THREE RUSTED locks hang on three doors in the house where Mohammad Akhlaq and his family lived in Dadri’s Bisara village, the only Muslim home in a locality of Rajputs. Three years after 50-year-old Akhlaq was dragged out of his house and lynched on suspicion of possessing beef, his family says they can never return.
The family has not been able to rebuild their lives as the case against the 18 accused of killing Akhlaq drags on in a fast-track court.
With 45 court hearings since the case was registered, the trial is yet to begin as the city court is still hearing arguments on charges against the accused. According to the counsel for Akhlaq’s family, Yusuf Saifi, police had booked all accused under murder, rioting and unlawful assembly, among other charges. All accused have got bail. One of them, Ravin Sisodia, was hospitalised while in jail and later died.
“The case hasn’t even started, where is the question of it ending?” said Mohammad Jaan (50), Akhlaq’s younger brother. “…charges against the accused have not yet been framed, even though it is in what is supposed to be a fast-track court…,” he added.
“Even in the chargesheet which was filed by police almost three years ago, the only names are those which were put forward by Akhlaq’s daughter Shaista. Nothing has been done to identify and arrest additional suspects,” said Mohammad Jaan.
Saifi said that one of the main reasons for the delay is the defence lawyers putting up several ‘discharge applications’. “Some of the applications have been dismissed. Other applications, such as those asking for a CBI investigation, directing to register a case against Akhlaq’s family for possessing beef among others, have also been filed…In the last hearing in September there was a strike called by lawyers and the hearing did not happen,” he said.
Judges hearing the case, he said, have been changed twice, which added to the delay. “After cognizance was taken by a magisterial court, the case was committed to a sessions court. Since then, two judges have been transferred. Files have recently been placed before the third judge… It may take two-three hearings after which, hopefully, charges will be framed,” he said.
Ram Saran Nagar, lawyer for five accused, said, “Various lawyers of other accused filed many applications. There are a lot of cases pending in this court in general. The case is marked for disposal of previous applications.”
Akhlaq’s elder son Mohammad Sartaj, a corporal in the Air Force, told The Indian Express that he, his siblings and mother were not ready to talk to the media. “The trauma of that incident and the aftermath is not something we want to relive by talking about it and discussing our lives,” he said.
Sartaj (29), Shaista (23), their brother Danish (25) who was also assaulted and injured by the mob which killed his father, their mother Ikraman (43) and grandmother Asgari (78) live in the Air Force quarters in Delhi’s Subroto Park, where they moved after the incident as they felt that being eyewitnesses made Shaista, Danish and Ikraman vulnerable.
Danish is currently studying to appear in competitive exams for state services. “He has an operation due for the injury which he received on his head. We are also looking for a match for Shaista, but we want to finalise Danish’s job first. Trauma, weaknesses and age have taken a toll on my sister-in-law’s health,” said Jaan.
Jaan still works with the multi-national corporation he has been a part of for almost 30 years and lives in Dadri town, with his elder brother who works in the Indian railways.
“Every year, during Bakrid, we feel the loss more deeply. The family has not celebrated Eid since the incident,” said Jaan.
The family is also dealing with the cow-slaughter case which was registered against them in 2016. In August that year, the Allahabad High Court stayed the arrest of all the family members except Mohammad Jaan. However, Jaan said that neither has the chargesheet been filed nor has there been any attempt to arrest him. “It is just hanging over me and no action has been taken. Four months ago, some of the accused and their guardians came to my house appealing to me to withdraw the case and offering to withdraw the counter-case in return… Let the case be pursued, I am not afraid,” he said.
According to CO Dadri Satish Kumar Sharma, the filing of the chargesheet has been delayed because the final report on the meat sample has not been submitted to the police yet. “After the test in Mathura which showed that the sample belonged to a cow or its progeny, the sample was transferred and is currently in the Forensic Science Laboratory in Lucknow,” he said.
Meanwhile, the 17 accused who were released on bail in 2017 live in Bisara where the common refrain is “Yahaan maahaul ab badhiya hai (The atmosphere here is splendid)”. While most villagers refer to the September 28, 2015 incident as an “accident,” they also acknowledge the manner in which it shook the nation.
“We have this word now, which is always being used — mob-lynching. Whenever any incident of a group beating up a person occurs, the public refers to Bisara. Bisara’s name will rise to prominence and be dragged through the mud again before the 2019 election,” said Om Mahesh, whose son Vinay is one of the accused.
Hari Om Sisodia (28), another accused, is now being fielded by the Uttar Pradesh Navnirman Sena as their candidate from Gautam Budh Nagar constituency for the Lok Sabha elections. “I and the other 17 spent two years in jail when we are innocent. We have not been proven guilty, but we are treated like social outcasts. We were promised jobs in NTPC Ltd last year but didn’t get them. No one is willing to employ us and nobody, not even the BJP, is supporting us. I am contesting the election because there is no one else to help us,” he said.
Saifi, meanwhile, has his hopes pinned on the recent Supreme Court verdict on the lynching and mob violence.
“The Supreme Court had said that cases which fall in this category shall preferably be concluded within six months…However things are moving at snail’s pace.” He claims to have submitted an application in the Additional Sessions Court after the SC judgement for speedy disposal of the case. “We all are banking on the SC verdict…however, there is no response to my application yet.”