Perhaps the most toxic legacy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s five years in office is how he made India a more frightening and dangerous place for its religious and social minorities, particularly the Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis. His rule is scarred by a massive surge in hatred and violence that has targeted such communities. Over the last five years, the word “lynching” has entered popular political discourse in India. On April 10, 2019, Prakash Lakda, a 50-year old Adivasi of Jurmu village in Dumri block of Jharkhand’s Gumla district, was lynched to death by a mob of “cow vigilantes”. Three other adivasis – Peter Kerketta, Belarius Minj and Janerius Minj – sustained severe injuries. A brief report compiled by Groundxero based on an inquiry of the incident conducted by a fact-finding team of Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM).
A fact-finding team of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM), comprising of several activists and representatives of member organisations, conducted a two day (April 14-15) fact-finding inquiry into the incident of mob lynching of Prakash Lakda. The team met with two of the victims – Janerius Minj and Peter Kerketta, and their relatives in Debuka Nursing home, Ranchi. The team members visited Jurmu village in Gumla district and met the wife, daughter and son of the deceased Prakash Lakda, wife and son of injured victim Peter Kerketta and several residents of the Jurmu village. The team also talked to Dr Khalko, In-charge, Community Health Centre, Dumri, and with police officials of the local thana and the Investigating Officer R Kumar.
The Incident (based on the statements of victims, relatives and other villagers)
An ox belonging to Jakherius Kujur had not come back from grazing on 9 April (Tuesday). Jakherius and his family members searched for the ox on 9 April, but did not find it. They looked for it the next day as well and found that the ox was trapped in mud near the river, about a kilometre from the village. According to Jakherius’s relative Birjinia, the ox was old and had grown weak due to age, and ultimately died at that spot. According to one of the victims Janerius, Jakherius told the villagers, “Bail mar gaya hai. Makkhi hag-moot raha hai us par. Jao tum log kaat kar kha lo”.
Around 25-30 people including Prakash Lakda, Peter Kerketta, Janerius Minj, Belesius Tirkey, and few other men from the village and several children, reached the site at around 6 to 6:30 pm, to carve the dead ox. As they were skinning and carving the dead animal, an auto driver and some people (of the Sahu community) of neighbouring Jairagi village spotted them. At around 7:30-8:00 pm, a mob of around 35-40 people from Jairagi village attacked the villagers of Jurmu at the site. They had lathis, swords and sickles. Most of the people of Jurmu managed to flee but four persons Prakash Lakda, Peter Kerketta, Janerius Minj and Belesius Tirkey were caught by the mob, which then started beating them. According to Peter and Janerius, the mob was chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’, ‘Jai Hanuman’ and ‘Bajrang Bali ki Jai’. Prakash Lakda asked the mob why they were being beaten as the ox was already dead when they had come to carve it. But the mob kept on beating them.
They made them walk to Jairagi chowk (more than 1km away) and kept beating them till the chowk. The four victims were again asked to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’, ‘Jai Hanuman’ and ‘Bajrang Bali ki Jai’. They were beaten further when they were not able to chant loudly or refused to chant. More people of Jairagi village joined in beating the four persons at the chowk. At times, when the victims passed out, the mob made them stand up and beat them again.
According to the victims, the mob was led by Sanjay Sahu and his three sons, Santosh Sahu, Sandeep Sahu and Shiva Sahu. The victims were beaten till 11:30 pm. Peter Kerketta was even made to sign on a blank paper by the perpetrators and give names of those who carved the dead ox along with him. During this period, Sanjay and another person went to the Dumri thana to inform the police of the incident. After they came back, the four victims were put on a bus that was standing at Jairagi chowk (the bus makes trips between Ranchi and Dumri during the day), and taken to Dumri bazar and brought down from the bus in front of the Dumri thana. When the victims asked for water, Sanjay and his associates asked them if they wanted to drink their urine.
