Santola Devi, a 62-year-old sweet shop owner, from Uttar Pradesh’s Jaganipur village of Fatanpur police stations area in Pratapgarh, was mercilessly beaten up by her Muslim neighbour family with sticks and stones on May 26. She was admitted to a Prayagraj hospital in grievous conditions. After fighting for a day, Santola Devi succumbed to her injuries.
Notably, the Hindu woman was brutally hacked to death, merely a day after Eid. Owing to her age, the helpless woman could do little to save herself. OpIndia learnt that she was assaulted merely because she intervened in a fight that transpired between two people and sided with the one who was right. This irked the Muslim man who along with his family had attacked Santola Devi.
However, some media houses had reported that Santola Devi was attacked for raising objections on one Khalil’s goat entering her shop and ruining the sweets which she painstakingly prepared to run the shop she ran with her disabled son. When she complained, Khalil, first got into an argument with her and soon he was joined by his family members who started assaulting the old lady.
Seven members of the Muslim family, including the women of the house Nazbeen Bano and Anari Begum, participated in brutally lynching the old lady.
Muslims in Jaganipur, Pratapgarh called Santola Devi ‘Kaafir’ and an ‘enemy of Islam’
Jaganipur in Uttar Pradesh’s Pratapgarh is a Muslim dominated village. According to reports, for the last 4-5 years, she was regularly being targetted by her Muslim neighbours, who called her a ‘Kaafir’ (a derogatory reference to non-Muslims) and an ‘enemy of Islam’. But what prevented her from leaving the village was her love for her ancestral house and her shop.
After her death, there was a lot of commotion in the village. Initially, the laxity shown by the police and administration in handling the case miffed Santola Devi’s family, who along with other members of the community, protested by placing her dead body on the road and demanding the arrest of all the culprits and compensation for the victim family. Later the SP and the local MLA intervened and took cognisance.
The son of the Hindu woman took to social media to allege police inaction
This three-month-old case recently regained traction after a video of Santola Devi’s son surfaced on social media in which he was seen pleading for justice and making serious allegations against the police.
OpIndia got in touch with one of the three sons of the deceased. Pradeep Kumar, who lives in Goa, gave us the details of what exactly transpired on the day Santola Devi was assaulted.
Pradeep told us that what happened with his mother had been brewing for a very long time. The Muslims in the area had been allegedly harassing, abusing and threatening her for a long time. Santola Devi had often complained about this to the local police, but they did not take her seriously. Whenever Santola Devi spoke about this with Pradeep, he advised her to come and live with either of his two brothers, Sushil Kumar and Satish Kumar who lived nearby, but she did not want to leave her house as it was their ancestral property and she had many memories attached to it, recalled the aggrieved son.
Pradeep told us that one of his brothers is disabled. But that day, when he heard of the assault, he immediately rushed to help his mother. But he could not do anything because of his physical condition. After this, his wife tried to save the mother, all in vain.
In a while, his second brother also reached his mother’s home along with his wife. They rushed to the police station to lodge a complaint against Khalil and his family members. But they were made to wait in the police station for two hours, recolleted Pradeep, furthering that after waiting for almost two hours, the police registered the complaint.
The brothers rushed Santola Devi to the local hospital. She was referred to a hospital in Allahabad and then Lucknow, but due to financial constrains, she was brought back to her house. After they somehow arranged for the money, Santola Devi was re-admitted to a nearby hospital where she succumed to her injuries.
Santola Devi’s autopsy report also stated that she sustained injuries at three places and died due to excessive blood loss.
Furious at the police authorities, Pradeep said that his 65-year-old mother was mercilessly lynched by 7 people, including Khalil, Aashiq Ali, Arshad, Minaj, Jahanabano and others, but the police did not initiate any action against them until the local MLA, Dheeraj Ojha and the SP took cognizance of the matter.
Family of the Hindu women threatened, pressurised to withdraw case from various quarters
“Even after the woman’s death, the Muslim neighbours had no remorse”, Pradeep told OpIndia. When his brother returned to his mother’s house, the mother of one of the accused – Arshad, came there and threatened him. “Let my children be released from police custody, we will show you’ll”, Arshad’s mother threatened Pradeep’s brother. She added that they have already “sent the money” for the same.
If Pradeep is to be believed, some locals have also been pressurising his family to accept the money the accused family is offering and withdraw the case against them. But Pradeep said sternly, “We want justice, not the money. Today this has happened with us, tomorrow someone else will be targeted”.
Notably, Santola Devi’s son Pradeep has alleged that when his brother spoke to the police regarding the arrest of Jehanabano, the inspector threatened him and said: “You shut up or else you will be trapped and put in jail”. As per Pradeep, the police officer had told him, “Sooner or later, the lady would have anyways died”.
The grief-stricken son said that the reason why he did not return to the village was its hostile environment for the Hindus. “There are hardly 10 Hindu families living amidst 100 Muslim families in Jaganipur village”, said Pradeep adding that the police apathy had added up to the trauma of losing their mother and has been causing immense grief to the family.
6 accused have been arrested
Meanwhile, the Pratapgarh police have taken to Twitter to inform that 6 accused have been arrested.
उक्त प्रकरण में 06 अभियुक्तों को गिरफ्तार किया जा चुका है, एक अभियुक्ता की गिरफ्तारी शेष है जिसके सम्बन्ध में विधिक कार्यवाही की जा रही है।— PRATAPGARH POLICE (@pratapgarhpol) August 23, 2020
Santola Devi’s son has also confirmed this to OpIndia, furthering that the accused woman is still absconding. She has been using the burqa to conceal her identity. The victim’s family has, however, demanded that she too is arrested soon. Pradeep is heard mentioning the names of the accused. He names- Khalil, Ashik Ali, Arshad, Hasmin, Minhaj, Bitan, Anno, who he confirms have been arrested, while the police have failed to capture Jehanabano.
Pratapgarh police accused of shielding the Muslim family
One Twitter user has uploaded the video, wherein Santola Devi’s son can be seen pleading for justice.
#शांतिदूतो_का_आतंक— Ashwini Shrivastava (@TheAshwiniRaj) August 23, 2020
एक छोटा सा परिवार था,
जो कम आमदनी में भी खुशहाल था।
घर की मा, घर की आंचल को
जन्म भूमि से बहुत प्यार था।
नौकरी जिंदगी की तलाश में,
बेटा गया हुआ ” गया ” था।
मां भी खुश थी, की बेटा अब
घर की देखभाल कर रहा था।।@myogiadityanath @PMOIndia @dgpup@KanganaTeam
He accuses the police of favouring the accused family and shielding the culprits. The police were forced to register a case after the local MLA intervened and pressurised them to do so. “However, we are still being pressurised to withdraw the case”, alleged the son.
According to Pradeep, attempts are being made to implicate his brothers in false cases. He has claimed that some persons have threatened him that unless the family takes back their case, they will be harassed by implicating them under false allegations.