Ground Report: Man Found Hanging From Tree, Family Says His Girlfriend's Kin Killed Him Over His Religion
Only after villagers staged a protest, the police registered a case of murder, says the victim's father.
Three days have passed since Asha Ram saw the body of his son, Sunil, hanging from a tree, about a kilometre from his house.
The previous night, Sunil had eaten dinner with them and gone to sleep on his cot as usual. Nobody in the family saw or heard him step out of the house in the night.
Asha Ram breaks down several times recalling the tragedy.
His small house, in village Jianagla of Bareilly district in Uttar Pradesh, is filled with women mourners consoling his wife. Asha Ram, along with a group of men, is sitting in a godown adjoining the house, where some families store fodder for the cattle.
Policemen are posted at the entrance of the village, near Asha Ram’s house and outside where four men have been booked for Sunil’s murder and arrested.
The accused family, who are Muslims, is less than hundred metres from Asha Ram’s house.
As per the mourning father, the Muslim family killed Sunil for being in a romantic relationship with their daughter, Saba. The police have not denied this explanation so far.
Sunil Sent Voice Messages On A WhatsApp Group The Previous Night
On Saturday morning (3 September), villagers woke up to mysterious pictures and voice messages sent from the mobile phone of Sunil a little after midnight on the intervening night of Friday and Saturday.
The messages were sent to a WhatsApp group name ‘Ram Ram Ji’, which has more than 100 members from the village. “All Hindus,” Jiyalal, brother-in-law of Sunil, explains.
In the voice messages, Sunil is repeatedly asking to be spared, as if talking to some people. However, no other voice can be heard.
Sunil is taking the name of Guddu, Saba and Deepak. Guddu alias Abrar Ahmed is uncle (chacha) of Saba. Deepak is the village pradhan’s son, who helped mediate between Sunil and Saba’s families three months ago when this interfaith relationship became a contentious issue in the village.
A compromise was then made where Sunil and Saba were asked to stay away from each other and stop all communication. Saba was sent to a relative’s family in an adjoining village, says Jiyalal.
The family shared the voice messages with this correspondent.
Below is the translation of some of these messages:
“Please spare me. Spare me at least now. I have not done anything. I did as told.”
“Free my hands. Let me go home. I have told you the password for every lock in my phone. What else do you want me to do?”
“I accept I have done wrong. Send me to jail. At least bring Saba to me.”
“Deepak, the money is kept exactly where it was kept earlier.”
These voice messages from Sunil’s phone were preceded by “intimate pictures” of Saba and Sunil, and followed by a picture of currency notes.
The family and other villagers refused to share any pictures of Saba and Sunil with this correspondent. For the picture of currency notes, none offered an explanation.
“We are as surprised as anyone. Is this money kept somewhere? We do not know,” says Asha Ram.
‘Police Tried To Dismiss The Case As Suicide’
He says that when he rushed to the spot where Sunil’s body was hanging, around 6.45 am on Saturday, the police had already taken it down and were stuffing it in a plastic sheet to be sent for autopsy.
“The police did not bother to inform me or anybody in my family. It was not like Sunil’s face was unrecognisable. Someone had sent me a word just in time, else the police would have declared the body unidentified and closed the case,” says Asha Ram.
He and his wife kitka Devi, had a last look at the face of his son before it was sent for autopsy.
“The entire day, the police did not entertain our complaint. They dismissed the case as suicide. In the evening, we [villagers] staged an agitation on the main road outside the village. Then the police filed a case of murder,” says Asha Ram.
What The FIR Says
The first information report (FIR) was filed on the same day (3 September) at Sheeshgarh Police Station of Bareilly.
On the complaint of Asha Ram, six people were booked under IPC section 302 (murder), namely Fazal, Yasin, Guddu alias Abrar, and his brothers Israr (Saba’s father), Avrar and Sarfaraz.
Asha Ram’s statement recorded in the FIR says (as translated):
“Three months ago, my son entered into a relationship with Israr’s daughter. The matter was settled through a compromise by the current pradhan. However, Israr and his three brothers continued to hold a grudge against Sunil. Around 1 am on the intervening night of Friday and Saturday, some messages were sent to a Whatsapp group by Sunil, in which he was heard begging for mercy.
“We had seen Sunil go to sleep at 11 pm and we do not know how he reached the spot after midnight. We suspect that Abrar, Israr, Avrara and Sarfaraz, with the help of their relatives Fazal and Yasin, beat up Sunil, stuffed cloth in his mouth and hanged him from a tree to death. A villager named Ramdhun spotted the body and informed me.”
