New Delhi: On September 2, a 50-year-old Muslim man named Dawood Ali Tyagi was attacked by a mob in Vinaipur in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat district. Around 20 men reportedly charged at Tyagi with sticks and sharp objects late at night, inflicting fatal injuries upon him. Four arrests have been made in the case so far and investigation is ongoing.
However, Tyagi’s family claims that the attack was not random and that it was, in fact, a targeted crime aimed at instilling fear in Muslims. The police claim otherwise.
Tyagi, a farmer, lived in Vinaipur with his wife and daughter while his three sons live study in Delhi. Speaking to The Wire about what transpired, one of his sons, Shahrukh, said, “My father was sat on the porch of the house chatting with our relatives. At around 10 pm, a group of 22 men on about seven or eight bikes arrived.”
“He was attacked with sharp weapons; chain sockets latched onto sticks,” Shahrukh continued. “They attacked my father on his head and he also suffered three separate injuries on his hand. They fired on my cousins too, however, since they were much younger, my cousins escaped.”
“As they attacked him, they were raising the slogan of ‘Jai Shri Ram’,” Shahrukh said.
After the attack, Tyagi was taken to the Family Health Hospital in Meerut for treatment. However, in the wee hours of the morning, he succumbed to his injuries.
The first information report (FIR) in the case, accessed by The Wire, was registered at the Khekra police station on September 3, against unknown persons. Charges were made out under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 147 (Punishment for rioting); 148 (Rioting, armed with a deadly weapon); 149 (Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object); and 302 (Murder).
The FIR is congruent with how Shahrukh described the sequence of events – that Tyagi was sitting on his porch talking to his relatives when he was attacked and killed by around 20 men. However, it makes no mention of the ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans which the crowd allegedly chanted.
Thereafter, on September 5, the Khekra police issued a statement saying that they had arrested four persons in connection with Tyagi’s murder – Nikki alias Vikki, Harish, Mohit and Dilip; all residents of Bhagot, a village near Vinaipur.
The statement also noted that the police had confiscated two motorbikes and two sticks, one of which was connected to a sharp chain socket as Shahrukh had also described.
As for motive, after interrogating the four accused, the police said that tensions had flared between residents of Bhagot and Vinaypur and that the four men arrested had decided to attack anyone they found from Vinaipur.
‘Case in cold storage’
Tyagi’s family states that even after a month has passed since his murder, the investigation is in ‘cold storage’ as most of the accused continue to be at large, leaving the family vulnerable and living in fear and insecurity.
Moreover, the promise of a government job being given to a member of Tyagi’s family remains unfulfilled.
Shahrukh also claims that a recent attempt was made to scare off the family members, renewing their fears.
“Three days ago, my brother and my uncle went to the field – the fields of the culprits are adjacent to ours; they fall in the other village but are really close. That day, my brother was surrounded,” Shahrukh said.
“We felt threatened; that yet again, something could have happened.”
Speaking to The Wire about this claim of the recent threat to the family, Baghpat superintendent of police (SP), Neeraj Kumar Jadoun, said, “There was an apprehension that the family had about the attack that has been clarified.”
Meanwhile, Shahrukh said, “Four people have been arrested but over a month has passed and the case has gone into cold storage.
“The names (of the culprits) which have been put forward by people (witnesses) have links with members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Once or twice, the police visited their homes, however, not much has happened,” he alleged.
A planned attack
Members of Tyagi’s family as well as activists claim that a meeting took place in Baghot prior to Tyagi’s murder where a plan to scare off Muslims from the area was devised.
Activist Devendra Dhama told The Wire, “Some men wanted cheap popularity; this is why the attack was committed. There was a meeting in Baghot prior to the incident… (and) another meeting was held (later) with 60-65 members. The point was to create fear among the Muslims in the region – not to kill or loot but to spread fear.
“They entered the village and Tyagi was the first person they attacked and the men who attacked him then dispersed. Prior to this, an attempt was made to read the Hanuman Chalisa in the masjid of the village,” Dhama said.
A BBC ground report on the basis of eyewitness accounts in the region states that a reported meeting took place at a temple where several youths were called to participate in the attack. The report also states that posts aimed at inciting the attack were shared by one of the four accused arrested – Dillip – on social media.
Speaking to The Wire, police denied all claims of the meeting having any political connotations. Vijay Chaudhary, circle officer at Khekra police station said, “Four people have been arrested. We are on the lookout for the rest of the persons. There was a meeting and a conspiracy. However, it was not political; it was an old issue post which the act was committed.”
Despite the police protection provided to Shahrukh and his family, they continue to live in fear. Vinaipur’s population is a mix of Gurjars and Muslims and according to Shahrukh, the surrounding villages are Gurjar-dominated.
“We want to shift out of the village owing to the tensions in the region. We had put blind faith in the administration, however, the promise of supporting us with a government job has not been fulfilled yet,” Shahrukh said.
“We were reliant on the meagre income of my father as all of us are still completing our education. We do not know how to even hold a spade to plough the fields.”