Week after Jharkhand ‘custody death’, accusations fly, cops await autopsy report

It all started on October 2 when Minhaj, son of Umar Sheikh, who works at a saw mill in Odisha, posted three pictures in a WhatsApp group.

Written by Prashant Pandey | Jamtara | Published:October 16, 2016 3:04 am

Dighari village, 35 km from Jharkhand’s Jamtara district headquarters, looks peaceful now. But, over the last week, it witnessed a young man’s death in police custody and registration of a murder case against a sub-inspector.

“They beat my son to death. The OC of Narayanpur came to take his laptop. He was shouting that we should forget about meeting Minhaj again,” alleged Yezhela Begum, mother of Minhaj Ansari (22). It was on her complaint that an FIR of attempt to murder was registered against SI Harish Pathak and he was suspended. Following Minhaj’s death, the case was converted to that of murder. The post-mortem report is awaited.

It all started on October 2 when Minhaj, son of Umar Sheikh, who works at a saw mill in Odisha, posted three pictures in a WhatsApp group called. One purportedly showed Minhaj with a calf. In the others, some people, including Minhaj, are purportedly seen with animal flesh.

After Minhaj’s post, VHP’s Jamtara Jila Mantri Sonu Singh, a member of the WhatsApp group, raised objections. In chats within the group, he suggested reporting the matter to police. Others agreed that Minhaj had “wrong intentions”, but did not say much about going to police.

After Minhaj’s post, Sonu approached Jamtara’s Congress MLA Irfan Ansari. “When no action was taken, I approached police. OC Harish Pathak wanted me to be a witness. I agreed. Minhaj was arrested. What happened after that is not for me to answer,” said Sonu, adding that as a VHP office-bearer, it was “his job to be vigilant about such things”.

On October 3, Minhaj, who ran a mobile repair shop, was chatting with Fahim and Shahban. “Seven persons in civil clothes came and nabbed us. We were taken to Narayanpur police station. We were kept in the same room that night,” said Fahim. He said that the next morning, police took Minhaj to another room and allegedly beat him. “We heard him saying that he was ready to undergo punishment for his mistake. After that, we don’t know what happened. We were let off in the evening.”

That evening, before Minhaj could be produced before the magistrate, he reportedly fell ill and was taken to Sadar Hospital. The next day, he was rushed to Patliputra Medical College and Hospital in Dhanbad. He died on October 9.

SP Manoj Kumar Singh said they are waiting for the autopsy report. PMCH superintendent Dr R K Pandey said Minhaj appeared to be suffering from encephalitis, but it was not conclusively proved.

MLA Ansari said: “If Minhaj did something wrong, he should have been punished as per law. I will meet the CM on the issue.”