On 12 October, Zulaikha Khatoon, the wife of the only eyewitness in the case of the lynching of Alimuddin Ansari, died in an alleged road accident barely a kilometer away from a Ramgarh district court. Zulaikha was on her way to fetch a photo identification card that would allow her husband, Jaleel Ansari, to appear before the court that day. He was ultimately unable to depose.
Alimuddin was lynched on 29 June. Jaleel was the first person to alert the residents of Manua village, where he and Alimuddin lived, of the murder. According to the Jharkhand police, Alimuddin died after being beaten by the members of the Gau Raksha Dal—a local cow-protection group—and the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). The members of the extremist Hindu groups had attacked Alimuddin in the middle of Bazar Tand, a market in the Ramgarh district of Jharkhand, on the suspicion that he was carrying beef in his tempo.
“Prima facie it appears to be a case of accident,” Priyadarshi Alok, the superintendent of police of Ramgarh, told me over phone. “But, we are investigating it from all possible angles.” In a complaint lodged with Ramgarh police station the same day, Jaleel alleged that his wife’s death resulted from a “planned conspiracy” to prevent him from appearing in court.
Jaleel wrote: “I’m an eye witness of the Alimuddin Ansari murder case. Today, on 12.10.2017, at around 10 am, I was present in the court with my wife to give my testimony. But, since I forgot to bring my identification card, I sent my wife to fetch the card with the son of Alimuddin Ansari on a bike.” He continued: “At that time, accomplices of the accused in the case, who are always seen during the court proceedings, threatened me and my wife that I should not give my testimony to the court in Alimuddin’s murder case, or should be prepared to face dire consequences.” “No sooner than they left the court premises on a motorcycle, another motorcyclist hit them from behind and fled from the scene,” Jaleel wrote. “The accident was caused so that I couldn’t give my testimony to the court,” he alleged.
The first information report registered in the case of Alimuddin’s murder named several people, including Nityanand Mahato, reportedly the media-in-charge for the Bharatiya Janta Party in Ramgarh. In early July, the police arrested 12 people in relation to the case. Mahato was among them. Two others named in the FIR—Deepak Mishra and Chhotu Verma, both members of the local Gau Raksha Dal—surrendered before a city court a few days later.