Contradictions and media mistrust: Investigating Rinku Sharma’s death in Mangolpuri

Though the police emphasised there is no ‘communal angle’ to Sharma’s death, Hindutva organisations are now ‘protecting’ the family.

ByAnna Priyadarshini
Contradictions and media mistrust: Investigating Rinku Sharma’s death in Mangolpuri
A banner of Rinku Sharma near his home.
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On Friday, a 25-year-old man, identified as Rinku Sharma, died due to stabbing injuries in outer Delhi’s Mangolpuri. According to the police, Rinku was stabbed following a heated argument and a scuffle at a birthday party on Wednesday. He was allegedly attacked by a group of people over restaurants – one of which was owned by Rinku – closing down in the area due to huge losses.

The police have arrested five people so far: Danish Nasruddin, Mohammad Islam, Mohammad Mehtab, Jahid and Tajuddin.

Rinku was a member of the Vishva Hindu Parishad and associated with the Bajrang Dal. His family claimed his death was “communal” – that he had been attacked because he was collecting funds for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

The police have emphasised that the “quarrel” was over a restaurant closing down and that any other motive ascribed to the incident is “factually wrong”.

OP Mishra, the joint commissioner of the Delhi police, told Newslaundry that they are still investigating the matter. Citing the “sensitivity” of the issue, he appealed to people to stop “spreading rumours”.

The Delhi police has now transferred the case to the crime branch.

Multiple contradictions

Station house officer Mukesh Kumar told Newslaundry that a “scuffle” first broke out at a birthday party on February 10 at a restaurant in Mangolpuri called Masala Darbar, around three km from Rinku’s home.

The police told Newslaundry that Rinku and four of the accused – they did not specify who – had together opened two restaurants in Delhi’s Rohini in October. Both closed down due to financial losses. The police said each blamed the other for the restaurants’ closing, and would often have “heated arguments”.

On Wednesday too, they quarreled over the matter at the birthday party. Subsequently, station house officer Kumar said, the five accused went to Rinku’s house and stabbed him with a knife.

This was also reported by the Indian Express.

Curiously, it isn’t the only version of events, though.

India Today said that Rinku didn’t own any of the restaurants; his friends Sachin and Aakash did, and Rinku “intervened” on their behalf.

Then there’s the family version: that Rinku didn’t own a restaurant and his death was solely due to Rinku’s work in the Bajrang Dal and VHP.

Station house officer Mukesh Kumar refused to comment on these contradictions, telling Newslaundry that he “could not comment on the matter”. Newslaundry visited the restaurant Masala Durbar but it was closed, and its owner Anil Gautam was not reachable.

The family’s version of events

Rinku’s brother, Manu Sharma, 19, has been associated with the Bajrang Dal for two years. He told Newslaundry that there was “no scuffle” at the birthday party, and his brother had “no business rivalries”.

The lane outside Rinku's home.

The lane outside Rinku's home.

Police personnel deployed in the area.

Police personnel deployed in the area.

Masala Darbar restaurant, where the police claim the birthday party took place.

Masala Darbar restaurant, where the police claim the birthday party took place.

“All these are lies,” he said. “We do not have any business. We do not have a restaurant in Sector 2. Rinku was a lab technician at Balaji Hospital in Paschim Vihar.”

Rinku would also “actively participate in religious processions”, Manu said. “He used to work for Hindus,” he said. “This was strongly objected to by the accused.”

Manu said that his brother attended a birthday party on February 10. According to him, none of the accused – Danish Nasruddin, Mohammad Islam, Mohammad Mehtab, Jahid and Tajuddin – were at this party.

“After the party, when Rinku was returning home, the accused saw him and followed him home,” Manu said. “When we opened the door, the accused were armed with knives and lathis. They barged in and attacked us. I tried protecting my parents and sustained injuries. In the meantime, they pulled my brother out of the house. He tried to dodge them. But around 20 metres from our home, they stabbed him.”

But why did they attack him?

Rinku was “on their radar”, Manu alleged, for over six months. After the Ayodhya verdict was announced in August, the accused would “harass” Rinku for chanting “Jai Shri Ram”, he claimed.

Newslaundry could not verify any of Manu’s claims: such as that the accused “owned seven or eight houses” in the area, used “black money”, or had “links to the police”. Manu also did not offer any evidence to substantiate his stories. Indian Express reported that one of the accused, Tajuddin, worked as a home guard at the Mangolpuri police station 10 years ago.

Hindutva connections

Mangolpuri’s K-block, where Rinku lived, has about 100-150 houses. The majority of its residents are Hindu. A resident of K-block – who said he could not give me his name – said the area has a number of people associated with the VHP, or the Bajrang Dal, or both.