The police eventually took them to the Dumri community health centre at around 4:00 am (“Jab murga bol raha tha”, according to the victims). Prakash and the other three victims were taken separately to the health centre. According to Janerius, he realized that Prakash was dead when he touched the body lying next to him in the health centre. They were at the health centre till 8:00-9:00 am and then taken to Gumla Sadar hospital. The victims were then referred to RIMS, Ranchi. They were admitted there on the evening of 11 April and discharged in the morning of 14 April.
Testimonies of family members and villagers
The police came to the village the next morning (11 April) at around 9:00 am and informed Prakash’s wife Jermena that her husband was in the hospital and that they had come to take her. Several neighbours also said that they wanted to go to the hospital to know what had happened. But the police did not allowed them. The police took Jermena to the Dumri health centre and then to Sadar hospital. She was made to sign on some papers, but does not know what was written on them. The police (along with Jermena) brought Prakash’s body back to Dumri, but did not take it to the village that night but instead on the next morning (12 April). The police instructed people in the village to bury the body as soon as possible. The villagers buried the body at around 9:00 am that morning. Jermena and some neighbours shared with the fact-finding team that Prakash Lakda’s penis was mutilated.
The Block Development Officer and Circle Officer visited the village and gave Rs. 5000 to Prakash Lakda’s wife. They promised a PM Awas Yojana for the family and widow pension for Jermena. They also promised that their son would be hired as a guard at the Panchayat Bhawan.
During the discussion with the fact-finding team, the victims, their family members and neighbours categorically denied that the victims were beaten up during a fight amongst the villagers of Jurmu on division of meat of the dead ox (as reported in some local media reports). They also said that Sanjay Sahu, one of the perpetrators, has criminal antecedents and also has a history of violence against Adivasis.
Statement of the community health centre doctor
The team met the ANM Dyuti Kumari and doctor-in-charge Dr. Rohan Khalkho at the Dumri health centre on 15 April. According to the ANM, Prakash Lakda’s body and the rest of the victims were brought to the centre at around 4:00 am. Both the doctor and the ANM confirmed that Prakash was brought dead. According to the doctor, the “Chhota Babu” of Dumri thana, Amit Kumar, tried to make him enter Prakash Lakda’s name also in the centre’s register, to show that he was alive when he reached the hospital. Amit Kumar told Dr. Khalkho, “Entry kijiye ki zinda hai. Nahi to kaise pata chalega ki hum laye the aspatal”. The doctor refused but made an entry as “brought dead”.
According to the doctor, there were several bruises and injury marks made by hard and blunt objects on Prakash’s and other victims’ bodies. There were also marks of penetrating wounds. Prakash’s shirt and body were soiled. According to the doctor’s assessment, the death may have happened at least an hour ago as the body was cold when it was brought.
Statement of the investigating officer
The fact-finding team met with the investigating officer, R Kumar, in Jurmu itself. He said that an FIR was registered against the four Adivasis and 18 unnamed persons of Jurmu village on charges of cow slaughter. Another FIR was registered against 7 named and 30 unnamed persons of Jairagi village on charges of sections 147, 148, 149, 302, 307 etc of IPC. He said that they were yet to take a statement of the ox owner.
Statement of the thana officer
The Bada Babu (Officer-in-charge) of the Dumri thana was on leave from 10th to 15th April and the Chhota Babu (Sub Inspector), Amit Kumar, was in charge. Amit said that the police heard some noise at 2:30 am and saw some people leave the four victims in front of the thana. The police could not see the people who had brought the victims and left them there.
According to Amit Kumar, one of the victims was much more injured than the rest three. He loaded all the four victims in his car and took them to the health centre at around 3:00 am. According to him, Prakash was alive when he was loaded in the car but he was counting his last breath. By the time he was admitted in the local health centre, he had died. The doctor checked and found him to be dead.
Following this, the police went to the spot where the incident happened, at around 4:00-4:30 am. The police had to ensure that the evidence of cow slaughter was not tampered with.
