At the Mercy of Mob Frenzy: The Humans of Mass Lynching

A fate Pehlu, Zafar, Akhlaq, and numerous others did not deserve. 

Published
India
5 min read


Citizens hold placards during ‘Not in My Name’ protest against targeted lynching, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.
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Pehlu Khan, Zafar Khan, Hafiz Junaid, Mohammad Akhlaq and others had their unfortunate fates sealed the moment frenzied mobs barged into their houses or blocked their path on roads. These brutal episodes of lynching have evoked strong reactions as well as raised questions on the principles of a pluralistic society.

“Ponder over, pause and reflect,” these words of outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee reverberate across towns of Dadri, Pratapgarh, Alwar, Ramgarh and others that remain scarred by assaults and killings.

When mob frenzy becomes so high and irrational, uncontrollable, we are to pause and reflect: are we vigilant enough? I am not talking of vigilantism – I’m talking of are we vigilant enough proactively to save the basic tenets of our country
President Pranab Mukherjee

In most cases, accusations of cattle smuggling, beef consumption were laid down as reasons behind the assault by the self-proclaimed cow protectors or self-righteous individuals claiming to be clean.

Here are the harrowing incidents that have stained the very foundation of the world's largest democracy.

“He Was the Only Earning Member”

Mariyam Khatoon has nothing to do with the Rs 2 lakh compensation offered to her after her husband was assaulted and killed in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh district on 29 June 2017.

“I have six kids and my husband was the only one who earned. How does this help,” she asked when The Quint went to meet the aggrieved family.

At the Mercy of Mob Frenzy: The Humans of Mass Lynching
(Photo: Aishwarya Iyer/The Quint)

Asgar Ali or Alimuddin, a meat trader, was lynched by a mob which accused him of carrying beef in his car. He was surrounded by a mob of around 30 people who dragged him out and brutally attacked him.

This episode took place on the same day PM Narendra Modi warned against attacks in the name of ‘gau bhakti’.

“They Should Be Punished”: Junaid’s Mother Demands Justice

Junaid was returning home to Khandawali village in Faridabad after his Eid shopping with his elder brother, when they were attacked and stabbed by a mob on 22 June 2017 after an altercation.

When their brother Shakir reached the Ballabhgarh station to help them, he too wasn’t spared. Reports said the fight was over a train seat and some also suggest beef rumours as the reason behind the assault. While Hashim and Shakir survived, Junaid died of multiple stab wounds.

Junaid’s mother, Saira.
Junaid’s mother, Saira.
(Photo: Abhilash Mallick/The Quint)

Junaid’s grieving mother told The Quint, “Woh log zalim hain, zalim ki tarah saza honi chahiyye. Unko Musalmanon se dushmani hai (They are cruel, they should be punished appropriately. They hate Muslims.)

“We Will Fight,” Says Zafar Khan’s Sister

Zafar Khan, a local CPI (ML) worker and activist, was allegedly lynched by civic municipality workers in Pratapgarh, Rajasthan on 15 June 2017 after he stopped them from photographing women relieving themselves in the open.

The incident caused much furore after Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje called Khan’s “demise” unfortunate and hinted that the death was not murder.

AISA activists stage a demonstration against public lynching of CPI (ML) worker Zafar Khan.
AISA activists stage a demonstration against public lynching of CPI (ML) worker Zafar Khan.
(Photo: IANS)

Speaking to National Herald, Zafar’s sister Noor said:

My brother was beaten to death. We will fight the legal battle and will present eye witnesses to give their statements… We will fight until the culprits are brought to book. This is not something that we will compromise on

“We’re Scared to Step Out of the House”: Pehlu Khan’s Son, Irshad

Pehlu Khan, a 55-year-old dairy farmer from Nuh district in Haryana, and four others (including his two sons) were returning home after purchasing cattle from Jaipur when they were stopped by a mob of self-appointed cow vigilantes in Rajasthan’s Alwar district on 1 April 2017.

Even after Khan showed them relevant documents saying that the cattle was purchased for milk, they were ruthlessly thrashed. Khan died on 3 April from his injuries, while the others survived.

Pehlu Khan’s son Irshad with the rest of his family.
Pehlu Khan’s son Irshad with the rest of his family.
(Photo: The Quint)

Pehlu Khan’s son Irshad, while speaking to The Quint, said:

They beat us so much that my father lost his life from the injuries and I am still suffering from serious injuries. Since he died, we don’t dare take our cattle there, we are scared to step out of the house… The government has not helped us in any way… We want the accused to be arrested and the compensation we deserve

Dalit Men Stripped and Paraded in Una Streets

Seven members of a Dalit family were flogged by a group of cow vigilantes on 11 July 2016 in Una, Gujarat for allegedly skinning a dead cow. They sustained serious injuries after being beaten up with iron rods and sticks.

Four Dalit men who were attacked by cow-vigilantes arrive to take part in a solidarity rally in Una, Gujarat, on 15 August 2016. 
Four Dalit men who were attacked by cow-vigilantes arrive to take part in a solidarity rally in Una, Gujarat, on 15 August 2016. 
(Photo: PTI)

The vigilantes, who accused them of slaughtering the cow, then took four of them to town where they were tied to a vehicle and thrashed again. They were also stripped and paraded on the streets.

The incident was so traumatic that the victims also had to undergo treatment for depression.

“I’ve Lost Everything”: A Father Mourns His Son’s Death

Ghulam Rasool lost all hope in life when his son died after receiving 70 per cent burn injuries in an alleged petrol bomb attack on 9 October 2015 in Jammu’s Udhampur district.

I’ve lost everything

Zahid Ahmad Bhat, in his 20s, was ferrying cow carcasses when a group of self-proclaimed cow vigilantes allegedly hurled bombs at him. He passed away ten days later.

Family members of Zahid in Kashmir. 
Family members of Zahid in Kashmir. 
(Photo: PTI)

Angry protesters took to streets to condemn Bhat’s killing and hundreds attended the funeral, according to an Indian Express report.

A forensic report later revealed that the carcasses in the truck were of cows that had died of food poisoning, not slaughter.

Mohammad Akhlaq's Son Wonders Why His Family Was Targeted

On the night of 28 September 2015 in UP’s Dadri, Mohammad Akhlaq, a 55-year-old farm worker and his son Danish were dragged out of their house and brutally thrashed by a mob following an announcement at a temple that the family had consumed and stored beef.

Akhlaq’s 18-year-old daughter Shaista (centre) being consoled after her father Akhlaq’s death.
Akhlaq’s 18-year-old daughter Shaista (centre) being consoled after her father Akhlaq’s death.
(Photo: Reuters)

Akhlaq succumbed to his injuries while Danish survived. Akhlaq's family later left their home for the comparative safety of Delhi to live with their eldest son Mohammad Sartaj who had told The Quint last year that:

Our family never had an argument with anyone in the village. We shared cordial relations with our neighbours. I still don’t know why my family was targeted.

Families mourn their dead hoping no other has to face such a painful ordeal. But looking at the number of incidents, the country looks forth to a stronger structure in place to tackle the menace of individuals taking law into their own hands.

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