About a year after 52-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched by a mob in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh because of rumours that he had beef in his home, Bisada village in Dadri district is yet again engulfed by tension following the death of one of the men accused of the murder.
Members of 21-year-old Ravin Sisodia's grief-stricken family — his mother, wife and sisters — staged a sit-in protest outside his house on Wednesday, a day after his death. A female priest and members of the Hindu Jagran Manch, a Hindu activist group, sat alongside the family. The protesters claimed that Ravin was "tortured to death" in Kasna jail, about 22 kilometres from the city of Noida.
Satpal Bajrangi, a Hindu Jagran Manch leader, took a jibe at the state government saying: "The (ruling) Samajwadi Party in the state has completely ignored the majority community while trying to appease the Muslims for electoral benefits. Not a single leader has visited the village ever since Ravin's death. This reflects their double standards. The entire nation rose in anger after Akhlaq's death but where has the anger vanished now?"
Mohammad Akhlaq was beaten to death by a mob of about a 100 people on September 28, 2015, after it was alleged that he had killed a cow and consumed its meat. (Hindus consider the cow sacred and its killing is restricted in some form in 21 of 29 Indian states.)
Akhlaq's death triggered widespread condemnation and protests across the country.
Many people from the minority community in the village confess they are planning to leave the village amid simmering tension following Ravin's death.
"We are really scared. We cannot even move out of our house. We have been informed that some people with vested political interests are trying to fuel tension in the village. They are trying to politicise the issue of Ravin's death, which otherwise looks like a natural death," a woman from the minority community told WION.
However, the minority community has been assured of safety by the local administration. Battalions of police forces remain deployed to ensure that no untoward situation takes place.
Ravin was suffering from chikungunya, claims petition
According to ML Yadav, one of the jailers in Kasna jail, Ravin was admitted to a district hospital on September 29 after he complained of stomach ache. He was shifted to national capital Delhi's Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital on Tuesday for further treatment. "Ravi's ultrasound report showed that there was water in his lungs," Yadav told the Indian media.
WION is also in possession of a petition filed by Ravin's lawyer Ram Sharan Nagar. The petition, filed in the assistant district judge's court on September 30, mentions that Ravin was suffering from chikungunya and had been complaining of body ache.
Nagar had made a request for him to be transferred to a hospital for "better treatment". In response to the petition, the court had asked the police to admit him to the hospital.
Ravin's family alleges conspiracy
Ravin's family alleges that the family members of the deceased Mohammad Akhlaq conspired to kill him, in collaboration with jailer Akram Khan.
Ravin's father alleges that when he met his son on September 23, he complained of being beaten up by a prisoner inside the jail.
"My son couldn't walk properly when I last met him. He told me that he was beaten up by someone who claims to be close to Samajwadi Party bigshot Azam Khan. I suspect that there is a conspiracy involved in his killing and that he has been killed at the behest of someone powerful in the government."
According to Ravin's mother and sister, justice can be served only if Jan Mohammad, Mohammad Akhlaque's brother, accused of slaughtering a cow is sent behind bars immediately.
Politics over Dadri lynching case in the poll-bound UP
With Uttar Pradesh (UP), the most populous state in the country, gearing up for state elections next year, politics around Akhlaq's killing and Ravin's death continues unabated.
A group led by the leaders of Hindu Jagran Manch gathered outside Ravin's home on Wednesday and burnt down effigies of ruling party's leader Azam Khan and chief minister Akhilesh Yadav. Several villagers also joined them in raising slogans against the incumbent government. The leaders of the organisation accused the government of carrying out minority appeasement while ignoring the majority community for electoral gains.
Suresh Rana, leader of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), also visited the village on Wednesday and said that the party will ensure that the state government is under pressure to meet all the demands of the family and the villagers.
It is pertinent to mention that the Dadri lynching case is sub judice and charges are yet to be framed against the accused. A trial court in Greater Noida rejected an application of the rest of the 14 accused to attend Ravin's funeral.