A week since the murder of Rinku Sharma, a game to claim Hindu sentiments is on. However, police continue to deny any religious hostilities existed
A young boy, Rinku Sharma’s murder in Outer district of Delhi’s Mangolpuri has led to a steady stream of politicians to his doorstep and heavy deployment of police in the area. At any given point as we stood outside his home, politicians of different ranks mostly from the BJP, “well-wishers”, “activists” kept streaming in.
This case has seen an angle emerge which two political rivals, the BJP and the AAP share – that the boy was murdered due to a Hindu-Muslim rivalry. Rinku was stabbed in his home on February 10, and succumbed to his injuries on the 12th.
The Political slugfest between AAP and BJP in this case has been on “who is the saviour of Hindu rights.” An example on the rhetoric being made on Rinku’s murder is AAP’s Raghav Chaddha asking:“Jai Shri Ram slogans not safe now? In BJP’s rule, Hindus are not safe”. He was raising a mostly BJP seen tactic of implying ‘Hindus are in danger’.
And then BJP’s usual religious discord, fury igniter, Kapil Mishra saying ‘this is Jihad’.
The police, though, maintained that the killing resulted from an old business rivalry in connection with shutting down a restaurant. DCP Chinmoy Biswal, Delhi Police (PRO) said a fight broke out among some youth during a birthday celebration.
“Following the incident at the birthday party, some men, who were part of the celebration, gathered outside Sharma’s house and another fight took place again during which Sharma received stab injuries. He was taken to a hospital for treatment where he succumbed to his injuries,” he said.
He also went on to deny allegations of any communal angle to the incident. A week since the incident, a police official privy to the case told us this was the stand that remains. He also said the restaurant in question was not owned by Rinku, which some reports have claimed.
The case has now been shifted to the Crime Branch, and local police and riot police stay on guard in the area, with four companies deployed.
For now, things are peaceful here and have been so, the official who did not wish to be named told Patriot. “There was no communal discord, not even during the CAA protest. Though there are other pockets where some discords were seen but this particular locality is relatively good.”
But if things were okay, what caused the murder? Patriot met and spoke with Rinku’s brother, his friend, and neighbours who all believe he was killed because of his religious inclination and chanting of ‘Jai Shree Ram’.
We asked them about claims that Rinku was collecting funds for Ram Mandir. His friend, Sunny Kapoor, a BJP leader in the area told us that Rinku, who was a BJP worker collected funds for the temple but emphasised that his death was because of chanting ‘Jai Shree Ram’.
The first argument according to Sunny took place on August 5 – when the foundation stone for the temple was laid – and then again on November 26. Both times because the accused took offence to the chants of ‘Jai Shree Ram’ – a chant glorifying the Hindu God Ram which has come to be used as a war cry by the extreme right.
But in between those instances, he says, things became okay — so much so that Rinku even donated blood twice to the members of the family of the accused. Once to a pregnant member of the family and another to a Covid positive patient. Then how did relations turn so sour, leading to his killing on religious grounds?
It is pertinent to add here that we were unable to verify claims as family members of those accused have left their homes in Mangolpuri.
Rinku’s younger brother Manu, who is studying B.A from Delhi University and a member of the Bajrang Dal believes his brother was killed because he was a religious person and an active member of the Bajrang Dal. “On August 5 when we did Ram rally, and we used to organise (singing of) Hanuman chalisa in the nearby temple, they objected to this. That is why they killed my brother.”
A Hanuman Mandir is also right around the corner to the lane.
While he was also reluctant to speak with the media – saying that some channels showed that they have a meat shop, denying the same – Manu said the accused and them were not very close but knew each other as neighbours.
The accused lived on the same lane, with the houses just a few metres apart. In an area with mostly Hindu dwellers, some of those who came from other lanes in the area voiced some disdain with “too many” Muslims moving in.
Sunny said there were five homes of the accused in the lane, adding there were Muslims in his lane as well. He then went on to insinuate that another block in the vicinity had so many Muslims that it was called “mini-Pakistan”. “If we have a procession and chant ‘jai shree ram’ and they have a problem with it then we can’t do anything about it. We live in Hindustan.”
Another woman who lives in the area, Baby Gupta, who claims to be a social worker said her Muslim neighbours told her they were scared when outsiders come and say ‘Jai Shree Ram’. While the woman went on to accuse the neighbours of various crimes, the BJP worker Sunny agreed that outsiders did come and they had to stay vigilant.
“How can we stop them from coming? Different organisations have come, some from Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, we can’t verify who is right and who isn’t. We let them come. Amongst 10 people, there will be two bad ones who will get in. But things are okay and we haven’t let anything untoward happen here.”
The police official we quoted earlier did point to an incident two or three days earlier, which is why they are vigilant. We asked if what the politicians were saying would incite people here. He first agreed and said “surely” adding this was why the law and order was being taken care of. But he then went on to refuse to put the blame on politicians, “We don’t know who is going to come and say what. I’m not saying political parties are coming and inciting but, in their disguise, people may take advantage. This happened two-three days earlier. Which is why the force is present.”
But politicians will not let the religious angle to the killing die down. On February 17, the family were met by North District Municipal corporations (which is governed by the BJP) Mayor Jai Prakash. The same day media head of Delhi BJP, Naveen Kumar, and several other smaller leaders too made their way here.
Prakash said that the civic body will soon float a proposal to rename Mangolpuri Chowk in honour of Rinku Sharma. He went on to say, “he was involved in the Ram Temple donation drive and got killed.”
While the others before Naveen have mostly gone on to bash the AAP and the Chief Minister for appeasing Muslims – bringing up several times that Arvind Kejriwal met the family of Mohammad Akhlaq who was lynched in UP over allegations of killing a cow, but till now had not met Rinku’s family – the media head brought in the President of Congress, Sonia Gandhi. He said she “cried all night” on the day of the Batla house encounter but did not shed a tear for the family of Rinku.
The point that the party is trying to gain as much leverage through this death was palpable. The fissures trying to be created even greater in the speech of the very vocal BJP man, Mishra who reached the family of the victim on February 16.
Incidentally, Mishra has been accused of inciting mobs which led to the riots in Delhi’s North East in February 2020. Another vociferous BJP politician, Bhopal’s MP Pragya Thakur visited on the same day. Mishra has promised Rs 1 crore to the family and said things like “This is Jihad… he was targeted, picked and killed as he worked with enthusiasm for religion…”
He also went on to demand death to the perpetrators: “Those who have murdered him must be hanged but also the masterminds behind the incident should be found — those who brainwashed that if people come to demand (Ram Temple) donations, they should be killed.”
While political parties try and gain momentum, it will be seen how and if the area gets affected by the accusations. In the end the family awaits justice. So far, police have arrested five people in connection with the Rinku Sharma murder case — Nasruddin, Islam, Zahid, Mehtab and Tasuddin.
(Cover illustration: RN Sinha/Getty Images)