Shocking details concerning the murder of Afrazul-a 48 year old migrant labourer from West Bengal by Shambhu Regar, have emerged following a fact-finding by three major groups in Rajasthan. The investigation was conducted by People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Udaipur, Bhilwara and Jaipur district, the MKSS and the members of Rajsamand Mahila Manch between December 7 and December 11. The team was joined by activists Harsh Mander and John Dayal on the December 10 and 11.
Earlier in the month, Afrazul, a 48 year old labourer from West Bengal working in Rajsamand, Rajasthan was first hacked to death and then burnt. What was worse about the gruesome act was the celebration of this killing, through a video recording of the crime, by the murderer, on social media. Following the murder, prominent civil rights bodies in India had demanded the immediate resignation of Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Home Minister Gulah Chand Kataria and urged the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to condemn the “cold-blooded murder” of Mohammed Afrazul, a 48 year old migrant from West Bengal in Rajsamand, Rajasthan. Today, Vasundhara Raje is reported to have said that it was a deplorable act. However, she also added, “Rajasthan is not in the state that Delhi media has made it to be”
The report by the PUCL team found out that contrary to what was claimed by the prime suspect Shambhulal Regar in the videos circulated on social media, Afrazul’s murder had nothing to do with the alleged love jihad cases.
The team met the families of all three girls and reported on the specifics. They reported, “One case was seven years old, we met the girl, she was angry that Shambhulal and his family had tried to drag her into this. This was a case of trafficking, seven years ago she had been taken by one Bablu Sheikh to his house in West Bengal. This girl’s mother had only mentioned to Shambhulal that she was missing, and he, in turn, had swindled Rs. 10,000 from her mother and gone to get her back from West Bengal. She refused to comeback with him and decided to come on her own, instead, three-four weeks later. She did not report the matter to the police “as she wanted to get back to studies and there was nobody to help her.”
The fact finding mentioned that the girl had returned five and a half years ago and that she was trying to move on. She wanted to put the ‘horrible’ 1.5 years behind her and that Shambhu’s family was using her plight to justify his deeds. The family rejected all such assumptions as baseless. The report mentioned how, with great difficulty, she had begun a regular life and was trying to complete her studied when all the harassment started all over again.
In the second case, the team observed that the girl was from Regarbasti, Rajsamand. She had left her in laws’ house and gone away with a local Muslim boy from a nearby village. The girl later died in an accident. Both, her parents and in-laws refused to receive the body and the police cremated her. The parents were also angry and upset that their daughter’s story was being used by someone. Here too, the team saw that there clearly was no connection between Afrazul and the girl. In a similar manner, no connection could be established between the third girl in question.
The report further found out from the police and his relatives that Afrazul did not know Shambhu. It said that perhaps Afrazul was called to the spot on the pretext of being given some construction work. Afrazul went to Jal Chakki at 11.30 am where some contractors from West Bengal would habitually gather at the labour Mandi, Chowkti in Rajasthan to get work for labourers.
As per the report, Afrazul’s last conversation was at 11.30 am with his son in law, saying that some money had to be paid to a labourer. After this, he reportedly rode his motorbike and reached the spot. Describing the sequence of events in greater detail, the report said that when Afrazul reached the spot, Shambhu was not present there and Afrazul had walked about 100 steps or so, when Shambhu returned. And that is when the incident took place.
The team described the scene of the crime. “The crime scene was just 5 feet away from the road leading to a wedding resort,” says the report. “ The ‘killer’ had parked his scooter on the road and was rushing in and out while collecting the weapon to hack Afrazul and the petrol to burn him.” The report further questions, “Did not anybody hear the blood curling sounds of help of Afrazul, did not anybody try knowing, what was a 14 year old filming? It was done from the roadside.” The explanation given by the locals, as reported by the team was that, since it was a rainy morning, the usual 11 am hustle-bustle on the road was absent. It was not until the police was informed by passers-by about a body burning on an empty plot, that Afrazul’s killing actually came to light, says the report.
