Nearly nine months after Alimuddin Ansari, a meat trader, was lynched by cow vigilantes in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh district, a fast-track court convicted 11 of the 12 accused, including a district BJP leader and at least three members of the local “gau raksha samiti”. The quantum of punishment will be announced on March 21, the court said.
Prosecution officials said this was possibly the first case in recent years, when a lynching by gau rakshaks has ended in conviction by a district court. With all the accused in jail, the defence counsel said they would appeal against the judgment in the Jharkhand High Court.
According to the prosecution, the 12th accused was initially treated as a juvenile. However, it said, it later approached the court seeking his prosecution as an adult as he was over 16 years old. The plea, which is pending, is based on a CrPC amendment that allows minors between 16 and 18 to be treated as adults if it is proved that they were aware of the impact of their actions.
Welcoming the verdict, Ansari’s son, Shahzad Ansari, said: “We are very happy with the decision. Those who did this got what they deserved. We hope that the higher courts uphold this decision. We are also happy that the decision has come in a short time.”
The lynching of 55-year-old Ansari took place on June 29, 2017, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi publicly spoke against those taking the law into their hands in the name of “gau raksha”. The Jharkhand government had referred the case to a fast track court under Additional Judge-II, Om Prakash, who held hearings almost on a daily basis.
Of the accused, BJP district media cell in-charge Nityanand Mahato, Vicky Saw, Sikander Ram, Vikram Prasad, Raju Kumar, Rohit Thakur, Kapil Thakur and Uttam Kumar were convicted under IPC sections 302 (murder), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 427 (mischief causing damage) and 435 (mischief by fire).
Members of the local gau raksha samiti, Deepak Mishra, Chhotu Verma and Santosh Singh, were additionally convicted under Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy).
“The chargesheet was filed on September 17 and the charges framed on September 22. The prosecution produced 19 witnesses and a CD as evidence, among other material. We got support from the administration and the police, due to which we ensured conviction in a short time,” said Sushil Kumar Shukla, Additional Public Prosecutor.
Defence counsel, Senior Advocate B M Tripathi, claimed that there was no evidence against the accused.
A senior police officer said the evidence included a CD containing video clips and photographs of the lynching that was examined by the Forensic Sciences Laboratory in Chandigarh. “Usually, it takes a lot of time to get reports from the FSL. But we monitored the case closely and got it in a short time. The case was always on priority for the government,” said the officer.
According to police, Ansari was transporting beef in his Maruti van from the Chitarpur area of Ramgarh when he was intercepted by the accused who beat him, threw the meat on the road and set the van on fire. Ansari succumbed to injuries while he was being taken from the local police station to the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi. Within 10 days, all the accused were either arrested or had surrendered in the court.
Days before the attack, police said, two of the accused, Mishra and Verma, had raised the issue of Ansari being involved in the illegal trade of beef at a peace meeting held by Ramgarh police to calm communal tension in the area.