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New Delhi: The recent kidnapping of a Muslim man in Samastipur, Bihar has taken a communal turn. A video which surfaced on Instagram on February 19 showed the alleged kidnappers questioning the victim over beef consumption, asking, “Who kills gaay maata (a reverential way of referring to cows) in Mushrigharari?”
Khalil Alam Rizvi (34), a resident of Hurhiya village in the Barabatta Panchayat of Bihar’s Samastipur, was kidnapped and killed. Later, his body was allegedly burnt by the perpetrators. Rizvi was a social worker and a member of the Janta Dal (United), the ruling party of Bihar.
Rizvi was kidnapped after he left his home on February 16, after which the perpetrators demanded ransom money from his family. Speaking to The Wire, Rizvi’s brother Shakeel said, “On February 16, he left the house at around 11 am. They kidnapped bhai. We got a call from Khalil’s phone that evening. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of Rs 5 lakh.”
“Later, we got another call on abba’s [father’s] mobile. Now, they demanded a ransom of Rs 3.75 lakh for setting Khalil bhai free. They told us to pay the ransom amount in a bank account. Since then, there have been no calls,” added Shakeel.
A complaint was filed at the Musrigharari police station thereafter.
On February 19, a video was uploaded to Instagram by user Anurag Jha, a resident of Samastipur, showing Rizvi being berated by his assailants. The caption of the video reads, “This is a very unfortunate thing for all of us. All of you people and #Hindu brothers are requested to watch this video. Request Hindu brothers to share it as much as possible so that those who loot the poor and eat cows be afraid and no one dare to touch the ‘cow mother’ (sic).“
In his bio on Instagram, Jha describes himself as a “gamer” and has included phrases such as “Jai Mahakal” and “Har Har Mahadev“.
In the video, accessed by The Wire, one of the kidnappers is heard saying to Rizvi, “Who kills mother cow in Mushrigharari? Speak loudly! Who are the people? What are their names?”
Rizvi replies by saying, “Masum. He’s a fakir.”
“Is he a Miyan (used to refer to Muslims)? When does he kill? Does he sell cow’s meat daily? Have you eaten cow’s meat?” asks the kidnapper before hitting Rizvi with a stick.
“How much [cow meat] have you eaten till now? How many kilos? Who else kills mother cow? How many rupees per kilo do you sell it at? Are you an ‘original’ Muslim?” the kidnapper asks, again hitting Rizvi and hurling curse words at him.
Shakeel alleged that the kidnapping and killing of his brother was communally motivated. “This is not a matter of debt or ransom. They are lying. See the video, they killed him over cow. This is a lynching. This was a well-planned killing,” he said.
The Wire reached out to Aftab Alam, the station house officer (SHO) of Mushrigharari police station, through a phone call. However, Alam refused to answer any questions regarding Rizvi’s death.
The Wire also reached out to Amit Kumar at the deputy superintendent of police (DSP) headquarters in Samastipur, who said over the phone that the matter is being investigated and asked for the video of Rizvi that is being circulated on social media. The Wire sent the video to Kumar on WhatsApp. This story will be updated when a response is received.
Similarly, when The Wire reached out to Hriday Kant, the superintendent of police (SP), Samastipur, he too requested the video of Rizvi. The Wire also sent him the video on WhatsApp and will update the story if he responds.
On the night of February 18, the police recovered Rizvi’s half-burnt body from behind a poultry farm on the banks of the Old Gandak River in the Vasudevpur village of Kalyanpur. A post-mortem of the body was conducted at Sadar Hospital on the morning of 19 February.
The police have, so far, arrested one Vipul Kumar and are looking for four others accused of murdering Rizvi. Vipul Kumar and his associates reportedly assaulted Rizvi repeatedly, and he eventually succumbed to the injuries he sustained. Thereafter, the perpetrators attempted to erase the evidence by burning Rizvi’s corpse.
“The police have arrested only one person. But they aren’t investigating it properly. We are very troubled. They want to make us fearful. We haven’t slept or eaten anything,” said Shakeel.
The Samastipur police held a press conference on the evening of February 22, after the video of Rizvi went viral on social media. SP Kant told media, “A video is being circulated widely on social media and was shared by someone named Anurag Jha on Instagram. We investigated it and found out that the video was shot before deceased [Rizvi] was killed and was made by the killers. We interrogated one of the killers and found out that they made the video so that they could give a communal angle to the whole incident.”
“A separate FIR has been registered regarding the video that is in circulation on social media,” he added.
When the police questioned one of the killers on the reason for making the video, he reportedly replied by saying, “Rahul sir, understand what Hindutva is. We did not kill him for money.”
After the incident, local JD(U) leaders came to meet Rizvi’s family and assured them justice, said Shakeel. Rizvi was a close aide of Vijay Kumar Choudhary, the Bihar education minister, and even had photos with him.
Bihar has a long history of kidnappings. Between 2013 and 2018, a total of 33,505 kidnapping cases were registered in the state, according to a report by the Indian Express. However, this is the first incident in which a kidnapping for a ransom went on to take a communal turn.