The neighbours of 55-year-old Mohammad Ikhlaq, who was lynched by a mob in Bisada village of Uttar Pradesh over rumours that he had slaughtered a calf, are the prime suspects in his killing.
The initial probe by police has pointed to the involvement of two brothers who allegedly forced the priest of a nearby Shiva temple to make an announcement about a calf being slaughtered at Ikhlaq’s home. The brothers live next door to Ikhlaq, officials said.
Superintendent of Police (Rural) Sanjay Singh said the investigating officer had found that Saurabh Kumar Sisodia and Gaurav Kumar Sisodia allegedly forced the priest to make an announcement that incited the mob.
Relatives of the brothers denied their involvement in the incident that triggered outrage across the country.
“My brothers had no connection with the communal attack. They were just watching the incident from far, just like hundreds of other villagers. They were studious and hardworking (and) wanted to make their career. All our dreams have been shattered now,” said Garima, the sister of Saurabh and Gaurav.
She said Saurabh had passed out of Class 12 and is preparing for a law course, while Gaurav works in a mobile shop in Noida. He wanted to become a teacher like his father and recently cleared the Basic Teacher’s Course.
Police are gathering proof to make their case water tight. “During the last six days, police have arrested eight accused named in the FIR and questioned more than 30 people about the murder case. Co-accused have also signalled the involvement of the two brothers in the case,” said Singh.
“All arrests have been made on testimony of several eyewitnesses in the case,” he added.
“All the accused were named by the victim’s daughter and mother, who were inside the house during the mob attack. The eyewitnesses are also residents of the village and they know every person who attacked their house by name and face,” Singh said.
Police have questioned the 80-year-old priest of the Shiva temple, Sukhwar Kumar, who moved to Bisada two months ago. He hails from Jharoda Panda village near Deoband.
Police have ruled out the priest’s involvement in the case and released him after recording his statement.
Vinay Kumar, the lone home guard from the village, was called in by police for questioning and released after his statement was recorded.
The Chief Judicial Magistrate of Surajpur sent two more accused – Vishal Rana and Shivam Rana – to judicial custody for a fortnight. The duo was arrested in Greater Noida on Saturday and police presented them in court on Sunday.
Vishal is the son of local BJP functionary Sanjay Rana, while Shivam is the son of his cousin Mukesh Sisodia.
The families of the accused refused to accept the accusations made by police. “Police are framing our innocent children for the crime. The police have targeted the boys after false complaints were made against our children by some villagers who are jealous of them,” said Sanjay Rana.
The local unit of the BJP distanced itself from Sanjay Rana, claiming he is just a well-wisher of the party. BJP’s vice-president for west Uttar Pradesh, Sri Chand Sharma, told HT, “Sanjay Rana does not hold any position in the BJP, neither he has fought any elections. He is only a well-wisher of the party. The village Bisada had supported BJP during last general elections and is a party stronghold.”
Sharma said the polling booth in this area has 5,634 votes and during the last Lok Sabha elections, BJP secured 3,574 votes in the village. The voter turnout was 80%.