A fact-finding team visited Sobhapur and nearby villages in District Saraikela, PS Rajnagar, Jharkhand, on May 27-28, 2017 to inquire into how Sheikh Naim, Sheikh Siraj, Md. Sajja, and Sheikh Halim were lynched and murdered by mob on suspicion of kidnapping children (‘bachchachor’ in local language) on May 18, 2017. The team consisted of activists* from National Co-ordination of Human Rights Organizations (NCHRO) and Bandi Mukti Committee (BMC). A slightly abridged version of the team’s report:
At the very beginning the members faced a transportation problem. Even if a car was booked in advanced, later on the driver refused to go to Sobhapur village, where one of the incidents took place. Ten days were passed since the date of the crime, but still an atmosphere of tension remained in the adjoining areas of Jamshedpur. We became a little bit offended as our plan stumbled, but later understood that there was valid reason for the driver to refuse to go there. Sheikh Siraj, who was among the four who killed in Sobhapur, was a car-driver.
However, later on we were able to book another car after spending two more hours there. Overcoming the initial hurdles we started our journey at 2:10 pm. Still few problems prevailed, because of panic and fear. We were not confident enough to associate any local Muslim person in our team. We were all from a place which is outside the district and the state, and thus, there was no question of knowing the exact location of Sobhapur. Only Swapan-da among the team members was a person to whom we could rely. He was able to guide us to some extent, but it was impossible for him also to locate the exact position of the village.
Finally, we were able to locate the village by taking help from the passer-by and few villagers passing by the road. After entering the village from the main road, we crossed the exact place of the incident and moved forward to further interior places in the village. We found that a meeting of RSS was going on there. We reached the Muslim slum, where the incident took place in Sobhapur.
While entering the village, we already witnessed only two policemen, who were posted there in a camp to provide ‘security to the villagers’. Few villagers gathered. When we were getting down from the car, they approached us and expressed their cordial welcome. After knowing that we had come on behalf of human rights organization, they arranged for our sitting even in this grave situation. They brought tea for us. Slowly they started to speak with fear mixed in it. Among the 254 villages in Rajnagar block in Saraikela district, 80-85 Muslim families live. It is better to say, that it was a small Muslim hamlet. Adivasis reside in the rest of the locality.
The description of the incident that was provided by the elders in the village (the names are not provided due to security measures) is as follows (though it was requested by them not to write these):
Few elders were preparing for namaz in the early morning. The rest of the village were sleeping then. Suddenly, they heard a huge screaming of ‘bachchachor-bachchachor’. A large number of people from adjacent village areas surrounded this small Muslim hamlet. The angry mob were threatening that the child-kidnappers were hiding in any of the homes in this village. If they were not produced to the mob then they would burn the whole village.
Naim and their friends were chased and took shelter in this hamlet to save their lives. The car in front of the Masjid was its proof. Sheikh Naim took shelter in his relative Mortaja’s house. The elders in the village came forward and tried to calm down the angry mob; subsequently they made repeated attempts to inform the police. They tried for three hours to resist the agitated mob, and at the same time also constantly tried to contact the high-ranked (SP, DSP) police officials. In spite of this, very few policemen reached the place from local Rajanagar police station. They also played the role of silent spectators.
In the meantime, the agitated mob put fire to the Indigo car that belonged to Naim. Even some part of Mortaja’s house got damaged by the fire. Naim, being tensed, rushed out from a room and took shelter in a toilet, covered by plastic. Few attacking mob, who were coming from the lonely hill situated in the backside, watched him. Panic-stricken Naim then entered a side-by home to save his life. The agitated mob attacked Naim, pulled him out from the home, and took him out of the village with constant beating. Before going out of the village, the mob gathered all stuffs and trade-materials of the home, and put fire to those by bringing them outside. They even destroyed the ashes, garbage, and burnt plastic by throwing them in a village well, used for drinking water.
