(This article was originally published on 28 September 2017 and has been republished to mark Mohammad Akhlaq’s death anniversary.)
On 28 September 2015, Mohammad Akhlaq was beaten to death by a mob in Dadri for allegedly consuming cow meat. The following piece from The Quint’s archives is being republished to mark his second death anniversary. The piece was originally published on 18 November 2015 – roughly two months after the tragic incident.
Two months after the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, an alternate telling of the incident is emerging – one that turns the alleged motive on its head.
A day before Diwali, The Quint went to meet Ramesh (name changed), a man who says he was witness to the killing even though the police have not made him an official witness and have not taken his statement.
Eyewitness: The Truth Will Come Out
Within seconds of our reaching Ramesh’s house, a local policeman turned up, to enquire about our visit to Bisada village. The policeman was quick to boast of the police’s handling of the case, and for making arrests within 72 hours of the incident. Half an hour later, he was gone, leaving us in no doubt that the eyewitness is being watched closely.
Though outwardly calm, Ramesh was clearly agitated. No matter how much the police try to suppress it, he said, the truth will come out one day. He also said that 80 percent of the villagers know what really happened that fateful night at Akhlaq’s home.
Crucially, the UP police has not yet recorded the statement of Akhlaq’s son Danish, who was attacked along with his father, suffering near-fatal injuries. He is now out of hospital, and is the Prime Witness in the case. Why is the UP police staying away from him?
So What Really Happened?
Ramesh told The Quint that at around 10 pm on 28 September, he received a call for help from Akhlaq. In the short phone conversation, Akhlaq, he says, told him that a few people had forced their way into his house and were threatening to kill him.
I immediately called the police as I walked towards his residence. On the way, I heard an announcement made by the temple priest that Akhlaq and his family have consumed beef. He exhorted the villagers to gather at his residence. I was shocked because never have I ever in 40 years heard such an announcement.Ramesh, Eyewitness to The Quint
As he walked on, Ramesh says, he saw the remains of an animal about 50 metres from Akhlaq’s residence. Later, he would wonder why anyone eating cow meat would leave animal hide so far away from their house. In a few moments, he entered Akhlaq’s house where he saw 8-10 people. The group warned him not to intervene. Akhlaq, he says, had locked himself up with his son and daughter in a room upstairs, while his wife had locked herself up in another room downstairs.
They broke open Akhlaq’s room and it took them just 5-10 minutes to kill him. All this happened before the mob even reached the house. I desperately wanted to help him but I was alone. They even threatened to kill me if I intervened. It was a conspiracy and a planned murder.Ramesh, Eyewitness to The Quint
According to Ramesh, the real motive for Akhlaq’s murder was not the family’s alleged consumption of beef or cow slaughter. He says it was born of a grudge held by a local named Sanjay Singh, and that the priest and the others were accomplices.
Akhlaq told me a couple of times about Sanjay, who was harassing him. But I don’t exactly know what happened between them before the incident.Ramesh, Eyewitness to The Quint
According to Ramesh, Sanjay managed to get away from the clutches of the police because of his proximity to them and local politicians.
Thus far, 10 men have been arrested based on the testimony of the Akhlaq family. But Ramesh says that three of the arrested are innocent and that seven others, including Sanjay, who are yet to be arrested, are guilty.
The police carried out a shoddy investigation. They never recorded my testimony despite knowing that I was one of the eyewitnesses. They warned me that if I spoke the truth to anyone, they would put me behind bars under false charges.Ramesh, Eyewitness to The Quint
Ramesh says it was the UP police which projected Akhlaq’s murder as a result of communal unrest.
The police also helped the perpetrators hide the priest. Nobody knows where he is. The priest knows the truth and they are fearful he will tell the whole story.Ramesh, Eyewitness to The Quint
Interestingly, in early November, Subodh Singh, the Station Officer of Bisada village, was transferred to Varanasi. When The Quint spoke to the officer, he claimed that all the arrests were made based on the testimony of the family. He added that the investigation had been fair.
‘Sadhbhavana Divas a Farce’
Our visit was coincidentally on the same day that the police and administration of Bisada village in Dadri was organising a ‘Sadhbhavana Divas’ (Goodwill Day). The idea behind the Sadhbhavana Divas was to bring a measure of peace to the fractured atmosphere in the village. When we entered the venue, we could see around 100 villagers watching a game of Kabaddi. In ten minutes, Ramesh too reached the venue. As we walked to his residence, Ramesh said the event was a farce.
There are 18 Muslim families in Bisada village, but not a single Muslim from the village is present at this programme. Madam, our village was not like this.Ramesh, Eyewitness to The Quint