The Quint had travelled to the Bisada village a day after it’s blacksmith was brutally lynched on September 28, 2015.
(This article is being re-published in order to give an account of what had happened the night Akhlaq was murdered.)
58-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq was woken from his sleep on 28 September by an angry mob. They first went for his refrigerator, found some meat, then resorted to abusing, and finally picked up some bricks from under his bed to smash his skull.
This happened in Bisahara in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh. A well-connected village, only 60 kilometres from Delhi.
Mohammad Akhlaq’s 22-year-son Danish, who came to his rescue, is currently fighting for his life in a Noida hospital.
And his 18-year-old daughter Shaista, who was groped and molested, says she even recognised some of the neighbourhood boys who were part of the mob.
Her 70-year-old grandmother, who has a black eye and bruises all over her body, prays incessantly for Danish’s recovery. “After Akhlaq, Danish is our only hope”, she says.
Bisahara: 28 September 2015, 10:30 PM
Bisahara too was sound asleep when an unknown voice broke the peace. The speakers at the Bada Mandir (Big Temple) announced that the severed head of a cow was found under a transformer in the village. There are contradicting versions from residents to the question whether the announcer identified Mohammad Akhlaq as the culprit.
There are only two Muslim houses in the area, and for some reason, the angry mob broke down the village blacksmith’s door.
“Whatever happened was just wrong”, says 22-year-old student Vandana Rana. One would think she’s referring to the brutal murder that took place two houses down, but the B.Pharma student, who hasn’t been able to go to college for two days, was actually talking about the cow carcass found in the village. Her brother Sandeep Sisodia is among the six men who’ve been arrested for allegedly lynching Akhlaq on Monday.
The announcement was made because someone did something wrong. Within half an hour, there were at least 200 people in these narrow lanes. There was no electricity, it was pitch dark, you couldn’t see any faces. Our brothers are innocent. The mob is to blame.
— Vandana Rana, Resident, Bisahara
“It Wasn’t Beef”
In Uttar Pradesh, cow slaughter is illegal, but consumption isn’t. Laughably, the meat found in the family’s fridge was sent for “forensic tests” and news reports quoting UP government sources say that it was not beef. The result of this test is relevant only to prove that the rumours were false and could point to a larger conspiracy to create tension in a Hindu-dominated village, having only two Muslim households. Moreover, the village has never witnessed communal tension before.
The angry mob, which held a meeting at the Bada Temple, first got into a heated argument with Akhlaq over cow slaughter. He pleaded that the food in his fridge was mutton left over from Eid. The mob didn’t pay heed and went on a rampage, ransacking his house, assaulting the women and ultimately killing the 58-year old.
We’ve been living here for generations and never before have we felt like we were the only Muslim family in Bisahara. We’re shocked that none of our neighbours came to our rescue.
— Asgari, Mohammad Akhlaq’s mother
Blissfully unaware children, a healthy contingent of cops, and a smattering of journalists were the only people seen roaming the brick-paved lanes of the village. But a woman with a baby in tow was eager to speak with us, claiming innocence of her two brothers – Gaurav and Saurav, who’re among the six people arrested so far.
My brothers were fast asleep when the mob went on the rampage. They’re both educated boys and had nothing to do with Akhlaq’s murder. Their lives are being ruined.
— Garima, Resident, Bisahara
Garima too heard the announcement involving the cow slaughter, but cannot recall if Akhlaq’s name was mentioned.
But Shaista has no doubt in her mind when she says she saw Saurav and Gaurav in her house on the fateful night.
I clearly remember seeing them there. They’re both older to me, more my brother Danish’s age. They were part of the mob that murdered my father and destroyed my home.
— Shaista, Akhlaq’s daughter
Around five in the evening, as the crowd of journalists faded, a big red SUV with Owaisi’s face plastered all over was spotted parked at the village entrance.
You can be sure that the communal beef has only just begun.