Rajasthan man lynched for objecting to officials clicking photos of women defecating was a ‘pillar of support’

Zafar Hussain, who was brutally thrashed by civic officials for objecting to photography of defecating women, was the only pillar of support for many in Pithoragarh’s Jagwas Kachchi Basti
The Peerbagh graveyard where Zafar Hussain was laid to rest.(Salik Ahmad/HT)
The Peerbagh graveyard where Zafar Hussain was laid to rest.(Salik Ahmad/HT)
Updated on Jun 18, 2017 09:36 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | By

The earth on a mound, far inside the Peerbagh graveyard, is still drying up. The flowers on the mound indicate that a body was buried there not long ago.

There’s no tombstone. There’s no epitaph. In fact, there’s nothing out of the ordinary to signify who lies buried there.

Ask the residents of the Jagwas Kachchi Basti and they’ll tell you that the man they buried on Friday at the Peerbagh graveyard was anything but ordinary.

“Wohi they basti ka support (He was the pillar of support for this locality),” says Ajab Khan about Zafar Hussain, his neighbour and now the occupant of that grave at Peerbagh.

Zafar died after being allegedly thrashed brutally by some municipal officials for objecting to them clicking photographs of women defecating in the open.

“My wife woke me up saying that he is being assaulted. When I reached the spot, the officials were getting into their car to leave,” says Khan. He rushed to lift Zafar in his arms.

“Saansein bachi nahin thi jab maine uthaya tha (He wasn’t breathing when I lifted him). The hospital declared him brought dead,” says Khan, who lives opposite Zafar’s house.

The Jagwas Kachchi Basti locality remembers Zafar for his simplicity. He always wore kurta pyjama, used an entry level android phone, and owned a motorcycle but mostly preferred to walk.

The holy month of Ramzan is on, but there will be no iftar parties in the locality. From next year, there will be one iftar party less. “Every year he used to organize an iftar for the people here,” says Kalu Khan, a neighbour who sells biryani on cart in the city.

“People from all castes and faiths are here, mourning his death. This tells you what kind of a person he was,” says Kalu.

Another resident, Ramdev Maru says that Zafar was the one who got everything done for the locality. “There is nobody now. He was the one who helped the labourers get assistance from the government for marriage of their daughters. He was the one who filled up forms, got us identity cards, and helped us get loans.”

Zaffar Hussein. (File photo)
Zaffar Hussein. (File photo)

The younger women of the locality regarded him as a father figure.

Twenty-year-old Rekha Kumari says that when her father died five years ago, it was Zafar who helped the family get Rs 30,000 from the government.

Zafar was the district president of Rajasthan Nirman Mazdoor Sangathan, the labour wing of the CPI(ML). His red-colour visiting card pronounced his Marxist leanings. “Whenever any labourer approached him for help, he would just pull on the kurta and say chalo,” says Ishwar Bhai Dhobi, district president of Congress’ labour wing.

The civic body reportedly offered Rs 2 lakh to the victim’s family, a contractual job to a family member and Rs 1,500 pension every month to his wife. But she rejects the idea with disdain.

“Was he a goat or sheep that they are offering us money? Maachis laga dun main do laakh rupaye ko (I’ll set fire to the money they are giving),” Rashida Bi utters between her wails.

Men outside their house talk. They are cursing the community leaders and say that they should not have let the body be buried until they had obtained a “fair” post mortem report. The doctor says that the death was caused by cardiac and respiratory failure, but Zafar’s kin believe the report has been manipulated to save the officials.

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