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Aligarh: Muslim Man Lynched Over Suspected Theft, BJP Leaders Defend Accused

The family of the victim, Fareed alias Aurangzeb, say that the mob targeted him for being Muslim.

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Communal tensions ran high in Aligarh after an angry mob lynched a 35-year-old man, Mohammad Fareed alias Aurangzeb, on suspicion of theft. The victim’s family has called this a case of “mob-lynching” and alleged that Fareed was targeted after the mob ascertained his Muslim identity.

In the police complaint, Mohd. Zaki, Fareed’s brother, alleged that on 18 June at around 10:15 PM, when Fareed was returning home after his day job as a Roti maker, he was waylaid and attacked by a group of men in the Mamu Bhanja area of Aligarh.

“They surrounded him with the intent to kill him. They assaulted him with sticks, hockey sticks, and iron rods after identifying him as a Muslim. When my family and I were informed of the incident, we immediately rushed to the scene and transported him in critical condition to Malkhan Singh Hospital, where he was declared dead by the doctors,” the complaint reads. 

Samajwadi Party workers protested the murder and said that they won't bury the dead until all the accused are arrested. The video of the attack has gone viral on social media.

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What is the Police Saying?

The Aligarh city Superintendent of Police, Mrigank Shekhar Pathak, released a video about the murder. He said that Fareed was sent to the hospital for treatment after getting injured during the assault, but he died during treatment. 

“Prima facie, the investigation has revealed that the person who assaulted him suspected that the deceased was a thief. A case has been registered under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and police have arrested four people. Other accused have been identified with the help of CCTV, and a team is being formed to arrest them.” 

So far, Sanjay Varshney, Ankit Varshney, Chirag Varshney, Rishabh Pathak, Kamal Bansal, Anuj Agarwal, Bijju Varshney are among those named as accused in the case. The SP informed the media on 20 June that six people have been arrested till now.

Tensions in Aligarh, Protests in Favour of the Accused

These arrests have sparked fresh communal tensions in the communally sensitive town, with kin of the accused, right-wing groups, and BJP leaders openly protesting to get them released. Even as some media channels reported skirmishes and stone pelting, the police maintained that there was no breach of peace in the city. Shops remained shut on the Railway Road and the Mamu Bhanja area as the shopkeepers launched a sit-in in support of the accused. 

Speaking to a local YouTube channel, BJP MLA Mukta Raja said, “Yesterday, a robber had come here and he was mildly beaten up just like it always happens while chasing robbers. He died after he left this place. We don't know how that happened. Five of our innocent brothers have been held [by the police], which is why we are protesting. I request the administration not to take any action against them.”

Adding to Raja’s point, Shakuntala Bharti, BJP leader and the former mayor of Aligarh, told the media that the reason for the sit-in is that armed men from the [Muslim] community intruded the neighborhood at night. “Why did they come?…They have one objective: to kill and loot the businessmen. Such incidents are happening quite frequently in our Harigarh…Why have our businessmen brothers been picked up? This is unacceptable.”

Samajwadi Party leader Ajju Ishaque, who led the protest demanding justice for Fareed, said, “Even if he was a thief, should he have been killed like this? There's outrage even if a dog is killed like this.” He rubbished the accusations of theft and said that the BJP leaders and right-wing groups are trying to protect the accused. The Bajrang Dal leaders have accused Ishaque of inciting people, a charge that he denied. “When I said that we won't move even if bullets are fired, I only meant that even if we get attacked or targeted, we won't stop protesting for justice.”

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