Man Lynched in Bihar's Araria, Family Disputes Accuseds' Allegations of Theft

The police said the victim's family claims that there was some old dispute which led to the violence, but other villagers say Ismail was a thief.

Araria (Bihar): A 30-year-old Muslim man was allegedly lynched by a mob in Bihar’s Araria district on Sunday morning on suspicion of theft. A resident of Kursail village in Jokihat, Ismail was severely beaten by some villagers in the neighbouring Chakai village early in the morning. Later, the accused took him to a nearby hospital, where he died during treatment.

The police registered a first information report (FIR) against 15 people involved in the incident, and nabbed two prime accused Rupesh Yadav and Nitesh Yadav. Araria sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) Pushpar Kumar said, “We received information that he [Ismail] went to Rupesh and Nitesh’s house for committing theft, and he was caught there and beaten by them and other villagers. He was taken to the hospital where he died during treatment. Now, the victim’s family claims that there was some old dispute, but villagers say he was a thief. We are investigating both angles.”

Ismail is survived by two wives, three children and an old father. The family has a hut with walls made of mud, bamboo and tin sheets and a white plastic sheet working as a roof. A pair of slippers, a mosquito net, a blanket, a jute sack bag and few vessels lay in the house besides a hearth and some half burned logs.

Ismail’s two widows and three kids standing outside their house. Photo: Tanzil Asif

Surrounded by villagers, Ismail’s widow Musarrat sat outside the house holding hands of her three kids aged two, three and five, along with his second wife Husnera. Husnera is silent in shock, Musarrat too fell unconscious. Villagers sprinkled her face with water, and she came back to her senses and started narrating the story in local Kulhaiya dialect: “He used to work as an electrician, few people called him for work. When he didn’t return, I thought he must have gone outside with his friends. But, I heard in the morning that he had been killed. What more can I say brother? Whom will my kids call father now? Who will do justice to us?”

His family claims that Ismail used to work as a migrant labourer in Delhi and Punjab. He returned home when the lockdown had started. Then he started working as a labourer and electrician in the village.

Also read: The Trail of Violence in India

Ismail’s 61-year-old father Shoaib, who was at his daughter’s house, heard about the incident only on Monday morning. He rushed to the hospital only to find his son dead. He quoted other eyewitnesses as saying, “He [Ismail] went to Chakai to buy milk. He returned home, but was called again.”

There was an uncanny silence at Rupesh and Nitesh’s house in Chakai where the lynching incident happened. There was no one at home, and doors were left open. A neighbour and eyewitness to the incident Geeta Devi said, “There was noise of ‘thief, thief’ and he [Ismail] was chased. He ran to the terrace and fell from there. Villagers gathered and beat him. He felt unconscious and died on the way to the hospital.”

The spot where lynching happened, the main accused Rupesh and Nitesh’s house. Photo: Tanzil Asif

Geet added, “He was involved in a theft six months or a year ago as well. He took Rs 34,000, some jewellery and vessels. We didn’t complain to the police back then.”

But, Shoaib refutes such claims, “It’s not true. If he was a thief, is there a complaint against him in any police station?”

Asked about the reason behind the incident, Shoaib said, “I had an argument with them over a road last year. That’s why they have killed my son.”

Shahnawaz Alam, Jokihat MLA from Asaduddin Owaisi’s party AIMIM ( All India Majli-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen), on Monday met the victim’s family and sat among them for nearly four hours. Shahnawaz said, “This is condemnable. I am constantly in touch with the victim’s family. The two accused have been arrested, and we have demanded quick arrest of the other accused from the administration. Whatever may be the reason, the way Ismail has been killed is shameful. Different weapons were used to kill him. It seems those involved are unsocial elements. We believe in harmony. We have demanded strict action, so that such an incident doesn’t repeat.”

Tanzil Asif is a Bihar-based journalist. He runs a hyperlocal news platform Main Media in the Seemanchal region and tweets at @tnzl_