According to the report, at the spot of the incident, the police found out the diary, the mobile phone, the Aadhaar card-all partially or completely burnt. Afrazul’s bike’s number was half burnt and only 786 was visible on the plate. After this, Rafique, the local Muslim community leader in Rajnagar was called. On reaching the spot of the incident, Rafique could not bear to see what had happened there. They realised from one of half of the name that was readable ..Zul, that the person maybe a Bengali. Hence they started calling on the mobile numbers of all the Bengali labourers in his phone book. One labourer who arrived at the spot, identified Afrazul’s body. Meanwhile, his sister’s son Inamul Sheikh and his son in law Mossharraf reached the spot. The video of the murder was put on the Whattsapp group that day itself and that is how the police tracked Shambhu the next morning in Kelwa. Shambhu went to Kelwa to spend the night and took his daughter along. The police got him from Kelwa itself on the morning of December 7, when he stepped out of his relative’s house to buy chips for his daughter. He was shown as arrested by the evening.
Not only has the incident impacted on the family of Afrazaul, but it has also changed the social fabric of the area. On investigation it has been found out that all the Bengali migrant workers living in the area had left Rajsamand. The workers were all trained in RCC-related (cement) work. And about 400-500 of them lived within a 100 km radius. Afrazul was a labour contractor. He lived in Dhoonda with his 2 son-in-laws, nephew, cousin, younger brother and over a dozen labourers in a four room house with a big space to cook and dump machines. Though they lived in the house of a Hindu family, and the landlord, Khemraj Paliwal reportedly condemned this act, all the migrant workers have left the area.
The team also met Shambhu’s family members, Nirmal, a lab technician and Lokesh, who is in family business, sister Sonia, her husband and Shambhu’s mother. The 14 year old boy who was made to film the crime and set the body on fire was his sister Sonia’s son and dreams of joining the army. He too was picked up by the police and sent to the observation home in Udaipur.
Lokesh told the team that it was difficult to speak about the incident and denied any connection with the VHP or the Sangh. However, about Shambhu, he said that he had faced some losses in the business and was watching ‘videos’ on a regular basis. He was also very active on social media, according to the team. Even the family seemed to believe that “He could not bear to see Muslim men trap Hindu women through love affairs” and connected the killing to incidents of love jehad.
Sonia told the team that she did not go to visit her son as, “a murderer is a murderer”. Though she was angry that her son succumbed to her brother’s demands, she too, reportedly justified her brother’s anger on account of love jehad cases. She told the team that though the reason her brother lost his business was ‘notebandi’, they were not angry (about notebandi) as it was done with a ‘holy’ cause.The team reported that his brother Nirmal’s reaction was that of shock and that he had not gone for work since the day of the incident.
Though the family claimed that they had not hired a lawyer, according to members of the fact-finding team said they have met a lawyer from Jaipur, Sameer Vyas, who had also come down to file a bail application for the juvenile. Reportedly, he said that Shambhu’s would be filed soon after the charge sheet was be filed. The team also saw this lawyer handling over a cheque of Rs. 50,000 to the family.
Finally, the report claimed that the incident that has taken place is a result of indoctrination of Shambhulal Regar into hard-line Hindutva politics. It also claimed that though the case is being made out to have been a solitary crime, it appears to have been planned in a collective manner. It put the onus of thorough investigation on the police. It also said that Shambhu is being celebrated in the social media as a hero and ‘Sher-e-Mewar’ and that all those propagating the hate need to be investigated and booked as abettors in the crime. Expressing the fear of local Muslim groups, the report said that the police was ignoring the spread of hate and working in collusion with Hindutva forces. There are also allegations of discriminatory behaviour on the part of the police especially when it came to arresting Muslims as opposed to the perpetrators of such hate crimes.
The report also expressed anguish at the absence of collective outrage from Indians. It has urged the trade unions, women and student organisations as also intellectuals to visibly protest this hate crime.