Patna/New Delhi: In what is likely to be the first documented instance of an anti-CAA protestor falling victim to violent reprisals by Hindutva groups, the police in Patna have arrested two men with links to Hindu extremist groups for the murder of 18-year-old Amir Hanzla, a resident of the Phulwari Sharif area of Patna who had attended an anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protest in Bihar’s capital on December 21 before disappearing and turning up dead ten days later.
Speaking to The Wire, Phulwari Sharif police station in-charge Rafiqur Rahman said, “So far we have arrested six accused and they have confessed to their crime. Right now, they are in judicial custody and we believe that some more people are involved. An operation to nab them is on.”
According to another police officer, “The accused have confessed that the murder was carried out in Sangat lane and it seems that they knew that Amir was part of the anti-CAA and NRC [National Register of Citizens] protest.”
Amir went missing after he was seen participating in an anti-CAA and NRC protest called by the Rashtriya Janata Party (RJD). On December 31 morning, his body was found near the water tank of the Phulwari Sharif block office. According to the post-mortem report, he was attacked by a sharp weapon in his abdomen twice and also hit on the head with something heavy. Details about other wounds could not be ascertained because the body was found in a very bad condition.
The six arrested in the murder case are identified as Nagesh Samrat, Rais Paswan, Chaitu Mahto, Sanoj Mahto, Vikas and Deepak Kumar. As per police claims, one of the six is associated with a local Hindutva group, Hindu Putra Sangathan, while another is linked to the Hindu Samaj Party of Kamlesh Tiwari, who was killed in Lucknow last year. According to locals, Tiwari had visited Sangat Gali several times before his killing.
Nagesh is a national pracharak of the Hindu Putra Sangathan. Rajeev Brahamarshi, head of the organisation, used a video to raise questions about Nagesh’s arrest. The Hindu Putra Sangathan is among 18 organisations whose functionaries’ details were sought by the Bihar Police Special Branch in May last year. Moreover, many cases are registered against the organisation in Patna and Hajipur.
According to a fact-finding report by several civil society organisations, on December 21, multiple incidents of violence had occurred in various parts of Phulwari Sharif. The report by civil society organisations had alleged, “The police were not able to de-escalate the tension. The right-wing forces were involved in this pre- meditated and organised violence.” Allegedly, a Hanuman idol was also damaged. As per the report, nearly a dozen protesters sustained injuries during the clash.
The police had also used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the people. According to Garima Malik, senior superintendent of police (SSP) Patna, a case was registered against 40 named and 500 unnamed people.
Hanzla’s family members have demanded speedy action in the matter. They have said that those guilty of killing Amir should be sentenced to death and the government should also provide compensation for the family. Hanzla’s brother Md Sahil said, “We got to know that in order to escape from the violence, he took refuge in Sangat lane and that is there he was killed. I am also told that the attackers were asking names of the protesters and then attacking them. Probably Amir’s name was also asked.”
Hanzla’s father Suhail Ahmed has refused to see his son’s killing as a result of a clash between Hindus and Muslims. “Hindus are also saddened by the news of the killing of my son. They have come to me to express their condolences,” Ahmed told The Wire, adding “I don’t think it is a Hindu-Muslim issue.” He said there are some radical forces amongst Hindus who are giving a bad name to the Hinduism.
According to Hanzla’s family, the teenager was barely interested in politics and worked at a bag repairing centre. He had finished Class 10 last year and had been working at the bag repairing centre as the family needed his support.
Meanwhile, on Thursday evening, some students of Patna University organised a protest demanding justice for Hanzla and opposing the CAA and NRC. “We demand that Rs 50 lakh should be given to the family as compensation along with a government job to one of the family members,” Zeeshan Mehboob, a protester and Patna University student told The Wire.