Indian police arrested 11 people Tuesday over the killing of a Muslim man who was tortured and forced to chant Hindu slogans in the latest mob violence to shock the nation.
Two police officers have also been suspended over the handling of the lynching of Tabrez Ansari, captured on a video that went viral on Indian social media.
The 24-year-old is seen in the video crying and pleading as a mob in Jharkhand state forces him to chant "Jai Sri Ram" -- hail Lord Ram -- a slogan widely used by Hindu hardliners.
Ansari had been accused by villagers of carrying out a burglary. He was tied to a pole and beaten for up to 12 hours before police first detained him in Seraikela, and then took him to the hospital -- where he died Saturday.
"We have arrested 11 people. Two police have also been suspended because they failed to inform seniors about the case and tried to manage it at their level," Seraikela police chief Karthik S. told AFP.
Talking to Anadolu Agency, Ansari's wife Shaihista Parveen rubbished the charges of burglary and described it a hate killing.
"It was the night of June 17. My husband was returning from the city of Jamshedpur to the village, when some people stopped him. They tied him to an electric pole alleging that he was a thief. He was asked to chant Hindu slogans," she said.
"He was beaten up mercilessly whole night. In the morning, they handed him over to police. But instead of taking action against those responsible for beating him, police sent my husband to jail on charges of burglary. He had received internal injuries and later died in the hospital," Parveen said, in a choked voice.
She was married to Ansari just a few months ago. In a written complaint, she has held local police and jail administration responsible for negligence.
The in-charge of local police station Avinash Kumar, who has now been suspended, told media that people of Ghatkigeeh village had caught Tabrez Ansari after committing theft.
"The villagers handed him over to us. A case of theft was registered against him. We took him to the court, which sent him to prison. There is no negligence of the police in this case."
Tabrez's family has alleged that the attack was a hate crime. "If he was stealing, why he was forced to chant Hindu religious slogans?"
News of the death emerged as the Indian government rejected a U.S. State Department report that said religious violence against minorities has spiked under the right-wing Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The U.S. religious freedom report said there had been growing numbers of attacks by groups claiming to protect cows -- considered sacred by Hindus -- on Muslims and low-caste Dalits since 2014 when Modi came to power.
Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi condemned the killing, however, and said the government would not let a "destructive agenda" dominate India's development efforts.
"People who are involved in such incidents have only one motive -- to spoil the positive atmosphere created by the government," he said.
The opposition Congress party accused Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of failing to protect Muslims and other minorities.
"Can the BJP government honestly refute the U.S. government report on minority safety when Muslims and Dalits are being openly lynched every other day?" said Shama Mohamed, a spokesperson for Congress.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das has ordered a probe by a special investigation team.
The province has been in the limelight for incidents of mob lynching over past many years. According to a report by the Jharkhand Janadhara Morcha, a rights group, at least 12 people have been killed by the mob over the past five years. Out of them, 10 were Muslims, accused of carrying cows or possessing beef.
Most of the accused apprehended by police belonged to Hindu radical outfits.
A minister in the previous Narendra Modi government Jayant Sinha was criticized for welcoming the accused persons, convicted by a lower court for lynching a Muslim man Alimuddin Ansari to death, after they were out on parole.
Sinha had also reportedly given financial help to the accused persons, to fight the case in the court.
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