The Karwan began with an unexpected touching moment when the local gurdwara at Ramgarh in Jharkhand invited the Karwan-e-Mohabbat to endorse its call for solidarity and love.
They quoted from Sikh scriptures that have messages from Nanak and verses of Kabir to underline the importance of inter-religious harmony and tolerance. Speakers reflected on how relevant the messages were in times of rising hate.
The small local Sikh community settled in Ramgarh after Partition. Together we reflected upon the two incidents rooted in hate that destroyed Sikh lives – once in 1947 and then again in 1984. People at the gurdwara spoke about how they understand the consequences of hate crimes.
We then drove to the village Manua in Manoa block of Ramgarh and met Mariam Khatoon, widow of a man lynched over two months ago in a busy market of Ramgarh town.
On the morning of June 27, coal trader Amiluddin Ansari left home in his car. About an hour later, his 17-year-old son Shahban received a video on WhatsApp that featured Amiluddin being lynched by a mob of young self-styled cow vigilantes.
The son hopped on to his bike to drive to the town in a desperate bid to save his father, but met with an accident a few kilometres away from home. Shahban called his 22-year-old brother Shehzad, who left immediately with his mother. When they reached Ramgarh, they found their car overturned and gutted in the centre of the market. Amiluddin’s blood stains were splattered on the streets. People told them that Amiluddin was taken to the civil hospital in Ranchi by the police.
No one is seen coming to Amiluddin’s rescue while he is being lynched.
The family drove to Ranchi only to find that Amiluddin had died of the injuries inflicted on him by the mob. A hurried post-mortem was done even before the family was allowed to see the body. Ironically, the details of the autopsy report have not been shared with the family. It took multiple visits to the police station for the family to get Amiluddin’s body for burial.
In many episodes of lynching, a new trend is being witnessed where videos of the lynching are made and shared.
We watched in horror the video that Amiluddin’s sons saw on their phones. These videos are usually made by the attackers themselves. You watch them in Amiluddin’s lynching video laughing as the battered bleeding man begs for his life as if killing was a sport or a video game. At one point, a boy grabs the terrified man’s face and turns it to the camera, asking the videographer to take a “good shot”.
There are pictures of piles of red meat on the streets, but none of these actually being taken out of Amiluddin’s car. No one is seen coming to his rescue.
The state administration has done nothing to support the bereaved family. The children have dropped out of school. The meat was sent to a forensic lab to check if it was red meat or not.
A group of local boys angrily protested when the police failed to arrest the attackers who could have been easily identified from the video. The police have slapped a series of criminal charges against the protesters. They spent 25 days in jail.
Some of the attackers were later arrested but there are many others who eyewitnesses are willing to name. We saw the photograph of a young man beating Amiluddin with a fibreglass baton that closely resembles one used by the police.
Mariam Khatoon was firm and composed as she spoke to us when we met her, breaking down only once when she recalled how difficult the police made it for them to get her husband’s battered body the night after he was lynched. “I only want justice,” she said to us again and again.
“I want those who lynched my husband to be punished, not for revenge, but to ensure that no one has to go through what my children and I have undergone,” she said.
In the aman sabha (peace meet) that was organised in Ramgarh after we met Mariam Khatoon and her family, we took solace from the fact that there were no public rationalisations for the lynching as was the case in Giridih the night before.
A few senior people at the aman sabha agreed with me and said that they should have spoken up against the incident. They concurred that their silence made them complicit in some way in the hate crime. They agreed to constitute an Aman Insaniyat Committee to prevent hate crimes in their district, and to support its victims.
In the afternoon, we reached Ranchi. Here the Christian community had organised a massive meeting to coincide with the Karwan to protest the draconian anti-conversion law recently passed by the Jharkhand assembly.
The law, they feared, was designed to instil fear in the hearts of the Christina minority. They said the law could be an attempt to tear apart tribal society, which has families where members follow different faiths – some follow the traditional Adivasi Sarna faith, some who are Christians, and some who identify themselves as Hindu.
The gathering endorsed the need for solidarity among oppressed minorities and castes. It underlined the need for liberal elements to stand together to fight violence and discrimination all kinds.
We now move to Mangalore in Karnataka. The Karwan there will both mourn and pay tribute to the fearless defender of justice and secular values Gauri Lankesh, and continue our sombre journey for the families destroyed and devastated by the rising social epidemic of hate lynching.