Helpless Sheikh Naim, who was an animal-trader by profession, from his possession gave Rs. 48,000 to the mob, and bargained for his life. He requested earnestly and repeatedly to the mob that he was not a child-kidnapper, rather he was an animal-trader, and few of his customers lived in the village. But, unfortunately, some of his customers started inciting the mob by saying – “they will be cleansed from sin, if they kill Muslims”. Everything was finished when police came after a long wait of three to three and half hours, and ‘rescued’ Naim, according to the police version. He was taken to the hospital. The attackers recorded a video of torturing Naim and made it viral through the Internet.
Among the other three friends of Naim, driver Sheikh Siraj and Md. Sajjad, alias Sajju, were killed in Sosomoli Padmanamsahi, and Sheikh Halim was killed Garo Pahari in Sobhapur, in the same way. The local villagers showed us the burnt car of Naim, Mortaja and his elder brother’s home that were damaged by the mob-attack, the drinking water well, and the toilet in which Naim hid to save his life but failed.
While conversing with village elders roaming around with them in the village, they felt a bit relaxed, and some of them shared their phone numbers for further contact. Later on, when we contacted them through phone, they recognized the team members, and provided positive response to our queries.
It was already very close to evening, and we had to visit Haldifokhar. Thus, we exchanged courtesy with the villagers and rode in the car.
We started from Sobhapur at around 5 pm in the afternoon to Haldifokhar in order to pay visit to the relatives of the deceased. While exiting from the village, we noticed a car with a flag of BJP was entering the Muslim hamlet. After forty minutes of driving we reached Haldifokhar, the village of the killed Sheikh Halim, Md. Sajjad, and Sheikh Siraj. The other deceased Sheikh Naim’s house was in Fulpal in Ghatshila. We confirmed the address from the people in local market before entering Haldifokhar village.
After getting our introduction and motive they cordially arranged sits for us. The family members and the friends of the three deceased men gathered around us. Before asking them anything they started explaining their painful conditions to us. What we had managed regarding the three deceased men from Haldifokhar is as follows:
- Sheikh Halim –We talked with his father Sheikh Kajimuddin. Halim has two daughters and one son. The elder and the younger daughters are ten and eight years old, respectively, and the son is only one year old. Sheikh Halim used to run a trade of scrap materials. He was known as a very helpful person in his locality. He did not have any criminal record in past.
- Sheikh Siraj –Amir Khan, his father, died just eighteen days before the incident of mob-lynching took place. We talked with Imtiaj Khan, the elder brother of Sheikh Siraj. Sheikh Siraj was the driver of Halim’s car. He was married just two months ago. We could not establish any contact with his wife, as she has gone to her paternal home. Apart from scrap-trading, he was also involved in animal trade. He did not have any criminal record in the past.
- Sajjad –His father Hasmat Ali was no longer alive. Md. Salim is his elder brother. Villagers took us to the house of Md. Salim. From him we came to know that Sajjad was married since 2013. Sajjad has two daughters. The elder one is three years old, and the younger one is of three months. Sajjad used to do plumbing works in Saudi Arabia, and for the last seven to eight months he was in home, after coming back from Saudi Arabia.
The family members and the villagers informed us that nine days were passed, but still no one on behalf of the Government came to their place to pay condolence. Even no one came from any political party and social organization.
Next we met Syed Jabiullah, the Mukhiya of Haldifokhar village. He informed us that at the time of the incident the family members of the deceased came to him. He constantly kept on contacting SP (Police Super), DC (Deputy Commissioner) since morning. In spite of giving verbal assurance, they sent police after a long time. They were late for more than four hours. Everything was finished by then. He further told that it was impossible to gather thousands of villagers in such an early morning without prior planning and provocation. On the behalf of the three families three separate FIRs were lodged (29/17, 30/17, 31/17) in the local Rajnagar police station.
