As the Bishada village in Uttar Pradesh remained tense after the custodial death of a 22-year-old murder-accused, residents gathered around his body, kept in a freezer draped with the Indian tri-colour, to listen to a villager promise to avenge his "martyrdom". A reporter from the Hindu newspaper, who was present at the gathering, tweeted parts of a speech by a villager who called on Hindus "to avenge Ravi's death and uproot Muslims from the village."
"Hum iska badla le kar rahenge. Hinduon ne chudiyan nahi pahan rakhi hain. (We will avenge this. Hindus are not wearing bangles on their hands)," the speaker told the nonplussed crowd gathered around the body. Many men in India use the reference of bangles, traditionally worn by women, as a sexist taunt for opponents. Hindu reporter Mohammad Ali later responded to a query on Twitter saying that "the villagers, though angry, do not want a riot."
Ravi alias Robin died at the Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Hospital in Delhi of kidney and respiratory failure. His family has alleged custodial torture. Ravi was allegedly present in the crowd that dragged Mohammad Akhlaq and his son out of their house last year on the suspicion of eating beef and bludgeoned the elderly Muslim man to death. His son too, suffered grievous injuries.
On Friday, the nightmare of a year ago returned to haunt the village as hundreds of angry mourners gathered around the casket draped with the flag, not far from the spot where Akhlaq was murdered. Villagers, seething with rage, demanded the arrest of jailer, compensation of Rs 1 crore for the family and a job for Ravi's wife.
The villagers said Ravi "had been martyred protecting Hindu values".
Amidst the highly-volatile atmosphere, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Sadhvi Prachi violated prohibitory orders and addressed the crowd, calling on Hindus to remain united.
"We are recording the events on video. If any person gives provocative speeches and tries to disturb peace there, strict legal action will be taken. But since a dead body has been kept there and a lot of people are visiting to console the family and friends, we are allowing people to enter the village," SSP Dharmendra Singh told the Indian Express.
Heavy police force have been deployed in the area but they did nothing to stop the villagers from draping Ravi's casket in the tri-colour, fearing violence. The Indian flag code does not allow using the flag as a drapery in any form except in state funerals or armed forces or other para-military forces' funerals.
"Villagers demanded Rs 1 crore for deceased's family, arrest of Akhlaq's brother Jaan Mohammad in a cow slaughter case and an FIR against the jailer. Villagers told administration that they will not cremate the body till their demands are met," said Sanjay Rana, BJP leader and father of one of the accused.
Meanwhile, Muslim families in the village remained on the edge, afraid to step out of their homes.
"The police have asked us to remain indoors. Seeing the people so hostile, we don't feel safe even indoors," a man, whose identity The Telegraph did not reveal, told the paper.
Gautam Buddh Nagar District Magistrate N P Singh said the state government would give its consent for a CBI probe if the deceased's family is not satisfied with the ongoing inquiry. The DM said a judicial inquiry had been initiated, adding that the Chief Judicial Magistrate is conducting it.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has announced Rs 10 lakh compensation to the deceased Ravi's wife Pooja. Uttar Pradesh Police have claimed that Ravi was suffering from high fever and his death was suspected to be due to dengue.
(With PTI inputs)