Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Friday sought to play down the killing of a Muslim man and two tribal persons by a mob in Saran district, saying it should not be seen as a case of “mob lynching” as the three men “had been caught stealing cattle”.
“It is an unfortunate incident. But it should not be seen as mob lynching. Those killed were Nats (a Scheduled Tribe group) and those who killed them belong to downtrodden classes,” Nitish told ThePrint. “The incident occurred when the three were caught red-handed stealing cattle. It resulted in angry villagers beating them up leading to their deaths. It is basically an incident arising due to local development.”
The three men were lynched in Paigambarpur village of Saran district around 4.30 am Friday.
Police claimed that the villagers woke up to find two of their goats and a buffalo being loaded onto a pick-up truck. The villagers caught hold of three of the four people allegedly present and brutally thrashed using sticks and iron tools.
While two of them died on the spot, the third succumbed to his injuries while being taken to hospital. “The victims have been identified as Raju Nat, Bides Nat and Naushad Qureshi,” a police official said. “Qureshi was the owner of the pick-up truck that was brought to ferry the stolen cattle.”
A minister in the ruling JD(U)-BJP government, who did not wish to be named, also maintained that the incident could not be termed as mob lynching. “It did not include the mob forcing the Muslim victim to chant Jai Srí Ram,” the minister told ThePrint stressing that it was a simple case of “law and order”.
Not first time for Nat tribals, Muslims
This isn’t the first time that Nat tribals, traditionally a nomadic community of dancers and jugglers, or Muslims have been at the receiving end of mob violence in Bihar.
In 2007, 10 Nat youths were lynched in Raja Pakar village in Vaishali district following rumours that they had come to steal. During the communal flare-up last year, Zainul Ansari, 82, was lynched and then burnt by a mob at Sitamarhi district.
The Nitish government had last year announced a Rs 3 lakh compensation for families of those killed in mob lynchings.
“Mob lynchings in Bihar are a result of the collapse of the state police machinery. One can be sure that the local villagers have complained to the police about cattle lifting but no action was taken,” said opposition leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui of the RJD. “The people have lost confidence in the police and are taking the law in their own hands.”