It was night when we finished the fact finding for that day. We all returned back to Jamshedpur. The next day morning (28/05/2017) we proceed towards Ghatshila by taking a train from Tatanagar, to reach Sheikh Naim’s home in Fulpal. Sheikh Naim’s father’s name is Sheikh Mortaja Hajij. Sub-Mukhiya Salma Bibi is his wife. Naim was a father of two sons and one daughter. The ages of the sons are three years and four years, respectively, and the daughter is eight year old.
After our introduction to each other, father Sheikh Mortaja Hajij and wife Salma Bibi broke into tears. Listening to that, a heart-patient and paralyzed mother of Naim somehow came outside, and she also started crying in pain of losing her son. It was impossible for us to converse with them in such a situation. However, at last Naim’s father Sheikh Mortaja Hajij started telling us few incidents. His wife Salma Bibi told us that in the month of Ramadan Naim went to buy cow for his trade-purpose, and for that he borrowed Rs. 7-8 lakhs from others. The creditors are now demanding for payments. The younger son is suffering from Thalassemia, and he is supposed to provide blood from time to time. Expenses are there due to the medicines for mother.
Salma Bibi, the sub-Mukhiya, was awaiting for the dark days in future. Apart from explaining the financial burdens of the family, she also told us – “If Sheikh Naim was to be murdered, then he should be killed directly. What was the need of such brutal torture of three-four hours? What was the need to make the video recordings of the torture viral through the Internet?” Sheikh Mortaja informed us that some senior officials from Jharkhand police along with DCP, SP came to him. He told us – “I didn’t allow anyone of them to enter our house. I told them have you come here to safeguard your jobs? My son endured three-four hours of brutal torture. He was murdered. You did not try to save him in spite of requesting you several times. Now there is no need of you. You may go now. Out of anger and pain could have done anything at that time.”
He further informed us that 7-8 thousand people came to Naim’s funeral. Had he been a child-kidnapper, would they come? While conversing with us he also told us that none of the established political parties came to meet his grief-stricken family. We were the first ones. When we were about to leave Sheikh Naim’s home, his elder brother told us while crying – “For the last fifteen years my brother is involved in animal trading in Odisha, West Bengal, and Jharkhand. If anyone is able to show any of his misdeeds, then I am ready to hang myself.”
- RSS and Sangh Parivar are exploiting the facilities of free Internet system to spill hatred against the Muslims and Dalits. In spite of this, even after the incident the hearty relation between the Muslim residents with adivasi neighbors is not hampered.
- These four persons were murdered by the false accusation of ‘bachchachor’ (child kidnapper). However, the families of the deceased inform the team members that there was not a single complaint of child-theft throughout the Jharkhand.
- The crime was perpetrated at early morning. The elders of the village were preparing for the morning namaz. The rest of the village were still sleeping. Without the pre-planning and organized provocation of RSS and the Sangh Parivar in the background, a gathering of thousands of people is impossible.
- RSS and Sangh Parivar are systematically spreading their ideology among the adivasis. They are also gaining success in this. Far from the cities, the presence of ‘bhagwa jhanda’ and Hanuman Mandir in few footstep distances in the adivasi villages are the proofs of these.
Our particular demands:
- Judicial enquiry of the incident under the leadership of the judge of the Supreme Court.
- Giving necessary punishment to the perpetrators of such heinous crime.
- Immediately punishing the propagandists who are spreading hatred against Islam throughout the country.
- Inquiring the planned inertness of police and administration and punish them accordingly.
- Government job to at least one of the family members of the deceased along with necessary compensation must be provided.
- The Government must perform the constitutional responsibility of protecting life and wealth of the citizens.
*Team members consisted of NCHRO’s Shamim Akhtar, Abdul Mannan (state committee member of PFI, Jharkhand), and Aftab Alam (social activist); and BMC’s Chhoton Das (general secretary), Bhanu Sarkar (member, state editorial committee), Pradip Dashgupta, bachik artist (member of state executive committee), and Swapan Chatterjee (member, resident of Jamshedpur)