A few hours after Tabrez Ansari was attacked by a mob, which accused him of theft and allegedly forced him to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jai Hanuman”, Jharkhand Police recorded a “confession statement” from the 22-year-old — but without a single line on the assault that was recorded by the attackers on their mobile phones.
Ansari was arrested by police after the assault on June 18 for theft and sent to judicial custody. He died on Saturday, after he was rushed to the civil hospital in Saraikela-Kharsawan district and later to the Tata Main Hospital in Jamshedpur. On Monday, police arrested 11 residents of Ghatkidih village, where the attack took place, and suspended two police personnel.
“We had registered a case against the villagers when we were informed of the beating. We arrested one accused initially, and later 10 others. We found that the officer in charge of Kharsawan police station and an ASI did not handle the matter with sensitivity. They did not apprise senior officers of the situation,” Karthik S, SP, Saraikela-Kharsawan, told The Indian Express.
Ansari’s family, meanwhile, demanded answers from police on why the assault was not mentioned in the “confession statement”, which was produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate.
The assault also does not find mention in the FIR registered by police in the case, or in the initial complaint filed against Ansari by Kamal Mahto of Ghatkidih for allegedly stealing a motorcycle. Mahto is now among those arrested by police for his alleged role in the lynching.
“We have suspended two police personnel for the lapses. A DSP-rank officer is heading the SIT inquiring the matter and we will get all the facts. There is also a possibility that Tabrez did not say anything to the police on the beating during his confession,” the SP said.
Ansari’s uncle Maqsood Alam said he had met his nephew in the police station’s lock-up and found him “very weak and barely able to talk”. “I cannot believe that he never said anything to police about the beating. The police deliberately left it out. Were the police blind that they did not see that he was badly beaten? Why could the doctors not see his pain?” Alam said.
In the statement, Ansari is quoted as saying that he and two other accused, Numair and Irfan, scaled walls, climbed on roof tops and stole a motorcycle “which did not have any registration number” in the village.
It states that he climbed another roof, found a wallet with Rs 200 in it, and planned another theft but left after failing to get any money. “At this house, the door creaked and one of the members woke up and shouted ‘thief, thief’. All of us jumped but I could not escape because I sustained a leg injury… I hid, but the villagers caught me,” Ansari is quoted as saying.
Mahto, the complainant, said in his statement that after they raised an alarm, other residents of the village woke up and found Ansari. “There was a motorcycle without a registration number, wallets and a phone, which was later found out to have been stolen… police were called and Ansari was handed over,” Mahto said in the statement.
In videoclips of the incident, Ansari is seen tied to a pole, beaten by a mob and asked to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jai Hanuman” from early last Tuesday morning, when he was caught, till dawn.
Police registered a case under various IPC sections, including for murder, only after the video went viral four days after the attack. However, speaking to reporters Monday, Ashish Batra (IG-Operations), said: “I can’t comment on the video. It is seen that doctored videos are circulated on social media to hurt religious sentiments.” Records at the civil hospital show that Ansari suffered at least three injuries and complained of “weakness”.
The lynching, meanwhile, has triggered a political war of words between the ruling BJP and the Opposition in Jharkhand. “This is the 13th incident of mob lynching in Jharkhand, with a complete breakdown of law and order,” said Hemant Soren, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader.
Jharkhand Minister and BJP leader C P Singh said “there is a trend prevalent these days to associate all such incidents with BJP, RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal”. “It is a time of cut and paste… politicising such incidents is wrong,” Singh told ANI.