying to
impress upon them to disclose the identity of the culprits. His refrain was
those (young men) involved in the crime will tomorrow attack their own
villagers and families. He had allowed the media in the village these past days
because he did not want to create the impression that the administration was
trying to hide something. From next day, only those with the clearance of the
Commanding Officer (of the police), and whom Akhlaq’s family wanted to meet
would be allowed in the village. On some of us standing on the side, he asked
us to leave as this was an ’internal’ meeting.
The estimates of how many constituted the mob varied. While
the Pradhan said it was anywhere near 2000-2500 people; in the DM’s meeting two
different estimates emerged. One elderly Hindu man put the numbers at around
500 people, the DM himself referred to it as mob of somewhere between 500 to
(e) At a rather superficial level, most people we talked to
said that killing of Akhlaq is sad. But there was no visible sense of remorse
in the village. While they claimed it was an unfortunate event, in the same
breath people pointed out that it had been turned into a big issue by the media
that has brought shame and bad name to this supposedly “peaceful” 800 years old
(f) Leave aside any lack of remorse, the major reason people
were agitated is that the “media has only been focusing on Akhlaq’s death and
his family. It is not even mentioning the concerns of the “other side” (the
Hindus), ie; “Hindu youth being picked up randomly by the police”.
3. Our Observations
(a) The narrow lane leading to MohammadAkhlaq’s house is
barely four feet wide. It cannot accommodate more than twenty people at a time.
It is unlikely that the mob which attacked could be a thousand strong. The
heinous crime may actually be the handiwork of a much smaller number of people.
In fact, the talk of a large mob may be a ruse to ’normalize’ the crime, and
show it somehow enjoying a popular support. By all indications it appears that
while there were a large number of young men who were part of his mob, there
was a small group of men who actually murdered Mr. Akhlaq. The claim of a
very large mob is also often a ruse to prevent identification of individuals
involved under the obfuscated identity of thousands of people.
(b) The houses are so cluttered and close to each other that
it is impossible for Akhlaq to have butchered a calf in his house without the
neighbours noticing it. If he butchered it outside his house, then it is very
surprising that while he could secretly kill the calf, but was foolish enough
to be found with ears and hoofs, as said in the narrative of the village young
men we talked to. There is now a clever shift in the dominant narrative. It has
moved from butchering the cow to beef found in his house.
(c) A spontaneous mobs is not usually selective in their
attack,in this case Akhlaq’s brothers’ house right next to his and was not even
touched; in all likelihood the crime was not the result of a spontaneous mob
fury. The crime was the result of a criminal conspiracy, known to a few people,
but who were very sure that the people at large will not oppose them. The
immediate aim of the investigation should be to isolate these people, and give
them speedy punishment. Media has reported the existence of Hindutva organizations
active in the area in the name of ’cow protection’. Their role in the crime
should be investigated. In fact, on our way out of the village, we noticed a Scorpio
vehicle parked outside the village road on the arterial road, which had a flex
banner on the rear windshield, which read “Hindu Gau Raksha Dal” (Hindu Cow
(d) MohammadAkhlaq’s family is terrified and isolated. We
met his elder brother, younger sister, daughter-in-law of the older son and few
other relatives. Apart from the elder brother, none of them live in the village
and had arrived after hearing of the incident. They are worried about the son
(Danish) who is in hospital battling injuries from the attack and also for
their 82 year old mother who was injured.
We could not meet Mr. Akhlaq’s wife or his mother but
we briefly spoke to the other two women separately, but in the presence of a
woman police constable. They expressed shock and horror about how this could
have happened in a place where they have been living for generations. They also
said that hardly any neighbour or people they knew for long have come to offer
any help or condolence. They said they don’t want to live in the village
any more and feel scared just by thinking about what will happen when the police
presence will not be there.
According to them, the mob seemed large enough in number and
many were known/familiar faces. Mr. Akhlaq’s sister took us to the first
floor of the house where the mob had ‘found’ him ‘hiding’. The bricks that were
used to support the double bed were used to attack him and his son. There were
splashes of dried blood, broken rods, spilt over rice, a broken sewing machine,
an over turned fridge and charpoy; all left intact the way it was. We were told
that some people had most likely come to collect some evidence/samples.
Mr. Akhlaq’s sister told us ‘un logon ne usski biwi or maa ki izzat pe
haat dalne ki bhi koshish ki…’ (the mob tried to sexually attack
Mr. Akhlaq’s wife and mother). But circumstances and time did not allow us
to talk to the women more about it.
(e) Back in the village, the pradhan again brought up the
common narrative of peaceful co-existence. It was asserted that even during the
partition or Babri Masjid demolition or during the Muzaffarnagar communal riots
nothing apparently happened in this village. The strong emphasis on this
“history” seems to be ploy to put a question mark to any suspicion/narrative of
a planned attack that might arise or have arisen. This emphasis is also a
subtle way of putting the cause of the outrage/attack on the alleged slaughter
of a cow ie; Akhlaq’s house wouldn’t have been attacked if he had allegedly (or
rumoured) slaughtered a cow.
4) Brief Analysis
(a) The presence of approximately 300 Muslims in a village
of approximately 15000 people dominated by Rajputs, in itself doesn’t give much
scope for Hindu communal mobilization. So a rumour of cow slaughter becomes the
most feasible vehicle to mobilize a certain dominant agrarian caste on a Hindu
plank against Muslims in general. This is a similar trend of mobilizing a
dominant caste against Muslims that was also visible during the riots in
Muzaffarnagar in 2013.
(b) This particular incident is also not something that can
be seen in isolation just because it happened for the first time in this
particular village. There has been a concerted campaign around ban on cow
slaughter in India but more specifically in Uttar Pradesh. In a recent event
one person (from Sangh Parivar) has been caught red-handed in Azamgarh while he
was throwing cow meat in a temple. Similarly such patterns of event and rumours
were witnessed in Muzaffarnagar, in Delhi’s Bawana and Najafgarh area in 2014.
So, the narrative of rather peaceful history might be true on the surface, but
it does not suggest that this “first of a kind incident” of this scale could
have happened just as an“accident”because of “hot-headedness of youth”.
(c) Another fact, also common to other instance (also
observed in the Muzaffarnagar fact-findings), was women of the villages coming
out very aggressively against the police and media for their alleged
“sympathies to Muslim family and biases against the Hindus.” While in the
meeting with the DM about maintaining peace and identifying the culprits, there
were no women present at all. Here it should also be noted that as quoted in
The Hindu, the SP (Rural) Dadri confirmed that on Friday night Thakurs/Rajputs
held two meetings to strategize how to deal with media and its “one sided
Even while it is the work of a criminal conspiracy; the
context of the crime is purely political in the ’beef ban’ politicking of the
BJP. Many BJP ministers, MPs and others have tried to deflect attention away
from the enormity of the crime, by calling it as an ’accident’ (Mahesh Sharma,
Union Minister and BJP MP from NOIDA), or writing that ’lynching on mere
suspicion is bad’ (Tarun Vijay, spokesperson BJP), indicating that if the
suspicion turn out to be true it would have been OK.
1) Speedy arrest and bringing to book of all the men who
participated in the murder of Mohammad Akhlaq.
2) That Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav ensures the safety of
Akhlaq’s family and also of other Muslim families in the village.
3) That the Union Government take serious action against
Union Minister Mahesh Sharma and other BJP leaders for attempting to justify
this heinous crime and communally inciting the villagers further.
4) A criminal investigation of the role of Hindutva
organizations who have been operating in this area be instituted.
5) That Prime Minister Modi break his shameful silence on
this brutal incident.