The number of people getting lynched in India has increased since past few years. In yet another incident a man was allegedly lynched by government officials at Pratapgarh, Rajasthan early on Friday.
Zaffar Hussein, the victim was allegedly lynched by civic officials after he objected to their photographing women defecating in the open. His wife and 14-year old daughter were among the women being clicked by the officials, including the commissioner.
“It was about 6:30 am and we had gone for latrine [to relieve ourselves] there when the car of municipal officials came. They started clicking our photos, abusing us and kicking our water mugs. Abba came out and told them to stop after which they started beating him,” recalls Sabra, the younger of Zaffar’s two daughters.
Kamal, a sweeper at the municipality, was hitting Zaffar’s head with a stone while the commissioner seated inside his car encouraged, “Maaro, maaro, jaan se khatam kar do,”says Zaffar’s daughter, a student of class X.
“They threatened my 14-year-old daughter, said they’ll burn her father, break my face,” Zaffar’s wife Rashida says in an outburst before collapsing into sobs. Shahida (30), neighbour who too claims to be an eyewitness of the incident says that Kamal’s hands and shirt got stained with Zaffar’s blood during the assault.
So far, no arrests had been made for the alleged assault but police has named five civic officials- including commissioner Ashok Jain- in the FIR.
Jain on being questioned by the press and media, answered, “We were only telling women coming back after defecating to stop doing it in the open. Zaffar came and attacked Kamal. I held him and took him aside asking not to fight but he left us cursing.” He also added there was no violence or retaliation from his men.
But eyewitnesses dismiss the official’s version of events and say they saw the alleged attack on the 48-year-old Zaffar. Durga Shankar, a 16-year old standing at the spot recalls, “A white car was parked here. And the red-haired man [Kamal] was punching him [Zaffar] in the stomach.”
Another woman who had gone to relieve herself, Sarsi Meena, says Zaffar had come out running after the women made noise. “The officials had been coming since four days and clicking our photos and telling us to use the community toilet,” she added.
The photographing of people defecating in the open is part of the government’s Swachh Bharat scheme to shame and discourage public defecation. But usually such naming-and-shaming doesn’t work because poor and backward communities have scant access to functional toilets or money to build their own.
Pratapgarh, which is around 400 kilometres from state capital Jaipur – is the latest in a string of cases of lynching across India. In April, a Muslim dairy farmer was killed by alleged cow protection vigilantes while legally transporting cattle. Last month, seven people were murdered in 24 hours by frenzied tribal mobs in Jharkhand.