On Thursday morning, Imrana, Nayab, Uzma, and Samreen, their eyes swollen from grief, were mourning the death of their only brother, Mohammad Ishaq, outside their one-room house with their father, Abdul Wajid.
On Tuesday, September 26, a Hindu mob lynched to death Mohammad Ishaq, a 23-year-old Muslim man, alleging that he had eaten Prasad from a makeshift temple tent in Sundar Nagri, Northeast Delhi.
Prasad, in Hindu religion, is a devotional offering made to a god, typically consisting of food that is later shared among devotees.
A viral video of the incident shows that Ishaq was tied to a pole with a leather belt and beaten mercilessly for allegedly stealing a banana meant for Prasad. The video shows the victim crying and pleading for his life.
Ishaq was lynched to death in the vicinity of his house, some 200 meters away, between 4 am and 6 am on Tuesday. His family was informed of his death by a neighbor, Aamir, who was going to school the following day and found Ishaq’s body lying outside the locality. Aamir took Ishaq to his home in a rickshaw.
“That night we left him on the terrace to sleep, and we don’t know when he went out. He left home at night without informing us,” Abdul Wajid, the deceased’s father, a fruit seller, told Maktoob.
“The innocent soul didn’t know that this could be his last outing. If we had known, we would never have let him go outside at any cost,” said Wajid as he burst into tears.
“He was my most obedient child,” he said. “He used to obey everything I said and would never say no to any work.”
Killed ‘without letting him drink water, “toenails plucked, eyes swelled out”
Ishaq’s eldest sister, Imrana, told Maktoob that communal hatred towards Muslims had killed her brother.
“Why would anyone kill someone for eating a banana?” she asked. “Every religion spends money on food during festivals. Was that one banana worth my brother’s life?”
“It was hate that killed him,” she added.
“We saw in a video that he was asking for water while they were thrashing him, but nobody even poured water in his mouth,” the sisters said. “They were pouring water on the ground but didn’t give him to drink.”
The sisters and their only brother were each other’s mental and emotional support after their mother passed away in 2003 due to prolonged illness. Since then, the four sisters raised him like their child, being the only brother.
“He was like a son to me,” said Imrana, her voice becoming blurred as the other three sisters consoled her. “I took care of him like a child after our mother passed away when we were kids.”
Anyone who saw Ishaq’s lifeless body was terrified to recall it, she said. “I will never be able to forget what they did to my brother,” Imrana said. “His toenails were plucked out and his eyes were bulging out. His body looked like he was never alive.”
“My brother will never come back,” said the eldest sister, Imrana. “But I want justice.”
Not mentally retarded but innocent
Initial media reports claimed that Ishaq was mentally retarded, but the neighbors and family refuted the claims.
Rehana Khatoon, who lives opposite Ishaq’s house, said, “He was absolutely fine. He was innocent and the kind of man who would never bring any harm to anyone. At this young age, he used to talk less and work more.”
“He never shied away from doing any work, even menial work. He never said no to any work, carrying heavy loads only to earn a legitimate income of 20-50 rupees,” she added.
“I have seen him growing up,” Khatoon said. “He was very hardworking. They are calling him a thief, but how can a hardworking man be a thief?”
Bharatiya Janata Party is responsible for fuelling hate
The entire neighborhood was in grief at the brutal killing of the young boy, Ishaq. People clung to their houses’ main doors, eager to speak about him.
Locals believe that both Hindus and Muslims want to coexist peacefully in diversity and love, but the BJP is fueling hate.
Rekha Devi, who runs a confectionery shop in the narrow lane near Ishaq’s house, expressed dismay. “A young boy lost his life due to this hate fueled by the BJP,” she said.
“I have been living here for at least 20 years, and other Hindus live here too. Nobody has ever said anything to us. We share food on Eid and Diwali,” Devi said.
Mohammed Mateen, another shop owner next to Devi, agreed with her.
“That was a religious event,” he said. “What crime had Ishaq done by taking a banana from there? Prasad is for everyone.”
“They could have given him to the police if he had stolen it,” Mateen told Maktoob. “But they killed him because they know they can do this and will be saved by their BJP leaders.”
Ishaq’s family said they don’t need money, but justice. So far, no political party has visited or talked to them to offer any kind of assistance.
Manoj Tiwari of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a Member of Parliament (MP) from Northeast Delhi, and Rajinder Pal Gautam of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is the Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from the Seemapuri constituency, under which Sunder Nagri falls. However, representatives from both elected parties have not visited the bereaved family so far.
At the time Maktoob was on the ground, a delegation of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind (JUH) and the Fraternity Movement visited the family.
A report by Hindutva Watch, a data-based research initiative monitoring the Hindu Right wing, in its recent report stated a surge in hate based incidents during the month of March in 2023 which coincided with the Hindu festival Ram Navami.
Muslim leaders and activists say that the Hindu festivals have become some sort of excuse to kill Muslims and bulldoze their houses.
Mohammad Abid Qasmi, President of JUH Delhi, told Maktoob, “Ishaq’s killing is an extension of the violence against Muslims that is happening across the country day in and day out, even though Muslims have done nothing wrong.”
“We will urge the government to compensate the family and to enact a law against mob lynching so that it can be stopped,” he added.
Lubaib Basheer, national general secretary of the Fraternity Movement, said, “Killing Muslims has become an integral part of Hindu festivals.”
“Hindu festivals have now become festivals to kill Muslims,” he said.
“We demand prompt action and an inquiry from the government in this matter,” he added.
Delhi Police refutes communal angle to the incident
“Don’t know if there was a communal angle. The investigation is ongoing, and people are saying that he was a thief,” said a junior police official at Sundar Nagri Police Station.
A First Information Report (FIR) has been registered in the Sundar Nagri Police Station under sections 302 (murder) and 34 (common intent) of the Indian Penal Code. Seven persons, including a minor, have been arrested, the Delhi Police told Maktoob.
No more details of the FIR were disclosed by the police, and the family is yet to receive a copy of it, stating that it is “sensitive.”
However, the Station House Officer (SHO), Radhir Singh, refused to comment on the matter, citing, “I am not the designated person to give you information about this case.”
Maktoob made multiple calls to the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Joy Tirkey, but all calls went unanswered.
Moreover, Abdul Wajid only seeks justice for his son and is so far satisfied with the police inquiry. “Police are doing their job on time. We only want justice, and so far, we are satisfied with the police’s intervention. But those who killed my son should be hanged to death,” he said.
Two days after the lynching of the young Muslim man, tension remains high in the area. Police are still deployed in large numbers as a preventive measure to maintain peace.
As religious processions of Mawlid, a prominent day for Muslims, and Ganesh Visarjan, the last day of Ganesh Chaturthi, a Hindu festival, crossed the streets at the same time, there was tension in the air.
Everyone seemed cautious, but things appeared normal for the people inside the locality. Shops were open, and traffic moved as usual.
Everything was back to normal except for Mohammad Ishaq’s father, who lost his son, and his sisters, who lost their only brother. Their swollen and stoned eyes now looked for justice.