The lynching of 15 year old Junaid Khan in June 2017, on a Mathura bound train, had caused a lot of stir across the country. Subsequently, protests were held across India an over 15 cities simultaneously where citizens came out and decried these killings by Hindutva mobs, under the banner of #NotInMyName. Protests against Junaid’s killing took place in London and Chicago too in front of the Indian embassy. Such was the outrage that the Prime Minister was forced to break his silence on the spate of violent mob lynchings that had taken place across the country by then. However, the Prime Minister’s words had very little bearing on the ground on his own party men, as on the very next day, a man called Alimuddin, a Jharkhand based meat trader, was lynched in Ramgarh, Jharkhand.
Be it the case of Akhlaque, Pehlu Khan, Junaid or Rakbar Khan, the killers are connected to the Sangh Parivar in some way and therefore, they get protection. The police too fail to file a timely and proper FIR and continue with a fair investigation. In the case of Akhlaque in Dadri UP, one of the accused was draped in national tri-colour after he died a natural death, for the ‘service he has done to the nation.’ Such symbolic support aside, in every cases of lynching or murder, the killers have either not been identified or arrested. Even if they are arrested, public prosecutors ensure that the accused get bail, by deliberately weakening the case against them.
This misuse of law is glaring in the case of Junaid. In June 2016, Junaid along with his brother Hashim and two cousin brothers Moin and Mohsin were returning home from Okhla via train, after eid Shopping. They had boarded a Mathura bound train when some fights broke out between them and another group of co-passengers. According to Junaid’s brother Hashim, the assaulter Naresh along with four others started hitting them and hurled communal abuses. Junaid and his brothers were called beef eaters and Pakistani, by Naresh and others. They further did not let Junaid and his brothers get down at Ballabhgarh. By then, Junaid had called his other brother Shaqir, who got in the train from Ballabhgarh station. Naresh allegedly pulled down a knife and stabbed Junaid multiple times. Shaqir and Hashim were hurt too. They were thrown out of the train in the Asaoti station, where they waited for an ambulance for more than half an hour while Junaid bled to death in the platform itself.
Right from the beginning, the police tried to botch the investigation. They avoided insertion of the term lynching and deliberately tried to exclude sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief). The communal nature of the crime and the planned motive of the attack was not pursued. It was rather shown as a spontaneous fight over a seat that turned violent.
Junaid’s family and lawyers suspects that the trial in the lower court would be prejudiced and save the killers. Their suspicion was proved correct when in October 2017, Naveen Kaushik, the Additional Advocate General was found helping the accused people during cross examination. After an outcry and protests in Delhi, he was made to resign. But justice remained to be a far cry in the case of Junaid.
Junaid’s mother Saira Khan told TWJ, that there had been immense pressure put on her to withdraw the case. Saira said that her Hindu neighbours told her to withdraw the case saying that ‘Hindus had protected Mewati Muslims during 1947. It is payback time for you now.’
The family’s fight for justice received major jolt as all the accused including the prime accused Naresh were given bail by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. On June 7, a sessions court in Faridabad had dismissed Naresh’s bail plea on the ground that he might pressurise the prosecution witness if he is let out on bail. But on the 3rd of October, the High Court granted interim bail to Naresh.
Junaid’s brother Shaqir told TWJ that he feels disheartened. The memory of Junaid’s murder that happened in front of their eyes is still too fresh and traumatising. ‘Hashim, in particular, is still traumatised. He sometimes wake up in the middle of the night wailing.’ He further added, ‘We are sad that all the murderers including Naresh have now got bail. They might start intimidating us too as we are the prime witnesses. But we shall not give up on the fight for justice for Junaid. He was our brother, the brightest amongst us all. We can never lead a normal life again without him. Our life will be meaningless if we give up on this fight’, he added.
Junaid’s murder had jolted the conscience of the country. Although the courts are yet to deliver justice, many citizens have stood in support of his family. In February 2018, writer K.P. Ramanunni from Kerala had donated his Sahitya Academy award cash prize to Junaid’s family.