The family of a 48-year-old man whose body was to be exhumed to ascertain the cause of his death, which happened at the time of the riots in Muzaffarnagar, has alleged that the administration was trying to cover up the issue and shield the accused by delaying matters.

Mehruddinwas found hanging in a cattle shed owned by a Jat family during the riots in Muzaffarnagar’s Phugana police station area.

The decision to exhume his body was taken by the Special Investigation Cell (SIC) constituted by the State government.

However, the administration is yet to act. Delay in exhumation could lead to loss of evidence.

Mehruddin’s son Fayyaz, who lives in Punjab with his brothers, said his family was living in fear due to the delay, while expressing reservations on the administration’s intentions. He alleged that village headman Ram Chandra and another Jat family forced other villagers to bury Mehruddin’s body without an autopsy.

Villagers and family members claimed that Mehruddin was hanged by rioters and Ram Chandra and a few Jats, who claimed they had the support of local BJP politicians, told them not to inform anybody. The police were not informed immediately but a murder case was registered on a complaint filed by Lucknow-based activist Rajeev Yadav on September 29. The investigation was subsequently handed over to the SIC and statements of three witnesses were video-recorded by the complainant.

Mr. Chandra dismissed all allegations saying that Mehruddin died a natural death.

“I helped Muslims during their hour of need. Now this is merely an attempt to defame me. If they want to dig out the body they are welcome. When have I stopped them? Would I risk going to jail and protect the killers if he was in fact killed? ”

Budhana Sub-Divisional Magistrate Manish Kumar Sharma said the exhumation was only postponed and would be conducted in a few days. He, however, did not respond to The Hindu’s queries on the delay. Asked if the administration was under any sort of pressure from the local communities as alleged by the victim’s family, he said “it is not in my knowledge.”

Mr. Yadav, the complainant in the case, said he would file an application demanding that the call data of the local SHO and the SDM be brought under the ambit of the probe. He alleged that the officials were trying to shield the accused. “It seems like the officials have special interest in the case,” he said.