Updated: May 21, 2017 10:57:31 am
Men gathered in a huddle well past midnight, family members debating what to do next, dark and deserted lanes, and no policemen or political leaders in sight — there is fear and anger in this Muslim village 18 km from Jamshedpur city. In the mayhem of Thursday night when tribal mobs went on a rampage over rumours of child snatching, three men of Haldipokor and a visitor were among the six lynched. Cattle traders Naim (35), Sheikh Sajju (25), Sheikh Siraj (26) and Sheikh Halim (28) were chased for close to two hours before being beaten to death in the tribal-dominated area of Rajnagar. The family members received their bodies on Saturday.
“Had police listened to us and taken action, this would not have happened. I kept calling them,” says Syed Zabiullah, the gram panchayat pradhan of Haldipokhor, pointing out that the men who managed to escape were caught later and beaten up by the mob.
On Saturday, Muslim protesters clashed with police in different parts of Jamshedpur town, and have called for a shutdown. Police had to resort to lathicharge and teargas shelling, as agitators pelted stones and bricks, blocked roads and tried to down shutters of shops and business establishments.
Zabiullah asked why no arrests had been made. “We gave pictures and videos of those involved in the killings to the police. They are known faces and we have identified some. But we do not know why they have not been arrested. This incident will create a divide in the society,” he warns. The four dead were Muslims, while the accused are all tribals.
Community members have refused the Rs 2 lakh compensation offered by the government and submitted a long list of demands, including Rs 25 lakh each as relief, government jobs to families of the victims, a ration shop and anganwadi centre in the village, houses under Central government schemes, apart from immediate arrest.
No political leaders have visited Haldipokhor so far, and the villagers submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister through the district administration on Saturday.
While Sajju, Siraj and Halim belonged to Haldipokhor, Naim hailed from Phulpal village in Ghatsila. Family members said Naim had gone to Rourkela on May 16 and bought 25 bullocks and some lambs there, and later visited Haldipokhar where his in-laws stayed. Around 4 am on Thursday, he was driving with Sajju, Halim and Siraj to Shovapur, where he had a relative, when the mob surrounded them.
Halim’s brother Sheikh Salim says all four called home pleading help. “I received a call around 5 am. Halim told me they would kill them and that we should come to rescue them. I contacted the village headman. Some of us went to the spot on motorbikes, wearing helmets so that we could not be identified. When we saw thousands were beating them, we fled.”
Zabiullah says he kept calling the local police, but no one picked up for an hour. “Ultimately, I somehow spoke to senior officers. But then too nothing happened. By then, one of them had been killed but the others managed to flee. I asked police to rescue the survivors and gave them their location, some kilometres away from Shobhapur. No action was taken. Finally, they were killed too.”
Senior police officers visited the village on Friday night to talk to community leaders, who refused their offer of compensation. “We want Rs 25 lakh as compensation, but the administration is saying they can’t do it. We wanted the CM to come here and meet the family. It seems he has no time. No political leader got time to visit the village,” says Zabiullah.
The village, surrounded by a tribal belt, has over 1,200 Muslim families, who have been living here for three generations. Most of the Muslims are affluent traders.
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