By Jose Kavi
New Delhi, September 23, 2019: Christian activists joined national leaders to condemn the lynching of a tribal by alleged cow vigilantes in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand.
“This is the fourth Catholic Christian lynched in Jharkhand by self-styled gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes) about whom we know from the media,” John Dayal, general secretary of the All India Christian Council and spokesperson of the All India Catholic Union, said on September 23, a day after a man was killed and two others injured in Khunti district.
The mob that assaulted them accused them of “slaughtering” a cow.
The three are identified as Kalantus Barla, Philip Horo and Faagu Kacchap, who were allegedly carving an animal prohibited for slaughtering in Jaltanda Suari village. Barla, who had sustained grievous injuries, died before reaching the hospital. The other two are said to be stable.
On the same day, police detained five people for questioning in connection with the case. However, villagers surrounded the police station demanding their release. They ended the strike after Sub-divisional Police Officer Rushabh Jha assured them that the detained would be released if found innocent.
The incident evoked nationwide condemnation.
Sitaram Yechury, leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has demanded answers from the government alleging that the crimes of such nature are being patronized by the state.
“This is a very dangerous and mob lynchings are continuing without any restrictions on culprits. There is an atmosphere of fear, violence and it is poisonous for our society which the government is clearly patronizing,” he said.
Pavan Verma, spokesperson of Janata Dal (United) , stated that the country was on the verge of becoming ‘an uncivilized nation.’
“How many more mob lynching incidents do we need before we realize that we are on verge of becoming an uncivilized nation?” he asked.
CPI (M) leader Brinda Karat also said that there is no law and order in Jharkhand and it is now known as ‘Lynchistan.’
Dayal, who is also a veteran journalist and human rights activist, says that no one knows the number of Muslims, Christians, and Dalits who have been killed by “these murderous gangs” in the last two years.
“They may or may not have the patronage of senior political leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state, but they surely revel in the state of impunity that exists in the state where Hindutva is concerned,” Dayal added.
Jharkhand is ruled by a coalition headed by the pro-Hindu party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Days says the recurring killings, even after the prime minister’s chastising the cow vigilantes, betrays the absolute lack of political will in Jharkhand.
“What makes it worse is that the police seem reluctant. Unless they are partners in the crime when they accompany the mobs and see the victim being beaten up, they are late on the scene, falter in taking the victim to hospital, errant in recording the names of the people in the killer mob, absolutely non-scientific in collecting evidence and recording the statements of the victim, if he is still alive, or of the witnesses. The court records in lynching cases speak for themselves,” Dayal added.
Gladson Dungdung, a social researcher and author, says what one eats or not eats is a person’s personal choice. No government or organization can decide what people should eat.
“I condemn the mob lynching done in the name of beef,” he said adding mob lynching has actually become state-sponsored violence and murder.
Dungdung, a tribal, says many communities in Jharkhand have eaten beef for centuries as it is the cheapest source of proteins.
“No one had trouble nor anyone killed those who eat beef. But in the name of beef for the last two years, the case of assault and murder has been continuously coming forward as the state government has encouraged the so-called innocents to do such inhuman act by making cow defense law.”
He explains that tolerance has always been in their tribal society about beef.
“There is a ban on eating beef in our Khagaria tribal community because we consider cow-bulls as part of the family. However, we do not have any trouble other communities around us eating beef. We live with them in peace. Their eating beef does not hurt our feelings,” Dungdung explained.
According to him, those indulging in violence in the name of cow are outsiders. “Can’t they learn the lesson of tolerance from tribals?” he asked.
This year in April, a tribal Christian Prakash Lakra was killed after being lynched by a mob allegedly after he along with other villagers were allegedly “carving a dead ox” in Jhurmo village of Gumla district.
In the case, the police booked the injured under the Jharkhand Bovine Animal Prohibition of Slaughter Act.
In September alone, at least three similar incidents have been reported across the state. On September 11, an old man was beaten to death suspecting him to be a child lifter in Sahibganj district.
On September 3, a man in his 40s was assaulted by a mob in Ramgarh district and he died on the way to hospital.
On September 6, a man in Kagti Pahari village of Dhanbad died after he was thrashed over similar rumors.
In the last three years, at least 21 people have died in mob violence across the state. The lynching incidents have stemmed from accusations of animal slaughter, theft and child lifting rumors among others.
In addition, more than 90 people have been killed by mobs on suspicion of practicing witchcraft in Jharkhand since January 2017.