A court in the state of Jharkhand, India, has handed down a ten-year prison sentence to ten men who were involved in the lynching of a Muslim man accused of theft. The incident took place in 2019 in the Seraikela Kharsawan district, where the villagers tied Tabrez Ansari to a pole, subjected him to torture for nearly twelve hours, and recorded the brutal act in a ten-minute video that went viral, causing widespread outrage.
The footage depicted the 24-year-old victim pleading for his life and being coerced into chanting the religious slogan “Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Lord Ram), which has become commonly associated with far-right Hindu nationalists. After the beating, Ansari was apprehended and transferred to a local hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries four days later.
Following public outcry over the lynching, the police arrested twelve individuals, two of whom were subsequently acquitted due to insufficient evidence. The remaining ten were convicted of culpable homicide not amounting to murder by a court in Seraikela Kharsawan. The court issued the ten-year prison sentence on Wednesday.
Shaista Parween, Ansari’s wife, expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling and plans to appeal against the sentence. She stated that she had hoped for a life imprisonment verdict, adding that the video evidence clearly demonstrated the brutality her husband endured before his death. Parween intends to pursue justice by approaching higher courts, including the Supreme Court if necessary.
Altaf Ansari, the lawyer representing Shaista Parween, also expressed disappointment with the sentence. He intends to expeditiously file an appeal with the Jharkhand High Court in order to seek a more severe punishment for the ten convicted individuals. He raised concerns about the effectiveness of deterring mob lynchings if such lenient judgments continue to be delivered.
Hate crimes targeting religious minorities, particularly Muslims, have increased in India since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came into power under Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014. However, the government denies any rise in such incidents.
Many Muslims have been lynched or assaulted by far-right Hindu mobs, often accused of cow slaughter, which is prohibited in most Indian states due to the sacred status of cattle in Hinduism. Recent examples include the lynching of 32-year-old daily wage worker Afan Abdul Ansari by cow vigilantes and the brutal attack on a Muslim individual in BJP-governed Maharashtra state, who was transporting meat from a vendor in Sangamner, near Mumbai.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended for the fourth consecutive year, in March, that the Indian government be included on a religious freedom blacklist, citing a continuous deterioration of conditions for religious minorities in the country throughout 2022.
Shadab Ansari, a local advocate and human rights activist, spoke to Al Jazeera, claiming that the investigation into Ansari’s lynching case had been watered down or weakened, which ultimately benefited the defendants. He argued that if the perpetrators had received life imprisonment or the death penalty, it would have instilled more fear among criminal elements prone to committing mob lynchings.