Controversial BJP lawmaker Sangeet Som warned the Uttar Pradesh government on Sunday that it would have to pay a price for favouring the Muslim community as he met the families of the men accused of murdering a villager over rumours that he butchered a cow.
The MLA’s remarks added to the smash-mouth debate over the incident between political leaders on a day chief minister Akhilesh Yadav raised the financial assistance for Mohammad Ikhlaq’s family to Rs 45 lakh from `20 lakh earlier while authorities imposed prohibitory orders in the village to thwart any communal flare-ups.
Som, accused of making inflammatory speeches ahead of the deadly Muzaffarnagar riots two years ago, said in Bisada village that he would help arrange bail for those arrested over the mob killing of the 50-year-old victim, an incident that has deepened sectarian concerns in the state.
“The state government will pay the price for its partial behaviour towards one community,” the MLA from UP’s Sardhana constituency told reporters. “Like they (the ruling Samajwadi Party) had taken the accused in Muzaffarnagar riots in a plane, they have taken those cow killers in a plane,” he said, when asked if he had met the victim’s family.
The killing has driven deeper a wedge between the Hindu and Muslim communities in Bisada and neighbouring areas, political observers say, ahead of this month’s panchayat polls in the state which will see assembly elections in 2017.
“The case reported from the village was an outcome of anger towards the Akhilesh Yadav government. Police have never taken action in the cases related to cow slaughter. I appeal to the state government to stop atrocities on innocent villagers,” the BJP legislator said, while also hitting out at AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi.
“The visit of people like Owaisi from Hyderabad will disturb law and order. I request (SP leader) Azam Khan and Owaisi to stop making statements on this issue. Otherwise Hindus know how to retaliate,” he added, even as BJP leader and union home minister Rajnath Singh said in Delhi the incident should not be given a communal colour or politicised.
To ease sectarian tensions, about 100 Hindu residents of Bisada visited Ikhlaq’s home and urged his family to not leave the village while expressing remorse over the “ghastly act of a few youths”, the area’s sub-divisional magistrate said.
Authorities imposed section 144 of the CrPC that prohibits the assembly of more than ten people in an area, but that did not stop members of the right-wing Hindu Raksha Dal from meeting the families of the accused and distributing pamphlets in support of a nationwide ban on cow slaughter.
“Hindus will not tolerate attacks on our mother cow,” said the group’s president, Bhoopendra Chaudhary. “The cases of cow slaughter will be dealt with in the same way like the Hindus did in Bisada.”
Police identified on Sunday two brothers who lived next door to the victim as prime suspects in the case, saying the young men forced the priest of the local temple to announce on the night of the crime that Ikhlaq had slaughtered a calf.
“During the last six days, police have arrested eight accused named in the FIR and questioned more than 30 people about the murder case,” said superintendent of police (rural), Sanjay Singh. “The co-accused too have pointed towards the involvement of the two brothers (Saurav and Gaurav Sisodia).”
According to reports, among those arrested was the son of a BJP politician, though the party said Sanjay Rana was only a well-wisher.
“Police are framing our innocent children for the crime,” Rana said.
“Police have targeted the boys after false complaints were made against our children by some villagers who are jealous of them.”
(With inputs from HTC in Lucknow)