In a case that puts a big question mark on the functioning of, and the public trust in, law and order, a family that caught a neighbour raping their girl-child red-handed, took him to a panchayat for justice.
The panchayat ordered ‘death sentence’ to the accused, after which he was tied to a tree and beaten till death. A video of the lynching was widely circulated on social media.
The incident took place in Hasanganj area of Katihar district of Bihar last week. All sides involved in the case belong to the Muslim community.
After the man’s death came to light and the police got involved, the child’s family filed a case against the dead accused for rape. Father of the lynched man, in return, filed a case against the child’s family for attempt to murder.
The police have so far arrested one member of the girl’s family in the second case.
Below are details of the cases filed from both sides.
The case from the family of the girl-child
A First Information Report (number 121/2022) was registered at Hasanganj police station of Katihar district of Bihar on 6 October 2022, based on a complaint by the mother of the victim.
Rukhsana Khatun, the victim’s mother, told the police that she and her family members were sleeping at night, and her daughter Afreen Khatun (name changed, surname retained to protect identity of the victim) was sleeping beside her.
When she woke up around 2 am, she found her daughter missing. She tried looking around, but failed to find out. Other family members also woke up and started searching for Afreen.
Near New Gas warehouse, they found Mohammad Sagir with their daughter, without clothes. He was raping her. Rukhsana told the police that while she was asleep, Sagir trespassed into her house and took her daughter away with him. Sagir, who already has several cases of rape and molestation registered against him, raped her daughter as well, the statement of the mother concludes here.
It is noteworthy that no date of the alleged rape has been mentioned in the FIR, which was filed on 6 October.
The police booked Sagir under IPC section 376 (rape) along with sections of the POCSO Act.
As videos show, the villagers tied up Sagir from a tree and beat him up. This happened around 200 meters from Hasanganj police station. By the time police arrived and dragged Sagir away from the mob, he had been badly injured.
The case from father of the dead rape-accused
Another FIR (number 122/2022) was registered at Hasanganj police station on 6 October, this time based on a complaint by Sagir’s father.
Sheikh Safeed, father of Sagir, told the police that on 6 October around 5 in the morning, his son went towards Meera Parti graveyard for open defecation. On his way, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Afroz, Mohammad Firoz, Gulshan Khatun, Khaksaza Khatun, Mohammad Nazeer and Hazra Khatun - all residents of Hasanganj - took him towards the market. With the intention of killing him, they tied him to a palm tree using a rope.
Then they all attacked him with weapons including sticks and iron rods. When police arrived, he was taken to Primary Health Centre in Katihar, from where the doctors referred him to the Katihar Sadar hospital. By the time Sagir reached the hospital, he was already dead, as per the hospital staff.
The statement by Sagir’s father concludes here.
A case under sections 302 (attempt to murder), 120(B) (criminal conspiracy), and 34 (acts done by several persons with common intention) of the IPC was registered by the police against the identified suspects.
Police say panchayat sentenced Sagir to death
The Station House Officer of Hasanganj, Ram Chandra Mandal, told Swarajya over the phone that residents told the police that they caught Sagir raping a child from their locality on the intervening night of 4 and 5 October. On 5 October, he was produced before a panchayat in Hasanganj and “sentenced to death”.
The officer said, “Sagir and the minor's family are neighbours and know each other very well. The minor’s family, after Sagir’s death, filed a case of rape and abduction against him. The minor’s medical reports are awaited for further investigation.”
He said that there are nine criminal cases pending against Sagir and he has been to jail earlier as well. He did not share details of those cases when asked.
About the arrests in the case, he said that in the case filed by Sagir’s father, one of the named suspects namely Hazra Khatun had been arrested while others are still absconding.
The officer declined to speak further, saying the case was under investigation.
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