Muslim man lynched in India ‘for taking a banana’ at Hindu temple event

Mob ties the 22-year-old to a pole and beats him to death over allegations he stole ‘prasad’ or religious offering.

New Delhi, India – Sitting outside his home in a narrow lane in India’s capital, Mohammad Wajid recounts the killing of his 22-year-old son to a TV journalist.

Inside, the four sisters of Mohammad Ishaq look sullen as they huddle together at their dimly lit house in New Delhi’s Sundar Nagri area on Wednesday.

“I have lost everything,” Ishaq’s father Abdul Wajid told Al Jazeera as his eyes welled up with tears and his voice broke.

At around 5am on Tuesday, a mob tied Ishaq to an iron pole with a leather belt and beat him up mercilessly on suspicion that he had stolen “prasad”, or a ritualistic offering, at a prayer event organised by the area’s Hindus to observe the Ganesh Chaturthi festival.

The event was held three lanes away from Ishaq’s house.

Muslim man Delhi
Wajid shows a photo of his son on his mobile phone [Meer Faisal/Al Jazeera]

“My son was killed because he ate prasad,” Wajid, 60, said. “Those who killed my son found it offensive that a Muslim touched their prasad.”

Wajid, who sells vegetables in a pushcart, said his Hindu customers often offer him the prasad and he accepts it without a second thought. “Prasad is a gift from bhagwan or Allah. I do not refuse it.”

Killed ‘for taking a banana’

Ishaq’s sister Uzma told Al Jazeera her brother was lynched “for taking a banana” and the mob left him tied to the pole after the brutal assault.

“His nails were broken, some taken out and his fingers had cuts. He was brutally beaten because he was a Muslim,” she said. “He was unable to speak and his condition was critical.”

Muslim man Delhi
Ishaq’s sisters inside their one-room house at Sunder Nagri in New Delhi [Meer Faisal/Al Jazeera]

Uzma said Ishaq was found lying on the road by a boy from their neighbourhood who picked him up and brought him home. He succumbed to his injuries a few hours later at his home.

Ishaq’s family said they did not take him to hospital. The police said they were informed about the incident after he had passed away.

As a video of the assault went viral on social media, people demanded action by the police, which registered a case of murder and arrested six people.

“The initial inquiry has found that a group of men stopped him on the suspicion that he was a thief and then they tied and beat him.” Joy N Tirkey, the police official in the area, said in a video statement.

According to the neighbours, Ishaq was mentally challenged. “He was a simple boy who did not bring any harm to anyone,” autorickshaw driver Mohammad Saleem, who lives in the same lane, told Al Jazeera.

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The spot on the terrace of the house where Ishaq used to sleep [Meer Faisal/Al Jazeera]

He said Ishaq would help everyone in the lane carry their load. “He was a good boy. He never said no. We would pay him 20 or 50 rupees for the job.”

Wajid wants justice for the killing of his only son.

“We are so far satisfied with the police action but we want the men who killed my son to receive the same fate,” he said.

Assaults and mob lynchings, mainly of Muslims, have been rising in India since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014. The government denies the allegation.

Dozens of Muslims have been lynched or attacked by far-right Hindu mobs over suspicion of killing cows, whose slaughter is banned in most Indian states because some Hindus consider cows sacred.

Sharjeel Usmani a New Delhi-based Muslim student activist, said Ishaq’s lynching reveals “a dark reality about a shift in how a section of Hindu society practices their religion”.

“Lynching a Muslim has become akin to a ritual and that’s something Hindu leaders must think about,” he said.

Bano, who goes by one name and lives in the house opposite Wajid’s, told Al Jazeera no politician has visited the family so far.

“They are poor people. They should be helped but we know no one will come because we are Muslim,” she said.

Additional reporting by Sameer Mushtaq

Source: Al Jazeera