It started with an announcement from a local temple, Bada Mandir, at 10.40 pm Monday. The announcement said: “Remains of a cow on the road near the big transformer have been thrown, everyone assemble on that street”, says 70-year-old priest Sukhdas Mahatma.
Thursday evening, Sukhdas returned to Bisara, three days after the announcement led to a mob assembling near Mohammad Akhlaq’s house, beating him to death while his 20-year-old son Danish suffered severe injuries. Since Monday night, Sukhdas claims that he was with the police, helping them with their investigation into the case.
Two men, around the age of 20 had come to the temple around 10.40 pm, urging Sukhdas to make an announcement, police officials said. While six people from the village have been arrested in the case even as the FIR names four others, none of the arrested have been identified as the the two men who came to Sukhdas Monday night.
Recounting the unfolding of events in the temple, Sukhdas said, “Around 10.40 pm, someone knocked and asked me to open the gate. When I asked them who they were and what they wanted at this hour, they told me it was an emergency. So, we opened the door. They came in and asked us to make an announcement. I told them I could not do it since I was unwell.”
Sukhdas said he had visited a doctor that day because he was running a fever for a couple of days. Sukhdas and aide Raman, 17, had retired for the night when the duo reached the temple. When he turned down their request initially, they said “You announce things for street vendors and all kinds of people, announcements are made for various programmes. You live in our village, why can’t you make an announcement for us? They said that remains of a cow have been thrown in the village. When I heard that, I told them that make an announcement on this even though I did not exactly know what had happened and I had not gone to the spot,” Sukhdas said. Following the announcement, the duo left while Sukhdas and his aide remained in the temple and tried to sleep, Sukhdas claimed. “We did not know what happened till the police and other residents came here. The police asked about this and they took our statement here. I told them that I know their faces but I don’t know their names. Then they brought 5-7 boys and asked me to identify if the two boys were among those. They were not.” Sukhdas added he came to the village three months ago. “Before coming here I was in Dakor, Gujarat. My village is in Saharanpur.”
DM N P Singh said, “The priest has given us the description of the two persons. It has been matched with two or three people whom the daughter has named. Arrests will soon be made.”