Bihar police said on Saturday the Muslim man, who was lynched in Samastipur in Bihar on February 16 after being questioned over the slaughter of cows, was known to his attackers. Officers investigating the incident, a financial dispute was the reason for the brutal assault on Mohammed Khalil Alam, a small worker from Janata Dal (United) who allegedly borrowed money from one of the attackers, Anurag Jha alias Bittu.
“The confessional statement of the arrested assailants indicates that they committed the crime for money. Paise ke len-den mein hatya hui hai, aur kuch nahi (The murder happened because of the money and nothing else),” Samastipur Police Superintendent Hriday Kant said.
According to Samastipur SHO Bikram Acharya, who was part of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up to investigate the case, Alam had failed to repay the loan despite repeated reminders from Jha.
“On February 16, Bittu and his friends spotted Alam in Musrigharari and persuaded him to come with them to another friend’s poultry farm, Vipul Jha, in Vasdeopur village,” Mr Acharya said. There they transferred Alam’s SIM card to Vipul’s mobile phone and called his wife Nemat Khatoon to ask for the ₹2.75 lakh he should have. They then beat him to death.
On February 17, Alam’s older brother, Mohammed Sitare, filed a missing person’s report at Musrigharari police station. Alam’s half-burned body was found in a ditch on the banks of the Budhi Gandak River the next day. Vipul was arrested the same day. Later, Bittu posted a video of the lynching on social media on February 21.
Vipul’s interrogation led to the arrest of Bittu and two others, Kishan Jha and Rajesh Mishra. The four were sent to prison but Satyavachan Singh, the fifth defendant, is still at large.
While police said there was no community angle to the incident, officials also said the defendant hoped to create a community situation by filming and releasing the video of the crime.
“They made a video of Alam being beaten and interrogated…if he ate beef, in which locality of Musrigharari the cow was slaughtered, who is involved in the beef trade in the area, etc., for give the incident a community twist if caught,” Musrigharari police station official Mohammed Aftab Alam said.
Mr Kant, the Samastipur SP, confirmed: ‘They might have made their video with the ulterior motive of fomenting communal tension and distracting police attention and fleeing the place.’
On how communal tensions would help criminals escape a deadly assault, police said the defendant did not expect the victim to die. “As they confessed, the attackers’ intention was not to kill Alam but to threaten him. However, he died as a result of their beatings,” Mr. Acharya said.