By Shivangi Saxena

On May 16, Asif Khan, a resident of Khera Khalilpur village in Nuh district of Haryana, was murdered. He was attacked by a group of men while on his way home.

Before his death, the 27-year-old gym trainer had been unwell for about 10 days. He was diagnosed with typhoid. On May 16, he set off with his cousin Rashid, 31, to Sohna, about 15 km away from his home, to buy medicine. Asif and Rashid were traveling by car.

“On his way back, five or six vehicles started following him,” said his father, Zakir Hussain, who met with Newslaundry at Khera Khalilpur. “There were about 30-40 people in those vehicles.”

According to Zakir, at a railway crossing near Jakhopur, the vehicles hit Asif’s car on all sides. Rashid and Asif tumbled out.

“Rashid somehow managed to escape but Asif was kidnapped,” Zakir said. “He was taken to a place near Nangli village. They were carrying guns, country-made revolvers, and sticks. These goons beat Asif mercilessly. They stabbed one of his eyes and broke his bones. They stabbed him in the chest with an iron rod and shot him in the arm and leg.”

This is contrary to other reports that Asif had been killed on the spot and his body then taken to Nangli. There had also been a third man in the car who got a lift from Asif and Rashid but was dropped off along the way before the incident happened.

Rashid told Newslaundry that they were “surrounded by many vehicles”. He was beaten up too and has been in the hospital since May 19 with serious injuries.

“A car hit our car from behind, another blocked our way in the front. One hit us from the side,” he said. “Our car slipped and fell into a ditch. I realised we won’t survive. Asif told me to run. When I tried to get out of the car, they pulled me out and beat me senseless. They split open my head.”

He continued, “I pleaded that it is a matter of the village, we’ll find a solution by sitting together at home. But they replied, ‘We’ll leave none of you mullahs in the village. We’ll make you say Jai Shri Ram.’”

After that, he said, he was thrown into a ditch and left for dead. Asif was bundled into the car and taken away. Rashid managed to telephone the family and told them Asif had been kidnapped. It’s unclear what followed, but Asif’s uncle went to the police and the body was discovered in Nangli.

On May 17, an FIR was filed in Asif’s murder. On the basis of the family’s complaint, the FIR names 14 people, all of whom are from Khera Khalilpur, and 15-20 others from outside the village.

Six people have been arrested so far.

The main accused in the case are Patwari, Advani, Mahendra and Anup. Patwari and Advani are brothers and are absconding. Mahendra and Anup are father and son and have been arrested.

The police superintendent in Nuh told the Times of India that the violence was due to “old enmity”. Asif’s family maintains that he was lynched because he was a Muslim.

‘Asif was desperate to stay alive’

Khera Khalilpur, which has a mixed population of Gurjars and Muslims, is tense in the wake of Asif’s death. Locals told Newslaundry that Hindus and Muslims have coexisted peacefully here for a long time and blame the murder on “criminal elements” in the village.

In his complaint, Asif’s father had also named Balla Khatana, Nathuram Gurjar, and Shisha Nagar, all of whom are residents of the village. According to a local, these three, along with Advani and Patwari, are associated with the BJP or the Sangh Parivar and “have made life in the village a hell”.

“They are the ones who encourage these criminal elements and spread tension in the village,” the local said. “Two kilometres from where the incident took place is Jakhopur village, where Balla Khatana’s offices are situated. He is associated with the BJP and it was in that office that the plans were made. All these boys terrorise the village and rob people on the highway.”

Khatana is also the president of the Nuh market committee. He is currently on the run and his mobile phone is switched off.

Asif’s uncle, Abdul Rahman, told Newslaundry that Asif and Patwari had argued two months ago. After that, he alleged, there were multiple attempts on Asif’s life.

“We Muslims are a minority in the village. They aimed to throw us out,” he claimed. “They have a big gang…They have people in nearby villages. Asif was desperate to stay alive and used to stay home. He just went out to get medicine for his typhoid but they killed him.”

He added, “These people don’t want Muslims to live in the village. They create so much trouble and want Muslims to leave. Where would we go from the village?”

Locals and police: There was ‘enmity’ between two groups

Newslaundry met with the families of two of the accused, Mahendra and Anup. Anup is Mahendra’s son. Both own land in the village where farming takes place.

Mahendra’s cousin Jagdish told this reporter that Asif and Patwari, one of the accused, had a “dispute” when they were both in school in 2011.

“Since then, there has been bad blood between them,” he said. “People from outside the village were also called in for fights.”

About a month and a half ago, Jagdish said, Patwari and Asif had a “minor fight”. Patwari’s uncle’s son had gone to fetch some water and ran into members of Asif’s family doing the same task.

“There was a fight. Someone threw a bucket, someone else slapped,” he said. “That is all that happened. After that, both sides apologised…Both used to threaten each other. This has been going on for a long time. But no one had an inkling that they would kill Asif.”

Jagdish said that Advani and Patwari “ran away” with their wives and children after Asif’s murder. He added, “The SP has told us that our people [Mahendra and Anup] will be released only when we find Patwari and Advani and bring them back.”

The “feud” between Asif and the accused was also confirmed by Mohammad Sharif, 60, a resident of Khera Khalilpur.

“It has been going on for five years,” he said. “The situation used to become so violent that they used to call goons from the outside. The matter was resolved in front of the police before.”

He continued, “We never thought the matter would escalate to this level and that Asif would be killed in such a merciless manner. I saw his corpse. He died by a stab to his stomach with an iron rod and a screwdriver. The whole body had wounds; they broke all his bones. The boy was tortured before being killed. The accused must hang.”

The case is currently being investigated by Roska Meo police station. Multan Singh, the station house officer, told Newslaundry that Asif’s postmortem report indicates that he died “due to the blows from sticks”.

“He was beaten mercilessly,” Singh said. “The police investigation is ongoing. The prime accused, Patwari and Advani, have been absconding since the day of the incident. We are doing our best to catch them.”

Singh added that Asif, Patwari and Advani had prior cases filed against them in Sohna. These cases are related to kidnapping, robbery and issuing threats.

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