Distraught and inconsolable, yet Shehnaz Begum, mother-in-law of 24-year-old Tabrez Ansari, victim of Jharkhand mob lynching, could gather all her strength to speak.
“My son-in-law would have been alive had the administration showed a little bit of sympathy and given the minimum medical attention,” said Ms. Begum holding her teenage widowed daughter tight.
“First it was the religiously motivated mob that meted out instant justice, and secondly, the administration committed cold-blooded murder by letting Tabrez die of excruciating pain. To save his life, the police at least could have admitted him in any hospital,” she said.
The non-descript Kadamdia village, 15 km from the district headquarters town of Saraikela, where Tabrez’s family lives, has been receiving media and political attention. Three days after Tabrez’s death, District Collector of Saraikela-Kharasawan Chhabi Ranjan and Superintendent of Police Karthik S reached Kadamdia late on Monday evening to assure the family of justice, while another group of district officials landed in the village early Tuesday morning. And hordes of media professionals and rights activists have been thronging the place.
“My son-in-law did not deserve such death,” Ms. Begum kept saying to everyone.
Tabrez, who had lost both his parents at a very early age, had migrated to Pune to eke out his livelihood eight years ago. In April, he returned to his village to get married. On April 27, his marriage was solemnized with Sahista Pervez, 19. The couple would have gone back to Pune in few days.
According to his extended family members, he was returning after meeting his aunt from Jamshedpur on June 17 night when some people of Dhatkidih village caught hold of him and branded him a thief.
“Tabrez could have been let off with a few slaps. All hell broke loose when he revealed his name. He was tied to an electric pole and beaten up the whole night. Later, he was dragged to nearby bushy areas and another round of thrashing started. He was also forced to chant ‘Jai Sriram and Jai Hanuman’,” said Md Mansoor Alam, Tabrez’s uncle, who had gone to meet him at the police station after his rescue.
‘Main accused was present at Saraikela police station’
Tabrez’s family members got the shock of their life when they met him at the Saraikela police station. “Initially, I was not allowed to enter the police station. Then I heard someone saying ‘Ab tak yeh mara kyon nahin? [why did he not die till now?]’. When inquired, I found that it was Papa Mandal, the main accused, who was shouting right inside the police station. I could not hold myself back. I entered the police station forcibly only to find Tabrez having bruises all over his body and blood stains on his face, hands and legs,” Ms. Begam said. His young wife fainted then and there.
After a day, the family members again met him in jail. “His condition was even worse. I pleaded with the authorities to admit him in hospital, but nobody paid any heed to my request,” said Ms. Begum.
Tabrez was admitted in the District Headquarters Hospital only when his condition suddenly deteriorated on June 22.
After the video of the lynching went viral on the social media and Tabrez was heard chanting ‘Jai Sriram and Jai Hanuman’, as directed by the mob, media started taking note of the incident. Only then, police swung into action.
“We have so far arrested 11 persons, including main accused Papa Mandal. Investigation is going on and more people will be rounded up if their complicity in the crime is established,” said Mr. Karthik.
When his attention was drawn to the alleged administrative bias in handling Tabrez’s case, especially his poor health condition, Mr. Karthik said, “We are not the authority to give medical certificate. Doctors carried out medical tests on him. Tests such as x-ray and ECG were carried out multiple times.”
On the accusation of the police recording only the ‘confession’ on the victim’s theft activities and not trying to know the attackers who thrashed Tabrez after knowing his religious identity, Mr. Karthik admitted that the subordinate staff had messed up the whole thing. He said two police officers had been put under suspension.