In an incident shockingly reminiscent of the Dadri lynching, a 12-year-old Muslim boy and a Muslim man herding eight buffaloes on their way to a Friday market were beaten up and hanged to death from a tree by suspected cattle-protection vigilantes. The initial report and photographers were pasted on facebook by Ashif Nawaz. The double murders of the two Muslims took place in Balumath, Latehar district of Jharkhand yesterday.
Reportedly, these young men were cattle traders and were on their way to a market when they were killed. The incident happened within 100 kms of the state capital of Ranchi and is closely reminiscent of the Dadri lynching in early September 2015. It is reported that it is not the first time that Muslim cattle traders in the area have been targeted. Despite several by the local people, the police and the BJP state government have failed in protecting the minorities engaged in this trade.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued a statement condemning the incident. This horrible incident is a result of the sustained communal campaign conducted by the Hindutva outfits, the statement says. It demanded that the Jharkhand police must immediately arrest the culprits and bring them to book. The BJP government in Jharkhand is duty bound to crack down against all those indulging in such criminal activities and also ensure protection of the minorities, the statement added.
The Times of India reports that, "The manner of their hanging showed that the assailants were led by extreme hatred," said Latehar SP Anoop Birthary. Local MLA from the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), Prakash Ram claimed that Hindu radicals were behind the killings. Reports said villagers who protested the deaths claimed the victims were targeted as they were cattle traders. Birthary, however, did not identify the assailants. "We are gathering leads to verify whether personal or business enmity led to the murder or it was due to some other motive. The buffaloes were freed. It is yet to be known if the buffaloes were taken away by the assailants or they strayed into the forest," Birthary said.
The hanging sparked protests by people in Jhabbar village that turned violent when police tried to take down the bodies. The situation poses a serious political and law and order challenge for the BJP government in Jharkhand. In the case of Dadri case when a Muslim man was killed over rumours of beef eating, BJP had said law and order was under the SP government.
But in the Jharkhand incident, the buck stops with the state and central leadership. SDO Kamleshwar Narayan and six cops were injured when villagers threw stones at officials who arrived in the morning to manage the situation and ensure that it did not take a communal turn. Injuries to senior officials forced police to fire in the air and lathi charge the villagers.
Sources said protesting villagers have periodically claimed that assailants have targeted them in the past because they are engaged in cattle trade. "Four months ago, a group of men tried to kill a cattle trader in Gomia village of Balumath. The man managed to escape," Latehar MLA Prakash Ram said.
Local MLA Prakash Ram from the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) party led by former BJP member Babulal Marandi alleged a group of Hindu radicals was responsible for the attack on the cattle traders. "They are supported by the police who do not act against them," Ram said.
The MLA's claims appeared to tally with statements of villagers who blocked Latehar-Chatra National Highway after the killings. An FIR was lodged against unknown persons for the murder and another FIR was lodged against unknown persons.