Based on the statement of the victims taken at the Sadar hospital, an FIR was lodged against 7 named and 30-35 unnamed persons. They were charged with 147, 148, 302, 307, 504, 506 and some other sections of the IPC. Two of the named persons, Sanjay Sahu and Jeevan Prasad, were arrested and sent to Gumla jail.
Amit Kumar said that the incident happened at the Chhat ghat. The Shamshan ghat is also near the Chhat ghat. The Sahus had cleaned the Chhat ghat for Chhat festival (on 10 April). On the same day, some people from Jurmu cut the cow at the ghat. He said, “Hindu ke dimaag mein ye cheez aa gaya ki yehaan chhat ghaat hai. Agar chhat ghat mein ya shamshan mein agar koi gaaye kaatta hai, to koi Hindu kya sunega?” Diluting the gravity of the incident he added that had this been a case of mob lynching, a group of so many armed people (as being told by the victims) would have killed everyone. But only one person died and that too, a 50 years old.
FIR against the victims
An FIR was registered by the police against the four Adivasis and 20-25 unnamed persons of Jurmu on charges of cow slaughter. It was done on the basis of the testimony of the thana chowkidar. When asked how the FIR was filed on the chowkidar’s testimony, as he was not present during the incident, Amit Kumar said that the chowkidar was sent to the spot once the information of the incident came. He further added that the people who beat the Adivasis will never file the FIR against them as it would incriminate them in the attack on the Adivasis. So those people did not come forward to file the FIR and the police had to file it on the chowkidar’s testimony.
When Amit Kumar was asked how the police knew that the ox was slaughtered alive, he said that the block veterinary doctor and magistrate gave statements that the meat found on site was of bovine animal. When he was cross questioned that how come the police knew that the animal was alive when it was killed, Amit Kumar said, “Ye hum kaise batayenge ki mara hua tha ki zinda tha. Ye koi bata payega ki jaanwar mara hua tha ki zinda tha? aapko lagta hai ki police ke liye ye sambhav hai batana? Hai sambhav?”
Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM), expressed concern over the fact that during the last five years, at least 11 persons (nine Muslims and two Adivasis) were killed and eight more beaten by lynch mobs in the name of cow protection or over other communal issues in Jharkhand. The roles of the local administration and police in most of the cases leave a lot of questions unanswered. This continuing violence is also an attack on people’s right to eat the food of their choice, which itself endangers the right to life. Beef is one of cheapest sources of proteins available to the poor people in Jharkhand, who suffer from alarming levels of hunger and under-nutrition. JJM demands that the state government …
- Immediately withdraw the false case of cow slaughter filed against the Adivasis of Jurmu
- Arrest all the perpetrators involved in the mob violence and file charges against them under The Scheduled Castes And The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act,
- Take action against the local police for its long delay in arranging for medical treatment for the victims and filing of false case of cow slaughter,
- Provide interim compensation of Rs 15 lakh to the deceased’s family and Rs. 10 lakhs to each of the injured victims,
- Comply with the recent Supreme Court judgment on lynching.
The lynching in Gumla is another example of the rising intolerance and repression against Adivasis, Dalits and religious minorities under the BJP rule. Only last year, perpetrators of lynching in Ramgarh and Godda were felicitated by Jayant Sinha, a union minister, and Nishikant Dubey, a Member of Parliament from the BJP respectively. No BJP leader including the current Lok Sabha MP from the constituency of Jurmu, Surarshan Bhagat, has even condemned the incident till now. The silence of the BJP indicates its tacit approval. It also exposes the plans of the party to polarise votes in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections on religious lines. But what is surprising, though not unexpected, is the position of the opposition mahagathbandhan which has also kept quiet on this incidence so far. It has failed to rise up to the occasion and stand with the hounded Adivasis of Jharkhand.
(Cover image is of Jurmu Village. All relevant documents and photographs can be downloaded from this link-https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Tfzq9Xvbr_pJCSk6kjVrE0izavKjjIYW and testimony of victims, doctor and ox-owner can be seen at https://youtu.be/yqJXrnYtCEs)