Last Friday, Mohammed Akhlaq’s family had arranged a Bakr Eid feast for neighbours and close relatives. That evening, Ahklaq’s 22-year-old son Mohammed Danish told his mother that a group of boys in their village, barely an hour’s drive from Delhi, had called him “a Pakistani”.
It was the first such incident of its kind for the family and should have set the alarm bells ringing — but it didn’t. Three days later, Akhlaq was beaten to death and Danish left battling for life in hospital after being attacked by a mob that accused the family of eating beef and slaughtering cows.
“Some boys from the village were sitting near a shop that day. When they saw my son going to the mosque, they called him a Pakistani. They said, ‘Look, a Pakistani is living in this village. We will not tolerate this. The incidents of Muzaffarnagar (riots in 2013) will be repeated here’. At that time, we did not pay much heed to these comments. We did not realise that this kind of hatred and resentment has been simmering inside their hearts,” Danish’s mother, Ikram, told The Indian Express.
In the FIR lodged on Monday night, police recorded Ikram’s statement, describing the attack. “Around 10.30 pm on September 28 when our family was in the house, around 14-15 people from the village, with sticks and country-made pistols in their hands, came towards our house firing shots. They kicked the door and entered the house and they started beating up my husband and son with the intention of killing them. When I tried to stop them, they shouted abuses at me and pushed me. My husband and son were unconscious.”
The FIR, examined by The Indian Express, also recorded Ikram as stating that she saw the faces of the attackers and “recognised them clearly”.
“They broke our household items including the fridge. When my daughter and mother tried to intervene, they pushed them aside. We got so scared that we hid in a corner and we came out only when the police reached. Before leaving, they told us that if we told the police anything, they would kill our entire family.”
On Thursday, in one of the two dimly lit rooms in her two-storey house in Bisara, Ikram was surrounded by relatives offering condolences. Danish’s sister, Sajida, who has demanded a CBI probe into Monday night’s attack, was in a room upstairs offering namaaz.
Members of various political parties and outfits, distant relatives, police officials and the media had reached Bisara, but Akhlaq’s family felt “betrayed and abandoned” by neighbours and friends.
“Many of our Hindu neighbours would visit us, ask my husband to work on their farms or repair something in their homes. On Eid, they would ask us to remember them and we would give them sewai or mutton prepared for the occasion. They would ask us to stitch clothes for them. Since Monday night, they have not even come near our house,” said Ikram.
Grappling to make sense of that attack, Ikram wondered if jealousy could have been a factor. “My eldest son has a stable job in the Air Force while my younger son is pursuing graduation, hoping to join the Army. We have lived here for several decades but never faced any problems. Could they have been jealous because our financial condition was gradually improving as our children had started earning?” she asked.
The house in Bisara was the only property that Akhlaq’s family claimed to own — a five-room structure with two refrigerators, a washing machine and a small TV set.
“Earlier, my husband used to approach people in the village for work. But with my eldest son employed and the other on the verge of getting a job, he stopped doing that. But if people came to him and asked for help, he would not refuse. Doing these odd jobs would get him around Rs 4,000 every month. My daughter and I would stitch blouses or shirts, earning around Rs 2,000 every month. My eldest son would also send some money,” Ikram said.
Now, Akhlaq’s family is searching for another home. After demanding a CBI inquiry into the case, Sajida said: “There is security deployment in the village right now but we are still scared to step out at night. What will happen once they leave? We cannot live here any more.”