Dadri: What’s the ‘Martyr?’: the changing narrative of the Mohammed Akhlaq’s lynching

With all legal options exhausted, Dadri is a hotbed of communal polarisation.

WrittenBy:Subhabrata Dasgupta
Article image

On the evening September 28, 2015 a mob of Hindus burst into the home of 50-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq, accusing him and his family of eating beef. The group beat him to death, severely injured his son, attempted to molest his 18-year-old daughter, and tore apart the house on the suspicion that the family had beef in their house.

22-year-old Ravin Sisodia was one of the 18 people arrested in October 2015 for the murder of Akhlaq, and for the last year, he was incarcerated in the Kasna district jail. On September 30 of this year, Sisodia’s family claimed that he was suffering from Chikungunya, and pleaded with the local court for him to be shifted to the district hospital for proper treatment. Sisodia died in Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital on October 4.

Allegations that he was tortured surfaced despite doctors claiming that dengue was the suspected cause of death. Giving voice to these allegations is Sanjay Rana, a former-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) eader. 12 of Rana’s relatives, including his son are also accused in the death of Akhlaq. Speaking to Newslaundry, Rana said that this was a case of “custodial death”. “We suspect that there has been torture. There needs to be a thorough probe into this,” he said.

For his native Bishada village, Sisodia is not simply a man accused of murder whose cause of death is unclear, but a martyr in a holy war. This is the story of the changing narrative of the Dadri lynching – where the oppressors become the oppressed, where the accused become martyrs.

Yesterday, leaders of the Hindu Raksha Dal, Gau Raksha Dal, and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) held a Mahapanchayat in Bishada, sitting in protest with Sisodia’s family, and his body, at the spot where Akhlaq was lynched. Irony, in Dadri, is in short supply.

In speeches made during the Mahapanchayat, under the gaze of heavy police security, local leaders spoke of extracting revenge for the Hindu community. A local leader, Kapil Bhati said, “Hinduon ne chudiya nahi pehni hain. In Mullo ko jad se ukhad fenkengey hum. In Mullon mein itni shamta nahi ki humaarey balak ka bhi saamna kar sake. Bhaiyon ek jut ho jao, ek taraf aa jao. Rajput, Gujjar, Thakur, Bhati – inmein mat bato. Jaatiwaad ko chod do (Hindus haven’t worn bangles. We will uproot these Muslims. These Muslims don’t have the capacity to even face our young boys. Don’t divide yourselves along caste lines. Leave aside caste considerations.).”

While no specific Muslims were mentioned, it seems strange to speak of revenge, when it was precisely such rhetoric that landed Sisodia in jail in the first place.

Asked about the provocative nature of these speeches, Abhishek Yadav, Superintendent of Police, Gautam Budh Nagar, Noida, told us, “We have recorded the events of today and we are going through the clippings to see if objectionable statements were made. If we find evidence to that effect, then we will take appropriate action against the violators.”

The Akhilesh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh has offered a compensation of Rs 10 lakhs to Sisodia’s family, which they duly rejected. Their demand is a compensation of one crore rupees. Sadhvi Prachi of the VHP slammed the Akhilesh government, and supported the family’s demand for greater compensation.

While it might be puzzling to find the family of a man accused of murder demanding monetary compensation from the government, for Bishada, it is a way of getting even with Mohammad Akhlaq’s family. Various rumours floated around the district, describing the financial assistance extended to Akhlaq’s family in the aftermath of the lynching. Earlier in July this year, when this correspondent visited Dadri, some people claimed that the Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi had both given financial aid to the family. There was also talk that the family was given four flats in Noida. Others insinuated that the family was “close” to Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi. All of this, was of course, speculation.

When Newslaundry asked Akhlaq’s son Danish about the aid his family received, he said that they were only given four flats in Noida at highly subsidised rates.

But these details do not matter in Bishada. All that matters is perception. Sisodia’s casket, wrapped in the tiranga (the national flag) carries with it Hindu victimisation and nationalism

This is a blatant violation of the Flag Code of India, which states that “disrespect to the Indian National Flag means and includes using the Indian National Flag as a drapery in any form whatsoever except in state funerals or armed forces or other para-military forces funeral”. Sisodia was neither, and the punishment for disrespecting the Indian flag is “imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”

It is not just the fringe Hindutva groups that have descended upon Bishada. Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State for Culture and Tourism in the Union government and the Member of Parliament from Gautam Budh Nagar, visited the village today to show his solidarity with the deceased’s Sisodia’s family. He said that he salutes the soil of Bishada, and will stand with the villagers. Sharma also blamed the Uttar Pradesh government for Sisodia’s death.

Some of the villagers have formed a committee to press for a full-fledged probe into the death. Sharma said that he will support the committee “like a pillar”. Sharma referred to the others from the village who are still incarcerated for the murder, as “dying every day”. Sisodia’s death may have provided the pitch for this latest flare-up of emotions in Bishada, but it was always simmering beneath. Seven months after the killing of Akhlaq, a Sangharsh Samiti (a committee to fight) was set up by villagers demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the arrest of the 18 accused. The villagers we spoke to feel that their “boys” had been wronged, and while Akhlaq’s death was tragic, his family has milked the incident.

Even as early as July, the sense we got was that it was revenge and not remorse that directed life in the village. Infact, a First Information Report was filed against Akhlaq and his family for cow slaughter following his death. This was spurred by a forensic report release on June 2, which said that the meat collected from the crime scene belonged to a cow or its progeny – contradicting an earlier report from December, 2015, which said that the meat had came from a goat.

In September, a report in The Hindu said officials investigating the case had concluded that there is no evidence to prove a cow was ever killed. The journalist quoted “highly placed sources in the UP police”, who said that the investigation had yet to “yield any proof.” It quoted Anurag Singh, Circle Officer of the area, who said “there is no credible evidence in this case.” Without evidence, charges cannot be formulated. Singh later backtracked from his statement in his interview to the PTI. This report raised the hackles of many, and the Noida Police issued a clarification that the investigation was still open.

Given Sharma’s statements, there is little doubt about where the BJP stands in this case. While the probe into Sisodia’s death only just underway, Yadav’s decision to compensate the family speaks volumes. With the assembly elections in the state only months away, peace in Bishada may be a long time coming.


We take comments from subscribers only!  Subscribe now to post comments! 
Already a subscriber?  Login

You may also like