Rinku Sharma Murder: How Groups Are Stoking Fear in Mangolpuri
Police says they are probing “all angles” to the murder but various groups are stoking communal fear in Mangolpuri.
“We have been living in this lane in Mangolpuri for the last 20 years. We have celebrated Eid-Diwali together for so many years, been part of each others’ good and bad moments but now....”, Asifa*, a resident of K Block in Mangolpuri said.
She continued, “Since Friday, 12 February, there have been so many groups gathering in this lane, so many social media posts being made, so many hateful speeches and slogans being raised that I don’t know if we’ll ever go back to celebrating our festivals or our happy moments with each other like we used to.”
On 12 February, 25-year-old Rinku Sharma was killed by a group of Muslim neighbours in the Hindu-dominated Mangolpuri.
Soon after the murder, Rinku’s brother Mannu, political parties, including the BJP and the AAP, and several right-wing outfits claimed that the murder was “communal” – and that “Rinku was killed because of a Ram Mandir donation drive”. But the police has claimed that Rinku’s death was due to a business rivalry, which started at a birthday party, and there was no communal angle to it. The five accused – Zahid, Mehtab, Nasruddin, Islam, and Tazuddin – have already been arrested. They all belong to the same family.
The first Tuesday since Rinku’s death witnessed a Hanuman Chalisa recital in the lane. Mannu said the recital is usually held at a nearby park, but this one was held outside Rinku’s home in his memory. Meanwhile, the police sat guarding the lane that led to the houses of Rinku and Zahid, one of the accused.
Decoding the Many Contradictions in Rinku Sharma’s Death
Before we understand how a brutal murder of a Hindu man has once again been used to fan violence and communal tensions in Delhi, let’s first understand the many contradictions and context in the case:
- Rinku has been a member of the BJP Yuva Morcha and an active part of Bajrang Dal for the last two years, according to his brother Mannu Sharma. Mannu says, “My elder brother always used to be at the forefront of Hindutva activities in the area. That is why the Muslim neighbours were peeved.”
- “Jai Shri Ram” — a Hindu religious chant that Rinku’s brother and VHP believe to be the cause behind his murder. But why? Neeraj Thakur, who claimed to be the one to indoctrinate Rinku and several other Hindu youth in the lane into BJP’s youth outfit, said, “The enmity dates back to 5 August 2020 when PM Modi conducted Bhoomi Poojan of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.”
- According to Neeraj Thakur and Mannu Sharma, “On 5 August 2020, Rinku and his friends had taken out a rally in favour of the Ram temple and everyone was raising slogans of “Jai Shri Ram”. There are very few Muslim houses in that locality but only Tazuddin – one of the accused – had a problem with it. The two of them had got into a brawl but was later sorted out.” Mannu added, “They had pent up anger against my brother, which is why when they found him alone on Friday night, they attacked him.”
- Mannu claimed that another scuffle broke out en route to Sanjay Gandhi Hospital. In his complaint, Mannu has accused Mehtab of stabbing his brother.
- But, Delhi Police pins the flashpoint of Friday’s incident to a party at a local restaurant, Masala Darbar. In an earlier statement, Delhi police had said that a fight started over a business rivalry and later got heated up, a claim reiterated by Rinku’s mother, according to this report on The Print. However, Delhi Police PRO Chinmay Biswal on Tuesday, 16 February, said, “The police is still probing the case from all angles.”
- In a video that surfaced from the day of the incident, Rinku can be seen holding a sharp object and storming out of his home while a group of men, holding sticks, clashing with each other. It is not immediately clear if it is the same sharp object that was used as the murder weapon. Rinku’s mother had told The Print, “An argument had broken out between men of both the families over money some 5-6 months ago. I don’t know much about it. There are many other Muslims here; we only have a problem with the accused, not with the others.”
- The Quint tried to contact the accused’s families but couldn’t reach them. As per the report in The Print, Nasruddin’s wife Shama said that the fight started after Rinku and his friends had allegedly forced their nephew Zahid to consume alcohol at a friend’s birthday party. According to the report, the family had left for Bihar’s Samastipur.
- Sooraj, Rinku’s friend who was present at the party, said a scuffle had broken out between another friend called Sachin and Zahid but he is not sure about the reason behind it. He says, “When Sachin had slapped Zahid on the head, the situation got heated up and we all had stopped Sachin. Rinku had nothing to do with it. They killed him because they had pent up anger against him.” He adds, “They would get angry if Rinku raised ‘Jai Shree Ram’ slogans outside their homes during rallies but what is wrong in raising a religious slogan?”
Calls for Violence, Social Media Cartoons: How Online Campaign Translates Into Fear on Ground
Replete with contradictions and opposing versions of events, the Delhi Police is still investigating the motive behind Rinku’s murder but that hasn’t stopped politicians and right-wing groups from further polarising the situation on the ground with communal speeches, online hate campaigns and calls for violence.
In the week that followed his death, there were rallies calling: “Rinku ke hathyaro ko, Goli maaro saalon ko.” (Shoot down those who are accused of killing Rinku Sharma), cartoons depicting Lord Ram holding Rinku Sharma’s dead body and BJP MP Kapil Mishra urging police to treat the murder as a “terrorist act”.
A similar pattern of calling for violence and communal speeches by Hindutva groups was seen after the murder of Ankit Saxena in 2018 and Nikita Tomar’s murder in October 2020 — in both cases the victim was a Hindu and the accused a Muslim.
After Saxena’s death, his friends and family had appealed for peace and urged to not paint the matter in communal colours, while after Nikita’s death, violence had erupted in Ballabhgarh, where right-wing groups protested against Nikita’s stalking-murder, which they claimed was a larger ‘Love Jihad’ conspiracy by Muslims.
Now, one may argue that social media justice campaigns are often used to amplify outrage after a heinous crime, but what justifies calls for violence against a community that stokes communal fears on the ground?
After the Hathras incident, UP Police arrested Kerala journalist Siddiqui Kappan and three others and charged them with serious crimes, including sedition and UAPA allegedly for conspiring to stir caste and communal tensions after the rape and death of a 19-year-old Dalit girl. However, those arrested in the Ballabhgarh violence were given bail within 15 days, according to a member of Karni Sena who was also involved in the protest.
‘Felt Like Hindu Religion Is Still Alive’: Cop Outside Rinku’s Home
While a young Muslim girl serving tea to the deployed policemen in Mangolpuri said they have not been living in their house during nights since the incident has occurred, a policeman sitting outside the house told this reporter, “Although I believe the matter was not sparked due to communal reasons, it felt good to see so many Hindu groups coming together for a cause. It felt like our religion is still alive.”
Earlier, Asifa had also said, “We have no problem with anyone raising religious slogans. There is one God, we call him with different names, what is wrong in that?”
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