When Adranish Kujur told the village of Jhurmo in Jharkhand that his 20-year-old ox had died in his field, at least 35 villagers went to carve it up. Minutes later, a mob, armed with rods and sticks, attacked them, claiming they had slaughtered a cow. While most managed to flee, Prakash Lakra was killed and three others injured in the assault.
Two days after the mob violence, as Jhurmo still recovers from the shock of the lynching, Jharkhand police Friday booked the three injured men, who are currently undergoing treatment at hospital, under the state’s bovine slaughter Act. And two of seven men charged with Lakra’s murder have been arrested.
On Wednesday, the mob had attacked the four men in a field between Jhurmo and the neighbouring Jairagi village and then took them to the Dumri police station. Police rushed the four — all tribal Christians — to the Community Health Centre in Dumri block of Gumla where Lakra was declared dead.
The three injured have been identified as Peter Phuljans (50), Belasus Tirkey (60) and Janriush Minz (40) and are now being treated at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences in Ranchi.
Dr Roshan Khalkho at the Gumla Community Health Centre told The Indian Express that Phuljans, Tirkey and Minz suffered lacerated wounds, abrasions and bruises. “All three had difficulty walking and were writhing in pain. They were beaten up on their arms, shoulder, scapula region and seems that blunt force was used.”
Dr Khalko also alleged that police had tried to “coerce” him to violate procedure. “When a person is brought dead, we don’t make an entry in the register but send the body directly for postmortem. However, the police put pressure and asked me to make an entry in the register. This can indicate that he died during treatment,” he said.
Police said a case was registered against those injured after a complaint by the accused villagers. “We have registered a case against the three injured under The Jharkhand Bovine Animal Prohibition of Slaughter Act,” said M L Meena, ADG (operations).
At Jhurmo, where almost half the residents are tribal Christians engaged in farming, an uneasy quiet prevailed after the murder. On Friday afternoon, Block Development Officer cum Circle Officer Yunika Sharma met Lakra’s wife Jermine Lakra. “Do not be scared. Arrests are being made. Tomorrow is Ramnavmi so I cannot give you the names of those arrested,” Sharma told Jermine.
But her words matter little. Holding a photograph of her husband, Jermine is inconsolable that she did not even speak to her husband before he left on Wednesday. “In the last 40 years, I never heard of anyone being murdered in our village for carving up a dead animal. The animal had died earlier, nobody killed it for food,” she said.
“Wednesday night someone told me that my husband was being beaten up. I rushed to the place, but I did not find him.”
Next to her was Adranish Kujur, who owned the ox that died. “In the evening I got to know that my ox had died. It was very old and has been with me for the last 20 years. I left it in my field and informed the villagers. I was not part of the group that went to carve it up,” he said.
According to villagers, around 35 people went to carve up the dead ox. Requesting anonymity, one of them said: “Suddenly, a few people came and started beating us mercilessly with rods and whatever they could carry and we did not know the reason behind it. People chanted slogans and we ran for our lives. The four could not escape.”
Another person said: “All we could hear was the sound of wailing when the four men were being beaten mercilessly.”
Police have named seven men, Mahendra Sahu, Shiva Sahu, Jeewan Sahu, Sanjay Sahu, Satyendra Sahu, Santosh Sahu and Sandip Sahu – all residents of the neighbouring Jairagi village – in the FIR for committing the crime.
SP Gumla Anjani Kumar Jha said: “Out the seven, we have arrested Jeewan and Sanjay Sahu and both of them have criminal antecedents like murder, abduction.”
At Jairagi village, few villagers are ready to speak. Security personnel sat in the market which remained shut Friday. A primary school teacher who frequents Jairagi said: “Incidents like this have now reached the village level. This was a peaceful area and never had any history of violence or any tension. Politicians seldom made visits and people have never killed or fought with anyone in the name of the cow.”