Social activists stage a protest against mob lynchings. Photo: AFP / Times of India/ Moeed Faruqui

Mohsin Shaikh, a 28-year-old engineer, was the first Muslim to die at the hands of a radical Hindu outfit after the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power five years ago. Since then many Muslims have been lynched by radical right-wing forces across India and little concrete action has been taken.

Shaikh was killed by about 20 boys on June 2, 2014. The murder took place in Hadapsar, a suburb of Pune in Maharashtra state. According to reports, the lynching was done by members of Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS), a radical Hindutva outfit, and led by Dhananjay Desai. Objectionable posts about Shivaji Maharaj, an Indian warrior king, and Bal Thackeray of Shiv Sena went viral on social media before the killing. Shaikh, who was wearing a skull cap, was with a friend heading home to Hadapsar from a nearby mosque when the incident occurred.

Mobin Shaikh, his brother, said: “Our worst fear was that if Dhanajay Desai gets bail, he would restart his hate campaign against minorities like Muslims. And our fear proved right. As soon as he got out of jail after getting bail, his supporters staged a rally with slogans hailing Hindus and opposing Muslims. That was despite bail conditions clearly stating that he should not hold public meetings or address public gatherings. But no attention was paid to that condition set by Bombay High Court. He and his Hindu Rashtra Sena held a rally in Pune. What is the guarantee that no such incident will take place?”

Killers on bail, trial yet to start

Police arrested the mob within a week with Desai detained on June 10, 2014. But 21 people including Desai and bar just one, all are out on bail. The trial on the lynching is yet to begin, more than four years since the incident occurred.

Desai’s bail plea was rejected multiple times by the Sessions Court in Pune, which is hearing the case, and also by the Bombay High Court, but he was released from Yerwada Jail on February 9. His supporters then held a rally from the prison to his house on Paud Road, carrying saffron flags and banners.

Desai’s bail plea was set on the condition that he not get involved in any public or political activities related to the HRS. He was told not to give any public speech or work for any organization till the trial is held. He was also ordered not to broadcast or publish any speeches, interviews, or comments on social media, and take down any boards or material related to HRS with immediate effect. These were the major conditions that Desai needs to follow.

Police Inspector Dinakar Mahite from Yerwada Station in Pune, said: “Following the rally with Desai, police lodged a complaint against over 150 people including Desai under the Mumbai Police Act 37(1) for prevention of public disorder and 137 people for a penalty for contravening rules. Though we have not arrested then, a charge-sheet will be filed and the case will be taken for trial.”

Accused ‘led rally from jail’

However, Mateen Shaikh, a lawyer for the victim in Bombay High Court, said: “A basic question is how police did not know that such large gathering was there near Yerwada Jail? No preventive orders were implemented? Videos and photographs of that rally clearly show that Desai was leading the rally. Participants were carrying saffron flags and were also shouting slogans. As soon as he comes out of jail he violated conditions set out by Bombay High Court for granting bail. This is contempt of court. The man already has over 15 cases against him for giving hate speeches against Muslims, apart from this particular case. Is he going to follow orders of the court?”

Azhar Tambli, a social activist from Pune, said: “Pune police should have immediately gone to the High Court to ask for a cancellation of bail after he violated bail conditions. And, Pune police are yet to oppose, or go to the Supreme Court to oppose the bail given by the High Court even before he was released.”

Dr K Venkatesham, the police commissioner in Pune, when asked what Pune Police would do next, said: “The legal and police team is contemplating how to go about it. We will decide it in the next few days.”

Meanwhile, youths from across all faiths from 171 blocks or districts across the state have begun a movement called ‘Justice for Mohsin Shaikh’. They have submitted letters to respective official collectors demanding a trial to started promptly. They say Desai’s bail should be cancelled and Mohsin’s brother should be given a job.

45 lynchings in nine states

The victim’s brother Mobin, an accountant who works at a shop in Solapur, in Maharashtra, said: “We have been demanding the case to be taken to a fast-track court and a trial should begin. But now the future looks bleak. My father died due to a heart attack two months ago due to stress while fighting the case to get justice for my brother. My brother was an engineer and the main bread earner of the family. His death has shattered my family and nothing hopeful is happening. I just pray that no other person should suffer due to [Desai’s] hate speeches.”

His mother, who has high blood pressure and diabetes, has not been able to even express her emotions, he said.

Home Ministry officials in the Lower House of the Parliament, said official data shows that from 2014 till March 2018, 45 people have been killed in 40 cases of mob lynching across nine states and over 250 people arrested for those crimes.

The reasons for lynchings include communal hatred, violence by “cow vigilantes” or child abuse among others.

Meanwhile, officials from the National Crime Records Bureau told the Upper House of Parliament they have no specific data on lynchings.

And the Supreme Court has asked the federal government to draft legislation to curb the growing incidents of lynchings and mob violence.

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