On January 14, a dalit man named Dhan Prasad Ahirwar (alias Dhaniram Ahirwar) was set on fire by his Muslim neighbours in Madhya Pradesh’s Sagar district. After three days, he was shifted to Gandhi Medical College in Bhopal. On January 21, he was airlifted to New Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital.
The 24-year-old Dalit man who suffered 70% body burns breathed his last January 23. Ahirwar who had married six months ago is now survived by his wife, parents and five siblings. His wife had gone missing after the incident. Swati Goel Sharma of Swarajya Magazine recently visited the village of Ahirwar and did a ground report of the incident. Here is a summary of that report.
The First Information Report (FIR)
The victim, in his statement, has said that four men from the neighbourhood had been abusing his parents for many days. When he told the accused men to stop, they attacked him and set him on fire. The statement also highlighted that the perpetrators abused him by calling him “chamaar” and asked him to stay in his limits. Dhan Prasad added the name of the 5th accused in his statement to the magistrate.
The police had apprehended all the five accused allegedly involved in the case. They include Ajju Musalman, Chhotu Musalman, Kallu Musalman, Irfan Musalman and Babli alias Danny Khan. They had been booked under various IPC sections (34,147,148,149, 294, 302, 307, 323, 452) and relevant sections of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.
The nephew of the victim, Guddu, was an eyewitness to the heinous crime. According to him, around 50-60 men barged into their house at around 4 pm on the day of the incident. They dragged Ahirwar into a room, poured kerosene oil over him and set him ablaze.
The 15-year-old remembered, “I saw my chacha burn. We went inside the house, trying to douse the flames. A woman from the crowd removed the blanket that we wrapped chacha with.” He was able to escape unhurt. He stated that his grandparents and three cousins were at home at the time of the incident.
The victim’s nephew also said that his family would not have been alive without his neighbour, Rani Vishwakarma. She is also listed as an eye witness based on the statement of Dhan Prasad Ahirwar.
Guddu’s 8-year-old brother, Sachin, narrated that the scuffle broke out after a man had asked him to leave the open area where he was playing. When he resisted, the man threatened to pack the body of “chamaars” and send it to the market.
Sachin recollected, “I said that if you do so, the police will arrest you. He let out an expletive at my aunt. I abused him in return. Then, I went inside and told my chacha (Dharmendra Prasad) about it. He got furious and called up elder chacha (Dhan Prasad)”.
The Bone of Contention
Dhan Prasad’s family lives in a colony that was set up as part of a rehabilitation programme under the prime minister housing scheme. Mostly, construction workers, day labourers and house helps live in the residential area which falls under the jurisdiction of Motinagar Police Station.
Rani Vishwakarma alleged that the government committed a grave mistake while allocating houses. According to her, this was the bone of contention.
She said, “The government didn’t do the distribution of families in the buildings in the right manner. They have given four houses to Hindus in each building. The Muslim families gang up against us and try to dominate over us. We are constantly fighting among ourselves. The government could have put all Hindus together.”
Rani’s mother contended that they are often addressed with casteists slurs such as “chamaar” by their Muslim neighbours in an attempt to belittle them.
Another woman in the same building complained that her Muslim neighbours do not allow Hindu children to play in the common area. She alleged, “On Holi, they warn us that no colour should reach their doorstep. On Rakshabandhan, when our married girls come home, their men ogle at them.”
Muslim community claims innocence
A labourer in the same colony by the name of Saddam Qureshi claimed that the victim had self-immolated. He demanded a comprehensive investigation, preferably from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Qureshi also alleged that the incident was being given a communal angle. He claimed “We Muslims are not against Dalits. All of us have the same blood. What will we even achieve by fighting,”
Another resident by the name of Mohammad Nasir, another resident alleged that Irfan Musalman frequently objected to Dharmendra talking to his sister and that things took a drastic turn on the fateful day.
SP Amit Sanghi said the police are investigating claims of self-immolation, but there is nothing to support the claim. Sanghi reiterated that the probe is being done according to the victim’s dying declaration.
BJP had protested in Sagar over the death of Dhan Prasad Ahirwar on January 28. Shivraj Singh Chouhan, former chief minister of MP, called out the ruling Congress dispensation for negligence and “minority appeasement”.
The victim’s sister, Janaki, said that she had no information about any protest. While bursting into tears, she said, “My father is really old. It’s tough for him to bear the loss at his age.” She complained that the family had not received any monetary compensation from the State Government.
This is not the first time that such an incident has come to light. Amidst the noise of “Jai Bheem-Jai Meem”, such horrifying stories of crime against Dalits committed by Muslims often fall on deaf ears.