Armed with only lathis, around ten policemen were up against a crowd of over 2,000 people, many who were seething with rage. Police constable Mallikarjun, who was deployed in Bidar last Friday, recounts how he and his colleagues attempted to pacify the bloodthirsty crowd, who were convinced that they had cornered five child abductors.
Mallikarjun tells TNM, "There were at least 2,500 people gathered near the car. Some of them were hurling abuses and beating up a group of men. My first instinct was to try and pacify the mob. All of us officers were horrified. We had never seen anything like it."
While the police in Bidar managed to save four of the men from the mob, Mohammed Azam, a 32-year-old Hyderabad techie was lynched to death. The residents of Bootakula village had allegedly seen Azam offering chocolates to children near the bus stop. This triggered their suspicions that Azam and his relatives were āchild liftersā.
While the five men drove away in their car, the message that there were child abductors on the prowl had already been passed on, with Bootakula residents informing their friends in the adjacent village of Murki. People had set up road blocks to stop the red car in which Azam and his relatives were travelling.
The police say that Azam and his relatives didn't have time to stop the car before the road blocks, and it spun out of control, overturning near the bridge. The mob pulled the men out of the car and began beating them up.
It was then the police arrived.
The policemen, including the Circle Inspector, attempted to pacify the mob. People in the crowd allegedly told the police that Azam and his friends were child abductors and that they had machetes and rifles in the trunk of their car.
Mallikarjun says, "When we saw that there were no machetes or rifles in the car, we began talking to the mob and pleading with them to disperse. I told people that the law would take care of the matter, but they did not listen. The people accused us of colluding with child abductors and that they had to protect their own."
When the police were trying to disperse one section of the mob, a few others tied a rope around Azam's neck and dragged him out of the car.
"That's when the lynching began. People were dragging him (Azam) by the rope and the mob began hurling stones and hitting him with cricket wickets as he was being dragged. On the other side, people began dragging the others from the car and began hurling stones at them," he recalls.
Mallikarjun says that the frenzied mob began lynching and beating Mohammed Salman, Salham Al-Kuwaisi, Noor Mohammed and Afroz after dragging them out of the car. Noor, however, managed to escape, running for his life.
"The mob was chasing him and hurling stones at them. I was at the time covering the man from Qatar (Salham). I was blocking him from getting hurt. The people did not care. They lynched me too. I have lots of bruises on my back. A stone had landed near my eye and it was bleeding. When I saw the people chasing Noor Mohammed, I asked another officer to take cover and ran after the mob," Mallikarjun recounts.
Mallikarjun then picked up a broken lathi and overtook the mob. He says he threatened to lathicharge the mob and managed to stop them from advancing. A man was passing by on a bike and constable Mallikarjun sent Noor Mohammed with the rider.
"I didn't know how long it would be before the people would begin attacking the man. I had to do something or they would end up killing him like the other one (Azam). When the man on the bike stopped I felt like there is a god somewhere. It was the only way to ensure that he got away from the mob. The man on the bike was also cooperative and dropped off Noor at his relative's place," he added.
Mallikarjun then returned to provide cover for Salham, who was getting beaten up. He says that he managed to cover Salham from the mob for around 30 minutes, until the Deputy SP of Bidar arrived on the spot. But the angry crowd would not let up.
"I could not feel my back. For at least 30 minutes people were beating me with sticks and stones. It was horrifying. I was so scared. Finally, when sir came, he pacified the people. I was walking away when a huge stone which was thrown by someone in the crowd landed on my knee," he added.
Mallikarjun collapsed on the ground immediately. His fellow officers rushed to his aide. An ambulance had arrived by then, which ferried all the injured to the government hospital.
"My knee cap is broken. The doctors said that they will be able to tell if I can walk in two weeks. I have bruises on my arms, legs and back. I wish I never see anything like this again in my life. It was unimaginable. It was inhuman. It was beyond anything I had imagined. I never knew people from a small village like mine could be driven to such violence," says the constable, who calls Murki home.