Branded culprits, proven victims: one year since the Dadri lynching

Updated - November 17, 2021 02:36 am IST

Published - September 28, 2016 05:26 pm IST

National debate triggered by the killing continues. Here are the key events that followed the lynching.

On September 28, 2015, 50-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched in Bishara village near Dadri, a town in Uttar Pradesh’s Gautam Buddh Nagar district, for allegedly eating beef during Eid and storing it for later consumption. His 22-year-old son Danish Saifi was brutally beaten up.

Almost a year later, officials investigating the case have concluded that there is no evidence that a cow was ever slaughtered by Akhlaq and his family, and are preparing to close the probe.

But the chain of events and the national debate triggered by the killing continues. Here are the key events that followed the lynching:

At the Centre and in the State

The Uttar Pradesh government ordered a probe into the incident. State Chief Secretary Alok Ranjan promised the probe would be completed immediately.

Even as various political parties condemned the incident, Union Minister Mahesh Sharma described the lynching as an “accident”. He said no “communal colour” should be given to it.

Two arrests, 2 VIP visits and attack on media On October 3, 2015, two key persons — Vishal, son of Sanjay Rana, a local BJP leader associated with the party for about two decades and Shivam — were arrested along with six others in connection with the case. Akhlaq’s family told the local administration that it was Vishal who coerced the priest of the local temple to announce that a cow was slaughtered in Akhlaq’s house and that his family was eating beef.

Despite prohibitory orders, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visited Dadri that day. Armed with stones, several hundreds of agitated village women took to the streets and protested against what they allege to be “one-sided media coverage” and abused mediapersons and politicians.

Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha offered help to the family of Akhlaq, whose elder son Mohammad Sartaj Saifi is a technician with the IAF. The Air Chief told the media that he was looking to move them to a secure IAF locality.

On October 5, 2015, the National Commission for Minorities served a notice on the district magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar on the incident.

Motive for killing not fixed On October 6, 2016, in a detailed report (accessed by The Hindu) sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the U.P. government refrained from mentioning any reason for the murder of Akhlaq. Without mentioning the word “beef or cow slaughter,” the State government said that there were allegations that Akhlaq was killed for consuming pratibandhit pashu ka maans (meat of an animal, whose slaughter is banned).

Sartaj denied reports of his family members moving out of the village to a secure IAF area in the national capital.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke his silence on the incident only on October 8, 2015. “The country has to stay united, only communal harmony and brotherhood will take the nation forward,” he told an election rally in Bihar, referring to President Pranab Mukherjee’s earlier statement on the incident.

Dadri probe report In December 2015, a charge sheet was filed against 15 persons in connection with the case.

On December 28, 2015, an inquiry by the U.P. veterinary department stated that the meat over which Akhlaq was lynched was mutton. BJP MLA Sangeet Som said he did not have faith in a State-supervised probe, and demanded a CBI investigation.

Bishara mahapanchayat demands action A group of BJP and Shiv Sena leaders, defying prohibitory orders, held a mahapanchayat in Bishahra on June 6, 2016, demanding action against the family of Akhlaq. Open threats and warnings were issued to the local administration that if it did not register an FIR against the family for cow slaughter, the village would witness public anger.

Dadri meat was beef, claims fresh forensic report On June 31, 2016, a forensic lab in Mathura stated that the meat sample collected from Akhlaq’s house was of a cow or its progeny. Even as Akhlaq’s family rejected the report, villagers planned to file a cow slaughter complaint against the victim’s family.

Court directs FIR against Akhlaq’s family A local court in Surajpur on July 14, 2016, directed the Greater Noida Police to register a case of cow slaughter against Akhlaq and his family under the U.P. Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955. The court order came in response to a petition filed by some of the accused in the murder case. Yusif Saifi, lawyer of Akhlaq's family, said he would challenge the order in a higher court.

Akhlaq’s family booked On July 15, 2016, the Police registered a case of cow slaughter against the family of Akhlaq — Akhlaq’s wife Ikraman, his ailing mother Asghari, daughter Shaishta, son Danish, brother Jaan Mohammad and his wife — under several sections of the U.P. Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955, and the Animal Cruelty Act.

VHP demands death penalty for Akhlaq’s family On July 18, 2016, senior VHP leader Jugal Kishor held a meeting in Bishara and demanded that Akhlaq’s family be given the death penalty. However, Bishahra residents refrained from attending the meeting, with the village head condemning the “attempts to communally polarise the village”.

‘Victims are being branded culprits’ The FIR registered against them for alleged cow slaughter was a “part of concerted campaign to brand them as culprit and strategically sideline the actual case of lynching and murder of Akhlaq,”said his son Danish Saifi.

Court bars Akhlaq family’s arrest The Allahabad High Court on August 26, 2016, granted immunity from arrest to Akhlaq’s family “till the conclusion of the investigation in the case”.

‘No evidence against Akhlaq’s family’ On September 27, 2016, three months after the Uttar Pradesh police booked Akhlaq’s family, officials investigating the case concluded that there was no evidence to prove that a cow was ever slaughtered by Akhlaq and his family. The members of the investigative team said that the police were preparing the closure report after a thorough investigation so that no loopholes could be pointed out by the complainants in the case.

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