"He called and said that he is not feeling well and wanted to return home for good. I asked if there is some other problem, but he said that he is having health issues. He had decided that he would collect his remaining payment from his workplace and return home for good. That was the last time we spoke. He was such a humble and innocent man. I don't know why someone would do this to him," said Indraso (31), remembering the last conversation she had with her husband Ramkeshwar Kherwar (41) at 8:00 pm on Sunday, 19 March.
Hours later, Kherwar who was in the Sudhavansol village in Gujarat's Kheda district, was lynched by some of the villagers on suspicion of being a thief.
A migrant labourer from Madhana village of Chhattisgarh's Balrampur district, Kherwar had moved to Ahmedabad last year in search of work.
"This was the first time that he went alone, otherwise he would always go in a group with other people," Indraso told The Quint over the phone.
VR Bajpai, Deputy Suprintendent of Police, Kheda, told The Quint: "The villagers thought Kherwar was a thief. There is no clarity as to why he was at that place. After one of the villagers called us, we immediately rushed there and rescued him. We took him to a local hospital first for preliminary treatment and then to Ahmedabad for further treatment. But he succumbed during the treatment."
Body Identified By Colleague
Kherwar was employed by BL Kashyap & Sons Limited at the High-Speed Rail Terminal of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project in Sabarmati. He initially worked at the company's Ahmedabad office and was briefly moved to work for a project in Bihar.
On 17 March, Kherwar visited Sabarmati to meet Manish Kumar Singh, a civil supervisor at the company, who Kherwar previously worked under. He informed Singh that he wants to discontinue work and return home to Chhattisgarh.
A day before his death, however, Kherwar had left for Ahmedabad, Singh told the police in the FIR.
The Mahemdabad police reached out to Singh to identify Kherwar's body at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital after getting his phone number from Kherwar's belongings.
In the FIR, Singh mentioned that there were severe injuries on Kherwar's head.
Family Loses Sole Breadwinner
Kherwar is survived by three sons Arjun (17), Sarjun (9), and Suraj (7) and his wife Indraso in Madhana. His parents and siblings live in another village.
Arjun, who quit studies because of the family's financial distress, is worried about the future his siblings and his mother
Indraso said that Kherwar had moved cities to provide better quality life and education to his children.
"I request the government to help us. My husband was the only breadwinner, all my children are small. If they help us financially, I can feed my children and ensure education for them. That's all I ask," she said.
A Gujarat Village in Shock
The police registered an FIR under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including section 302 (murder), section 147 (rioting), and section 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon) against several accused.
Four suspects — Vishnu Jagdish Sodha, Lalsingh Abhaysingh Sodha, Suresh Somabhai Sodha, and Ganpat Jayantibhai Dabhi — have been apprehended so far, the police said.
Rameshbhai (name changed) and his family, residents of Sudhavansol village, witnessed Kherwar's lynching.
“We heard loud noises of people shouting on the roads at night and went out to check. I saw a group of six to seven people beating a man and hurling stones at him. The chaos continued for hours until other villagers intervened and stopped the violence. It was scary. I hope something like this never happens again," said Rameshbhai.
Jayeshbhai, a farmer from Sudhavansol, said that the village has always been peaceful.
"Our village is a peaceful one, and incidents of mob lynching or harassment of migrants are not common here. We only found out about this incident in the morning. We don't know him (Kherwar). We believe he may have been mistaken for a thief," he said.
This is the second such incident reported from the state in a span of two days. On Sunday, 19 March, a 35-year-old Nepalese national Kulman Gagan was beaten to death by a mob at Jivanpura village of Sansad taluka.
(With inputs from Janvi Sonaiya, an Ahmedabad-based freelance journalist.)