“They (accused) came from a poor family. Their family members requested us to assist them financially in order to help them in hiring an able advocate. I, along with other members of the party (BJP) helped them in paying for the advocate’s fees,” Sinha said in an interview to BBC News Hindi.
His admission came a year after he triggered a controversy by felicitating and posing with the six accused after they were released on bail and taken straight to the minister’s residence in Hazaribagh.
Sinha said although he has sympathy for the victim’s family and condemns the lynching, the accused in the case were “innocent”. “I have great sympathy for the victims’ family. Whatever happened is tragic but the people who came to my house were innocent. You’ve made this assumption that they were the perpetrators. This assumption of yours is flawed.”
“If anybody studies this case, thinks about it and reads the bail order of the High Court, it will be evident that the people who came to my house were innocent. And, when I talk about absolute justice, I mean that the victim should definitely be provided justice but the people who were innocent, punished wrongly and were sent to jail for a year should also be given proper justice,” he added.
Replying to a question whether he should have waited for the acquittal of the accused individuals before felicitating them, Sinha said various opposition leaders are garlanded across the country despite being accused in various cases.
Sinha also said that if the victim’s widow approached him to extend any help, he would have provided assistance to her. “If Mariyam (widow) would have approached me for help, I would have definitely helped her,” he said.
In 2017, Alimuddin Ansari had been intercepted in Ramgarh town of Jharkhand by a group of cow vigilantes. His Maruti van had been burnt, the meat in it strewn on the road and he was assaulted. He later succumbed to his injuries. Subsequently, police arrested 12 people, one a juvenile. On March 21 last year, a fast track court in Ramgarh had convicted them and later sentenced them to life. Three months later, the Jharkhand High Court had released eight of the accused on the bail, citing “lack of evidence of specific assault” against them.
Ramgarh district BJP president Pappu Bannerjee, who took the men to the minister’s residence, had earlier said that the “perception that the minister came into the picture at a later stage is wrong”. “He was keeping an eye on the whole thing. We never expected the kind of judgement that was delivered by the trial court. We realised we had to fight the case in the High Court strongly. So, Sinhaji met the advocate who was fighting the case and took things forward from there,” he said.