Less than a week after he was arrested for allegedly sharing an objectionable comment about beef on WhatsApp, Minhaj Ansari, a 22-year-old from Jamtara district in Jharkhand, died at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) here on Sunday.
While his family claimed that Ansari was beaten up and tortured in police custody, police officers cited medical records that showed Ansari was suffering from encephalitis.
Police officers, however, admitted that there were prima facie lapses on the part of the officer-in-charge of Narayanpura police station, Sub-Inspector Harish Pathak. He has been suspended and an FIR of murder has been registered against him.
According to police, a WhatsApp message that purportedly made an objectionable comment about beef started doing the rounds in Dighari village of Narayanpura, in Jamtara district, on October 2.
A few people were detained as suspects. While the others were later released, Ansari was placed under arrest on October 3.
Two days later, Ansari’s father, Umar Sheikh, and the rest of his family came to know that Ansari had been shifted to Dhanbad for treatment after he reportedly sustained injuries in police custody.
“They went to the police station along with other villagers. There was a scuffle at the police station between Ansari’s parents and the officer-in-charge, Harish Pathak. Ansari’s family filed a written complaint against Pathak, following which an FIR of attempt to murder and outraging the modesty of a woman was registered against him. The officer was suspended immediately. After Ansari’s death, the attempt to murder charge has been changed to a murder charge,” said Jamtara Deputy Commissioner Ramesh Kumar Dubey.
On October 7, Ansari was shifted to RIMS, where he died two days later.
“While an inquiry is on, the medical reports indicate that Ansari was suffering from encephalitis. It appears that the officer-in-charge did not check on this,” said Jamtara SP Manoj Kumar Singh. However, he denied allegations that Ansari’s family was not informed about his medical condition.
“We took action because the WhatsApp message, with some comments about beef, had the potential to disturb communal peace, coming so close to Dussehra and Muharram. The situation is peaceful now, we are keeping a strict watch,” he said.
While security forces have been deployed in the village, the district administration has ordered a joint inquiry by the Sub Divisional Officer and Sub Divisional Police Officer. Meanwhile, a compensation of Rs 2 lakh has been given to the victim’s family member.