As the 22-year-old son of Mohammed Akhlaq, a Muslim villager who was beaten to death by a mob on Monday night outside his home on suspicion of killing and eating a cow, battled for his life, a bitter political blamegame continued over the grisly incident that has stunned the nation in the days leading up to the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, an icon of tolerance and peace.
Mohammad Danish, who is on ventilator support in the Intensive Care Unit for the three days, has had two complicated brain surgeries and is barely responsive to touch, reported the Indian Express. Danish, who was dragged out of his home by the predominantly Hindu mob at the Bisada village of Uttar Pradesh after a local temple priest announced that his family had slaughtered a cow and consumed its meat, suffered severe blunt trauma to his head and was brought to the Kailash Hospital in Noida at 1:30 am early Tuesday.
"He has not spoken yet. That is all I am waiting for… for him to open his eyes, recognise me and say something, say anything,” Express quoted Sartaj, Danish’s elder brother who works as a technician for the Air Force in Chennai, as saying.
According to doctors at he hospitals, Danish "is showing signs of recovery" but his exact progress can only be ascertained after a couple of days. He also had several minor injuries such as broken facial bones.
The Centre has sought a detailed report from the Uttar Pradesh government on the incident and asked it to ensure that no such incidents recur, reported PTI. There's heavy security deployed at the village in the aftermath of the incident but the 50 odd Muslim families, unnerved by the brazen killing of 50-year-old Iqlakh, want to shift to safer places, the report said.
"Our lives are in danger. I'm planning to move from here. We will move from here because this can happen again anytime."
"Our lives are in danger. I'm planning to move from here. We will move from here because this can happen again anytime. Who will ensure us that this won't happen again?" said a distraught Sartaj. "We will move out to our relatives in Delhi or other states if the situation here deteriorates any further," said Raisuddin, another resident.
District Magistrate NP Singh claimed the situation in the village is "under control" and the administration is making efforts to maintain order by forming peace committees with representation from both the majority and minority communities.
As the situation threatened to spiral out of control following incident, contingents of Provincial Armed Constabulary and reinforcements from adjoining Ghaziabad, Bulandshahr and Hapur had been rushed to the village.
Sartaj said his father was suffering from typhoid and had low blood pressure when the mob bludgeoned him to death. He said he was not aware of any tension in the village preceding the incident.
"As far as I know, there wasn't any tension. Everything was normal. I spoke to my father an hour before the incident and asked about his well being. He was suffering from typhoid and his BP was below normal. Rest was fine till then. He was dragged outside the house, obviously neighbours were involved," he said.
"Those arrested murdered my father. I want to know the reason for which they did this to him. They should be punished so that none from the village would dare to do such a deed in future," Sartaj said, adding his family was contemplating moving out of the village as such incidents could happen any time.
SP (Rural) Sanjay Singh said a priest at the local temple, who made the announcement on the public address system about the family having consumed beef, and two youths, who allegedly forced him to do that, were "major links" to the incident.
"Further interrogation will reveal the exact sequence of events. The victim's family has alleged it was pre-planned," he said.
Iqlakh's kin have rubbished the charge of consuming beef and said they had eaten mutton. Even the FIR has no mention of beef. Enraged over the incident, a Muslim resident of the village said, "even if it was beef, does it give any right to BJP activists to attack the house and kill the man because he has eaten beef."
"It is fact that Muslim community eats beef. But they never slaughter cows in public view. Beef is available in several other states openly in shops. Slaughtering should not be done in public view to hurt the sentiment of any community. If one is doing inside the house or buying beef from slaughter house and eating it at home it should not be treated as sin. We should have freedom to eat. We are not forcing others to eat beef," another local told PTI.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not spoken about the incident and there has been no formal statement from his office but it did not stop political parties from zeroing in on the tragedy.
Union Minister Mahesh Sharma descibed the incident as "an accident". "This (incident) should be considered an accident without giving any communal colour to it," Sharma, who is the MP from the area, told reporters in Delhi. "I feel this incident occurred due to some misunderstanding and the law should truthfully act against whoever is responsible for it," he said.
AAP leader Ashutosh claimed the police probe "clearly showed" that BJP was behind the incident and demanded the sacking of Sharma for his comment.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi termed the incident as a "dark spot in our democracy". "A person was killed on the basis of false claims for keeping beef at his home. It raises questions on our democracy It has been proved that it was not beef but if even it was, how can a mob enter someone's house and brutally murder a person," he said.
CPI-M's Brinda Karat called it "well planned". "This is just a result of so called Pink revolution that Prime Minister had mentioned before general elections. It was not a sudden incident, it was very well planned."
The VHP said it has become "fashion" for "some people" to abuse Hindus or else they contract "diarrhoea".
"Several people have levelled allegations against Hindus and those working for awakening of Hindus. My view is clear, some people contract diarrhoea if they don't abuse Hindus. Their diarrhoea gets treated when they abuse Hindus. I don't object to such people. But it is fashionable for them to abuse (Hindus). There is no substance in it," VHP general secretary Champat Rai said.
Union Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla condemned the lynching and said that the Centre's aim was to instill "confidence in the minorities" and empower them. "It is indeed a very condemnable incident. The (Union) Home Ministry has now taken up the matter and sought a report from the UP government. Let the inquiry be over..," she said.
"Time and again (Narendra) Modiji has said that people are free to practise their religion in the country. And me and my department will look towards instilling that confidence in the people," Heptulla said.
Uttar Pradesh Cabinet Minister Azam Khan hit out at BJP, claiming that the party's strategy is to attract votes by polarising people along communal lines ahead of the 2017 state Assembly elections.
"Such heinous acts may be taken as the saffron outfits's preparation for the upcoming UP Assembly elections in 2017. They deem massacre of innocent Muslims as one of the strategies to attract electorate on communal lines," Azam Khan said. (With PTI inputs)