A 15-year-old Muslim boy from Uttar Pradesh’s Chandauli district who was allegedly set on fire for refusing to chant “Jai Shri Ram” died in Varanasi Divisional Hospital on Tuesday, The New Indian Express reported.
“I was walking on Dudhari bridge when four men kidnapped me,” the boy had said on Sunday. “Two of them tied my hand and third one started pouring kerosene. After which they set me on fire and ran away.” He later said that he was forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram”.
However, the police denied that the boy was forced to chant the religious slogan. Chandauli Superintendent of Police Santosh Kumar Singh claimed the boy gave different statements to different people. “He had given different statements to different people, so it seemed suspicious,” Singh had claimed. “It seemed he had been tutored. Police monitored CCTV footage of places he had mentioned and found that he had not been at any of those places.”
The police officer also claimed that a newspaper hawker named Dinesh Maurya saw the boy set himself on fire. “While the boy claimed to have been accosted by goons near Dudhari bridge, Maurya claimed to have seen him near Kale Khan Baba Mazaar along NH-2,” the police officer had said. “CCTV footage does not show him in certain places he mentioned.”
The police claimed that the boy entered a “mazaar”, immolated himself and came out running. “Maurya, who was going to Saiyadraja to collect newspapers saw the boy running on the road,” Singh said. “I can say with conviction that the family story is fabricated and designed to create social discontent.”
Over the past few weeks, several people have faced violence or have been lynched by mobs because they allegedly refused to chant “Jai Shri Ram”.
On July 21, two Muslim men in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad city were allegedly threatened and forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram” by unidentified people. The month before, a Muslim man identified as Tabrez Ansari died after was beaten up in Jharkhand’s Seraikela Kharsawan district on June 18 for allegedly attempting to steal a motorcycle. The FIR said the mob had also forced Ansari to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jai Hanuman”.