Five days after police recovered a half-burnt body of Khaleel Rizvi, a local JDU worker in Musrigharari in Bihar’s Samastipur district- buried in a poultry farm, a video, purportedly showing him being abused and attacked over consumption of cow meat, was posted on Instagram by a handle by the name of Anurag Jha. The video has triggered confusion over Rizvi’s cause of death, which up until now was believed to be a botched up attempt of kidnapping for ransom.
Murder Motivated By Religion?
Soon after the video was posted online, several journalists and opinion makers took to social media to share the same video, where a visibly panicked 34-year-old Khaleel Rizvi can be seen straining to answer questions on cow slaughter in Musrigharari, as those filming him are heard abusing him for consuming cow meat, before they start beating him.
Those who shared the video of Khaleel Rizvi’s assault online see it as a clear indication of the motive for the murder- consumption of cow meat. Further, they link his death with two other cases, drawing a narrative of persecution of Muslims, at a time when the Hijab row has caused much consternation about the religious rights of the community and the freedom to practice their religion.
Meanwhile the opposition in the state has called it an evident sign of decline in law and order in JDU ruled Bihar.
But is there merit in claiming that Khaleel Rizvi was murdered over consumption of cow meat? The matter is muddled in a quagmire of claims and counterclaims.
Piecing Together What Happened
According to the complaint filed by Khaleel Rizvi’s brother Mohammad Sitara, Rizvi left his home on the morning of February 16, but did not return home by the evening. His wife got not one but three ransom calls that night, when the kidnappers demanded money from the family, and threatened to kill him otherwise.
“They made three ransom calls. First they demanded Rs 5 Lakhs, then hung up and switched off their phone. They called again later and demanded Rs 2,75,000 immediately, and again later revised the sum to Rs 50,000, which they wanted immediately,” Sitara said. The family approached the police, but by then it was too late.
Vipul Jha, one of the accused, who was arrested by the Samastipur police later, confessed to having killed Khaleel Rizvi on the night of February 16.
“A complaint of kidnapping and ransom was lodged by the brother of the victim in Musrigharari station on February 17. The complaint said that the kidnappers demanded a sum of Rs 2,75,000 from Khaleel Rizvi’s wife. Based on this complaint we started a probe and soon were able to locate the body, which was half burnt and buried to avoid identification. Three accused have been arrested so far, who revealed to us that the victim had taken money from them. On not getting the money back, they decided to kidnap him to get the money. They roughed him up, during which he died,” Hriday Kant IPS, SP of Samastipur, said.
Khaleel Rizvi’s family though, deny the police claim of Rizvi knowing the kidnappers beforehand and that he owed anyone any money.
The Viral Instagram Post
The murder was reported by local media outlets as a case of kidnapping for ransom incident until the night of 21 February, till an Instagram post showing the deceased being abused and assaulted took everyone by shock. According to the police, a case has been registered against Anurag Jha, one of the accused in the case, after he posted the video on his Instagram page. A press release issued by the police further reveals that Kishan Kumar Jha, who is one of the main accused, confessing to his involvement in the abduction and murder of Khaleel Rizvi, revealed that the main intent behind posting the video online was to create communal tension in the region, which would provide them an opportunity to leave the state.
‘Video Posted Online To Give Communal Colour’
Speaking to Newschecker regarding the viral video on cow slaughter, the SP said, “There is a video going viral which is causing much misinformation. It indicates that the crime could have taken place over cow slaughter. But during questioning it was revealed by the accused that they recorded the video in order to deflect the probe by giving it a communal twist in case the cops are on their trail.”
When asked further about the video, Khaleel Rizvi’s brother Mohammad Sitara said, “We saw the video only when it was posted online the day before yesterday. It has been done to give a communal colour to the crime and to politicise the matter.”
Newschecker also reached out to Manikant Jha, the father of Kishan Kumar, one of the main accused arrested by the police, who echoed the same claims. “Rumours are being spread. There is no communal angle to this. Hindus and Muslims live together here. My son knew the deceased, and he owed my son some money. Kishan did not tell us about any of this, else we would have helped him sort out the issue. He got involved in this crime with a few others. Whatever has happened is unfortunate, but there is no communal angle to this. It is being politicised.”
Accused: Viral Video To ‘Create Awareness’
Kishan Kumar though, is vague about the reason for making the video. Answering repeated questions by reporters at a police press briefing over the motive for murder and the video recording, Kishan Kumar gives jumbled answers.
“We made the video to make people aware. You can’t just say what is Hindutva, you need to understand Hindutva. Forming a couple of organisations is not Hindutva ….” Kishan says, answering the questions on his motivation for recording the video. This reference to Hindutva has been cited by many to call it a crime motivated by religion.
Unsatisfied by this response, journalists press him for the reason behind Khaleel Rizvi’s murder. In response, he delved into alleged financial fraud committed by Khaleel Rizvi. Kishan continues to speak at length about the embezzlement. Confused reporters eventually ask him why the group decided to make a video questioning about cow slaughter if their grudge over Rizvi was over financial embezzlement. “We made the video because I wanted to bring his true colours out to the world,” Kishan replies.
So What Is The Truth Behind The Money Angle?
Media reports citing police sources indicate that the deceased took money from the two accused on the pretext of getting them a job in the railways received money. But the family of the deceased denies any financial motive. “He did not owe anyone any money, he did not know his kidnappers before. This claim is not true,” Rizvi’s brother Sitara says.
Complicating the matter further, as mentioned earlier, Kishan Kumar alleged financial fraud by Khaleel Rizvi, accusing him of embezzling funds by running an NGO. But he maintains that he did not kill Rizvi over money.
“We did not kill him over money. We were involved with running a project for an NGO. I was trying to talk to him about it, zyada mar-pit nahi hui (did not try to beat him up much),” Kishan said.
When the reporters ask him how Khaleel Rizvi was at fault, Kishan reveals more details. “The person’s fault was that he joined me and took away around 1,300-1,500 people’s money. I have proof (of embezzlement). Whenever you want it, you can meet me,” he said.
So was money the final motive then? Kishan dilly-dallies again, saying, “Not for the money. He took the people’s money, I wanted him to return it, for which I beat him up…”
As a barrage of questions come from the reporters, towards the end of the press interaction, Kishan reveals that Rizvi embezzled funds by making fake IDs for the beneficiaries of PM (Kisan) Samman Nidhi scheme.
The press interaction and the video has only resulted in more questions than answers. But as of now, the investigation is on. And whether or not the murder was over cow meat consumption and cow slaughter, only more probe will tell.
If you would like us to fact check a claim, give feedback or lodge a complaint, WhatsApp us at 9999499044 or email us at [email protected]. You can also visit the Contact Us page and fill out the form.