A 14-year-old Dalit Christian boy died in Bihar following an acid attack and the cops label the case suicide to avoid investigating the incident related to Hindutva activists.
Nitish Kumar, a class 8 student in Gaya, died on Sunday at a Patna hospital after struggling for more than a month with severe burns on more than 70 percent of his body, according to The Telegraph.
Despite the tragic death, the police have failed to open an investigation, claiming that the boy threw the acid on himself following a family quarrel over a haircut.
Kumar’s father Vakil Ravidas, a rickshaw-puller in Kamta Nagar village, had adopted Christianity with his family around five years ago, the newspaper reported. Family members told The Telegraph some local people, including Hindutva activists, had been threatening and warning the family against attending church but the police refused to register a case before or after the acid attack.
The station house officer (SHO) of Mahkar said the boy had immolated himself. “We conducted inquiries. It was the result of a family dispute. The victim was sporting long hair and his elder brothers forcibly cut it. Peeved, he set himself on fire and suffered burns.”
The family refuted the claims of cops. “This is not true. Some people threw acid at him. We wanted to register an FIR and had gone to the police station, but the police were not helpful,” Kumar’s eldest brother Rajeev Kumar said.
“My brother (Nitish) had gone to buy vegetables from the local market around 6.30am on August 11. He had hardly gone 750 metres when three men on a motorcycle threw acid on him. He started burning and rushed back screaming,” says Sanjeet, elder brother of Nitish and a Class 10 student.
Almost immediately after leaving, Nitish was carried back into their home by multiple people, screaming, with burns all over his body, the sister of deceased, Raja Davabi, told International Christian Concern (ICC).
“It was a horrifying scene of my brother,” said Raja, “I started yelling and crying looking at my brother. He was in terrible pain at that point and all that I could do is to share the pain by wrapping him in my hands.”
According to The Telegraph, the doctor said the family did not want to pursue the matter legally, possibly because matters needed to be speeded up to prevent the body of the burn victim decomposing.
Dr Kamod Narayan Tiwary, owner of the hospital where Kumar was treated, said the local police were informed after Kumar died.
He said: “The police came and said they did not want to get involved in the case. It was getting late and the bodies of burn victims decompose fast. Finally, the guardians of the boy were asked (by the hospital) to give a declaration that they did not want to register a case. The body was released after that. The family signed on a consent sheet declaring they were not interested in pursuing the matter further with the police or the courts, did not want a post-mortem and wanted to take the body with them. They took the body away after that.”
However doctor Tiwary also said Kumar used to tell him how some people had thrown acid on him.
“Around 18 per cent of his burns were third-degree burns, reaching deep into his muscles. He was critical. He used to tell me how some people had thrown acid on him,” he says.
Rajeev said to The Telegraph that the local police had refused to register an FIR after the acid attack. “Later, Gaya city superintendent of police Rakesh Kumar talked to us, but nothing happened after that,” he said.
Christians at the receiving end
Rajeev also said the threats to their family had increased recently.
“Some local people used to ask us not to attend church or hold prayers at home. In July, threats were being issued all around that all Christians would be chased away from the area,” he continues.
In December last year, a group of people had blocked the roads leading to the church in Kurwa, Rajeev told the newspaper.
According to a local villager, the people who had threatened Nitish Kumar’s family “would not take the name of any organisation but often sported saffron gamchhas, turbans and kurtas.”
He went on to say: “They were threatening Christians at many places in Gaya and neighbouring districts. We are afraid to go to the police because our homes, land and businesses are here. I just wish somebody would do something to stop this torture.”
A Local Pastor, who requested anonymity, said to ICC, “This is very cruel of what happened to Nitish Kumar, it just terrified the Christian community in the region. There has been increased anti-Christian sentiment, and attacks against Christians in the district are increasing, and these attacks are becoming more brutal, just like what happened to Nitish Kumar.”