When asked by this correspondent on what basis he had identified the five men as accused, Asha Ram said that he suspected their role as all these men had stopped communication with Sunil.
Sunil Was Youngest Son Of Asha Ram
Asha Ram has four children — three sons and a daughter, who is the youngest. All children except Sunil are married and have children of their own.
“Sunil used to help me run this grocery store,” says Asha Ram, pointing to a small shop adjoining the fodder godown. The shop is closed and locked.
Sunil was the youngest son, younger to Sudeep and Anil.
About his relationship with Saba, Asha Ram hesitates, but says that “Saba used to call my son to her house”. Sunil’s sister Roshni says that though she was close to Sunil, he never spoke about Saba to her.
“Even if they were in a relationship earlier, things changed over the last three months. This is because Saba was sent away. It was only earlier this week that she visited her family in our village,” says Roshni.
“They probably met again. We do not know,” she adds.
‘If We Had To Attack Muslims, Police Would Not Have Been Able To Save Them’
Villagers gathered around Asha Ram say that the entire village resembles a “police chhawni" (police cantonment).
“They [the police] say they are here to save Muslims from us. This is nonsense. If we had to attack them, these policemen would not have been able to save them,” says Hem Raj, elder brother of Asha Ram.
“Hindus always look towards the police. They do not retaliate. This police security is drama,” he adds.
The group says that Jianagla village has about 1,100 voters, of whom “95 per cent” are Hindus, “mostly Rajputs” as Asha Ram’s family.
The rest of the Hindu population comprises Jaatav (Chamar jaati). The Muslims are from the Dhobi jaati.
Villagers say that Jianagla is flanked by Tigri village, which is “almost wholly Muslim-populated”, and Sheeshgarh, which has “mixed population but Muslims dominate”.
“When we staged an agitation on Saturday, and again the next day demanding immediate arrest of the accused, all jaatis came together in our support except Muslims. None of them came,” says Asha Ram.
Asked if the case has triggered communal tensions and created a divide between Hindus and Muslims, Hem Raj and others say “there were always divisions”.
“They are not our people. They do not like us. We know it,” says Hem Raj, but adds, “In day-to-day life, there is no enmity. We work together.” Saying this, Hem Raj offers to take this correspondent to the accused’s house. Two-three villagers get up to accompany us.
Compared to neighbouring houses, the house of Saba is a large one. The large iron gate opens into a compound, as seen from a narrow opening in the gate.
However, despite several minutes of calling out to the family to open the gate, nobody arrives.
Hem Raj and others are standing a few metres away. They say that the gate would not be opened for me or any reporter.
“Others before you also tried it. Several mediapersons came yesterday, including from news channels. But they did not open,” says Hem Raj.
I leave and turn to an adjoining house. “Same thing will happen,” says Hem Raj.
Outside the village, I go to a Muslim-owned shop and ask if he has any comments on the case.
“It’s a case of suicide. Under pressure, the police have arrested innocents. I am not denying they have a history, but this was suicide,” the shop-owner says, politely refusing to be named in my report.
The Bareilly police posted a press note on their official Twitter account on the same day as the body was found. The note says on a complaint by the deceased’s family, a case was registered and some persons were detained and being questioned.
The account has not posted any update in the case.
When this correspondent called up Sheeshgarh Police Station on 6 September, the person who answered the call said that they were not authorised to speak to the media and I must wait for an official communication from a senior police officer.
The person said that the police had not received the autopsy report, which could reveal the reason for Sunil’s death.
In the local media and on social media, the case has been reported as yet another addition to a long roster of cases where Hindu men have been killed by the families of their Muslim girlfriends.
While there have been some cases of Hindu families attacking or killing Muslim men for such relationships, a casual observation of such cases show that the Muslim side is particularly militant against their women going to the non-Muslim side and leaving her religion, and Hindu men are bigger victims in such interfaith relationships.
In his seminal 1945 book Pakistan, or The Partition of India, B R Ambedkar raised this concern, saying “…the Hindus are right when they say that it is not possible to establish social contact between Hindus and Muslims because such contact can only mean contact between women from one side and men from the other.”
By casual observation, one also knows that ‘Muslim woman-non-Muslim man’ relationships are far fewer in numbers than the ‘Muslim man-non-Muslim woman’ relationships.
Here is a list of cases reported by Swarajya on murders of Hindu men in such “forbidden” relationships:
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