June 2019: About two months ago, Gangaram Singh Chauhan’s 13-year-old daughter went missing from their house in Aliyabad village in western Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad district. The family soon learnt that it was the man living right opposite to their home – 25-year-old Mohammad Danish – who had taken her.
The family sought help from the pradhan (head) of the neighbouring village, Peepli Umarpur, and the girl was recovered after a few days. It was revealed that she was taken some 700 kilometres away to Rajasthan. The family, however, did not file a police complaint against Danish out of fear and to avoid social shame.
The family was scared to approach even the pradhan of their own village. Gangaram’s son, Deepak, says that they happen to be one of the only two Hindu families living among 100-odd Muslim families and they felt that their village pradhan, Abdul Rehman, would side with his co-religionists.
About one-third of Aliyabad’s population are Muslims.
The minor girl went missing again last week, on the night of 18 June. This time, the family gave a written statement to the local Dilari police station naming Danish as suspect. The police, instead of arresting the accused, kept sitting on it the entire day. When Danish’s family learnt of Gangaram’s letter, they barged into his house and lynched the 55-year-old to death.
Savita saw her husband die in front of her eyes. Her 18-year-old elder son Deepak, and two younger children, aged ten and five, saw it too.
“They were six men and two women in total. They were abusing us loudly and broke open the door. First they hit on my head, and then straightaway went to him [Gangaram]. He was resting on a cot in the verandah,” Savita recalls. “They punched hard on his chest, lifted him up and banged him on the floor several times. The attackers stopped only when he became unconscious. It looked like he died on the spot,” she says.
Watch the statement of the family here:
As per the family, the attackers said how dare they act so brazen while living among Muslims. “Hamare beech mein reh rahe ho aur hamein hi moohzori dikha rahe ho? Hinduon, yahan se bhago [You live among us and yet dare to stand up against us? Leave our area, you Hindus],” Deepak recalls the attackers as saying.
He says the attackers repeatedly told Gangaram that “na tu rahega na ladki dhoondega (neither you will survive nor will you search for your daughter).” He also recalls Danish’s father, Safayat Nabi as saying that he will keep Gangaram’s daughter in his house in front of Gangaram’s eyes and the latter would not be able to do anything.
Savita says the mob had come armed with lathis, and she saw a butchers’ knife in at least one hand. “They left after threatening me that my children will meet the same fate,” she says.
As per Savita, one of the women – Danish’s mother Ameena – sliced her own hand with a blade and rushed out. “We later learnt she went to the police station to file a complaint against us for attacking them,” says Savita.
The daroga (police constable) at the Dilari police station, Vijendra Singh Rathi, corroborated this. He told this correspondent that a woman from Danish’s family did come to the police station that evening saying she was attacked but as soon as she saw members of Gangaram’s family, she fled.
Gangaram’s elder brother Harswaroop lives with his family in the adjoining village of Peepli Umarpur, a few hundred metres away. He says that as soon as he learnt of the attack, he rushed to the spot, hired a car and took the body to a local health centre. The centre referred the body to Moradabad where it was declared brought dead by Cosmos hospital. The family did not have the post-mortem report when this correspondent visited them on 26 June.
A first information report (FIR) filed on the same night names six accused – Safayat Nabi, his three sons Mohsin, Chhotu and Danish, and their two cousins, Akram and Irrfan. All that the statement mentions is that the six men barged into the house around 8pm, entered into a scuffle and Gangaram died of his injuries.
The FIR (number 123/2019 at Dilari police station) does not have a word either on the girl’s kidnapping or that the attack was carried out in revenge for complaining about it.
The police have put sections 302 (murder), 147 (rioting) and 452 (house-trespass) in the FIR. No charge of religious hate was applied, nor the two women named as accused.
The station house officer (SHO) of Dilari police station, Deepak Kumar, has now been suspended for lapses on several counts. Senior Superintendent of Police of Moradabad district, Amit Pathak, detailed the reasons to this correspondent:
- The SHO did not take the victim family’s complaint on the night the girl went missing.
- He did not file an FIR even on the morning of 19 June.
- He did nothing to trace the girl the entire day.
- Despite the kidnapping being a “Hindu-Muslim issue”, he did not alert higher officials.
- He did not deploy preventive police force in the area.
Pathak also said that further probe is underway to find out if the Dilari police mishandled the case of the girl’s kidnapping two months ago. All the six men named in the FIR have been arrested.
The girl, meanwhile, was recovered on 21 June — two days after the lynching — with another neighbour Nadeem.
The girl’s cousin, Sandeep Thakur, told this correspondent that when he met her on 22 June in a shelter home, she told him that she had eloped with Nadeem, who is a cousin of Danish, so nobody suspects Danish. “She said it was Danish’s plan,” Sandeep says. “But now after her father’s murder, she does not want to live with him anymore and wants the strictest punishment for him,” Sandeep adds.
Vijendra Singh Rathi, the daroga at Dilari thana, said that a case of kidnapping (section 363) and inducing a woman to compel her into marriage (section 366) was also later filed against four men, including Danish. He said the medical report of the girl is awaited.
Scared for their safety, Gangaram’s family has locked their house in Aliyabad and shifted to live with Harswaroop’s family. Harswaroop, 62, is also a daily-wager like his younger brother was. His house is too small to accommodate the two families and thus some members have been lodged at a neighbour’s house. The poor family is now looking to sell off the Aliyabad house but rue the fact that it’ll go for peanuts.
“We will not get any Hindu buyer now. We will have to sell it to a Muslim who will pay us a pittance, knowing our desperation very well,” says Harswaroop.
Brahm Singh, pradhan of Peepli, says their village is a “Hindu village” where the family can feel safe. He adds that the “community” will help them in whatever way it can.
Back in Aliyabad, where both Gangaram’s and Danish’s house are locked, no neighbour wants to speak about the lynching. Mohammad Ibrar, who lives in the house just adjoining Gangaram’s, excuses himself by saying he was not present in the house when it unfolded. He says he does not know either of the two neighbours well enough to comment on anything.
A woman and a man who run a grocery store, a house away from Gangaram’s, say they know nothing of the tension between the two families. They also refuse to share their names. Other families living around respond in a similar way.
This report was first published on Swarajyamag.com.