It’s been eight months since a man was lynched and murdered less than 50 kilometers from the national capital, and we are still talking about the type of meat because that’s supposed to be the cause. A new forensic report from a lab in Mathura is the most recent dose of fuel to that flame.
Whether Akhlaq consumed, stored or stole any type of meat should have no bearing on the case of his murder. In any event, that is for the investigating agencies to ascertain. For the media, the job should be straightforward: report on the developments and record the emerging facts of the case.
However, it turns out that the reportage on Dadri has been perplexingly inconsistent with the available facts.
The latest development in Akhlaq’s murder case pertains to a forensic report from the office of the Joint Director, Forensic Investigation Laboratory of the Uttar Pradesh University of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbandry, Mathura.
It states that the “sample belongs to cow or its progeny”. Progeny would imply not just cows and calves, but also bulls and bullocks. The report does not make it clear where this sample was taken from. Yet a majority of media reports — like those in India Today, Economic Times, DNA, Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Hindu, Zee News, ABP and so on have stated that the meat sample collected from Akhlaq’s “fridge” or “house” was beef.
Newslaundry reached out to Anurag Singh, Circle Officer in Dadri, who stated that the police never picked any meat sample from Akhlaq’s house or fridge. “We picked up samples from near the transformer where his [Akhlaq’s] body was found,” said Singh. “Also, the earlier report stating that the meat was mutton was a preliminary report. This is the final finding.”
Singh’s assertions are in sharp contrast to the media narrative that the meat from Akhlaq’s house and his freezer to be more specific was collected for sampling. The preliminary report, too, makes no mention of where the samples were picked up from.
The report simply states that the meat was “seized by police from village” and concludes: “To the best of my knowledge, it seems that this meat belongs to goat progeny but for final confirmation and diagnosis, sample have been taken and sent to forensic laboratory, Mathura. Rest of the meat was handed over to the police authority for final disposal.”
It is unclear how news reports concluded that the meat sample — now declared beef — was from Akhlaq’s house when the forensic report does not say so. Akhlaq’s brother Jaan Mohammad Saifi told Newslaundry that the meat samples were collected from outside the house where Akhlaq was dragged out and beaten to death. “No meat sample was taken from our house.” Given that the circle officer himself has stated that the UP police never took samples from Akhlaq’s fridge or home, it begs one question: What was the source for the media reports?
This changes the narrative, which so far has stated that Akhlaq was lynched because he was in possession of or consumed beef. As far as the case diary goes, there were allegations that Akhlaq had thrown out meat at a spot near his home. While there is no doubt that meat was indeed found at the scene of the crime, there’s no way to tell whether the allegations made against Akhlaq are sound. However, with the media saying that meat samples were taken from Akhlaq’s home rather than from the crime scene, a connection is insinuated between Akhlaq and the meat that ‘caused’ his death.
Meanwhile, rabble-rousers like BJP MP Yogi Adityanath have begun making statements like Akhlaq’s family should be charged with cow slaughter. The family of Sanjay Rana, whose son is among those accused of Akhlaq’s murder, and others in Dadri have said they will file a complaint against Akhlaq’s family and are continuing to demand a Central Bureau of Investigation enquiry. For a piece of meat that, despite media reports, was not even found in Akhlaq’s home. For all you know, the meat could have been planted at the scene of crime to justify a pre-mediated lynching. It seems to be working.