Rajpal, a local Bajrang Dal member, described Rinku as 'devotional'.

Rajpal, a local Bajrang Dal member, described Rinku as 'devotional'.

The crowd outside Rinku's house on Friday.

The crowd outside Rinku's house on Friday.

“Mostly youths who are in their graduation or have completed their schooling become part of the organisations,” he said. “We advertise, campaign and influence others to join. Our main aim is to stick to our dharma ideals.”

Another local, Anil Kumar, described Rinku as “well-behaved” and “virtuous”. “He did not indulge in any brawls,” he said. “He was actively involved in the donation drive for the Ramjanmabhoomi temple.”

The local VHP has claimed Rinku’s death is part of a “targeted attack on Hindus” due to his participation in their collection drive for the Ram temple. Rajpal, a VHP member, said Rinku was very “devotional” and “religious”; he would chant Hanuman mantras and actively participate in “all religious duties”.

Even though Rinku’s family and the police confirmed that he had attended a birthday party, VHP members told Newslaundry that there “was no birthday party” and that Rinku had been “targeted”.

On Friday evening, members of the VHP and Bajrang Dal, among others, held a candlelight march near the Sharmas’ home, claiming that Rinku had been attacked because he was helping to collect funds for the construction of the Ram temple. They waved banners saying “Justice for Rinku” in the narrow lines near his house.

On the same day, Rakhi Birla, the deputy speaker of the Delhi Legislative Assembly and the Aam Aadmi Party’s MLA from Mangolpuri, came to speak to Rinku’s family. Manu told Newslaundry that Birla had assured them that those responsible for Rinku’s death would be brought to justice.

“We do not want any compensation from the government,” he added. “We want them to be hanged.”

Anger towards the media

On Friday, the lanes around Rinku’s home were dotted with police personnel. Rinku’s family told Newslaundry they had written to the police seeking protection. OP Mishra, joint commissioner of the Delhi police, had also visited Mangolpuri and deployed more police personnel.

A large group of men had congregated outside the house – members of the BJP, VHP, Bajrang Dal, and other Hindutva groups, as they told Newslaundry. They carefully took note of which media organisations were in attendance. The air echoed with chants of “Jai Shri Ram”.

Newslaundry tried to speak to Rinku’s mother. A BJP worker stopped us, saying, “She will not speak to you individually. Whatever you need to ask, ask her over here – in front of us.”

So, Rinku’s mother was made to sit outside her house, surrounded by her self-anointed guards.

Rinku's mother.

Rinku's mother.

“I am worried about my other two children,” she told this reporter as the group of men listened closely. “They had come to kill all of us. They even tried to burst our cylinders but I somehow dodged them. One of the attackers told me, ‘Tere lal ko le liya humne. Jo ukhaadna hai ukhaar le.’” We took your child. You can do whatever you want to do.

“I need justice,” she continued. “I need Rs 1 crore [compensation]. I need government jobs for my children. I need justice.”

The crowd seemed sceptical of the media coverage of Rinku’s death. “They are merely concocting stories that there was a scuffle at a birthday party,” said Vikramjeet, 51, a member of the Bajrang Dal. “There was no birthday party. It’s all being done to distract from the real reason.”

Bajrang Dal member Pawan Tiwari, 22, agreed. He claimed that the accused “hated” Rinku ever since last August, because the Ramjanmabhoomi verdict had “favoured” Hindus. “Ab to khoon ka badla khoon hi hoga,” he said fiercely. Now, the revenge for blood will be paid in blood.

As Newslaundry spoke to the locals, a group of 10 to 15 men charged forward and began instructing the locals and neighbours not to speak to the media. One of them asked me where I was from. When I said Newslaundry, he said sharply to the locals, “Koi Behenbaaji nai karni inke saath. Bilkul ulta dikhaaaynge, Tumhara bachcha chala gaya, apni rotiyaan sekenge ye log. News 24, ABP News and BBC, inko note kar lo, joote maaro saloon ko jahan dikh jaaye. Bahar karo inko. Koi ladki wadki daya mat karna. Ladki ho isliye main khada hoon tameez se.

To translate, he told the locals: “No need to be sympathetic towards them. They will show the opposite of what has happened. Your child is gone, but they will benefit from it. News24, ABP News, BBC – if you see any of them, lash them with shoes. Oust them. Just because she is a girl, don’t empathise.”

And to me, he said: “You are a girl, that’s why I am behaving. Otherwise, I would have ousted you. Get out from here.”

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