NEW DELHI -- On Monday morning, the body of Mohammad Hasmat Ali, the headmaster of a madrasa, was found a short distance away from his house in Keirao Makting village in Imphal, Manipur.
Ali, 55, the father of three children, was beaten to death by a mob alleging that he had stolen a calf.
Angry villagers from Keirao Makting stormed their local police station on Tuesday. News of this lynching made its way to national media outlets on Wednesday - two days after Ali was killed. The majority of news outlets relied on wire copies or pieced together their reports from sketchy details appearing in local publications.
In contrast, every major news channel and publication had sent their news vans and reporters to the Bisada village in Dadri tehsil, on the morning of September 28 - a few hours Mohammad Akhlaq, a 52-year-old ironsmith, was beaten to death by a mob alleging that he had slaughtered a calf.
Every development in the story was "Breaking News" over the next three days, triggering alarm bells and a national discourse of a kind which had gone underground after the Delhi Gang Rape.
The New York Times' report on the Keirao Makting lynching caused one Indian to remark on Facebook, "So this news seemed to go from Imphal Times to New York Times, somehow completely missed by the so called elite media in India. Of course, when has the rest of India ever cared about the North East or Kashmir, except to intermittently declare them an 'integral part of the country' and decry the protests of locals."
Northeast Today carried an account of the events which led up to Ali's death.
One Khumallambam Brojen was awakened by persistent barking of dogs at around 2.30 am. As he went out to check what was the matter, Brojen found that his calf was missing. Brojen and his wife Ibe (47) were rearing a cow and a calf and they have a cowshed in the rear portion of their homestead.
On searching the surrounding areas, the calf and an unidentified man were found on a marshy spot a little distance away from the cowshed. Immediately, people of the neighbourhood were informed and the man was rounded up. The apprehended man was led away towards a bridge located nearby where he was subjected to severe thrashing and ultimately lynched to death.
Hindustan Times reported that Ali's body was taken to Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS) in Imphal, while the calf is being kept at the local police station.
While the Congress Party is in power in Manipur, Muslims are refusing to bury until the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government intervenes.
“Ali, a kind-hearted and honest teacher, was killed after being accused of a crime he could not have committed. The police know who his assailants are but are not taking action. We will not take his body from JNIMS for burial until justice is done," Rajauddin, convenor of a joint action committee against Ali’s killing, told HT.
Police officials told NYT had no links to the cattle business. “What is happening here is completely wrong — people taking the law into their hands,” Naba Kanta told the newspaper. “We face the problem of mob justice in this area, and we are trying to do our best to contain it.”
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