Ranchi: Two Muslim men herding eight buffaloes on their way to a local Friday market were bashed up and hanged to death from a tree by unknown assailants at Balumath forests in Latehar district, 100km from here, in the wee hours on Friday. The buffaloes were freed by the men and locals claimed the assailants were Hindutva radicals.
The deceased Muhammad Majloom, 35, was a relative of Azad Khan alias Ibrahim who is around 15-years-old. The two had their hands tied together behind and their mouth was closed with a cloth. “The sight suggested that the two of them were subjected to extreme levels of brutality. It means that the assailants were moved by extreme hatred,” a police officer said.
In Jhabbar village of Balumath the sight of the hanging men engaged in cattle trade, sparked protests by locals. The protests turned violent when police tried to take down the bodies. SDO Kamleshwar Narayan and six cops were injured when locals pelted stones at officials who arrived in the morning to manage the situation and ensure that it does not take communal turn.
Injuries to senior officials forced police to resort to firing and baton charge. “The policemen resorted to air firing, but it did not hurt anyone,” Latehar SP Anoop Birthary said.
According to sources protesting locals claimed that the assailants targeted them because they were engaged in cattle trade. “Four months ago a group of men had tried to kill a cattle trader in Gomia village of Balumath. The man managed to escape,” Latehar MLA Prakash Ram said.
Locals blocked Latehar-Chatra National Highway 99 for hours. They demanded immediate arrest of the assailants and refused to clear the blockade unless the criminals were arrested and hanged to death.
A large number of armed forces were deployed in the village to thwart possible villagers’ attempts to create communal disturbance. “A meeting of the peace committee was held in the evening to develop a climate of calm in the area,” DIG Saket Singh said. The police were asked to check rumor mongers and locals were appealed not to monger rumours.
The investigation into the murder has not progressed much. An FIR was lodged against unknown for murder and another FIR was lodged against unknown persons and a few known locals for hurting the SDO and other officials. “It is not yet known if business enmity or other motive was behind the murder,” SP Birthary said.