Autopsy confirms elderly man who was beaten up ‘on suspicion of being Muslim’ died of assault

·2-min read

The postmortem report of a 65-year-old man with mental disabilities, who was beaten up in an Islamophobic attack in India earlier this month, has confirmed that he died of injuries sustained during the assault.

Bhanwarlal Jain, a resident of Sirsi village of Ratlam district in Madhya Pradesh, was returning from Rajasthan when he lost his way and instead travelled to the similar-sounding Sarsi village in Neemuch.

He reportedly went missing on 15 May and was found dead on 19 May. Authorities handed over the body to Jain’s family after circulating messages and images on social media.

Subsequently, a widely-circulated video showed Jain being assaulted by Dinesh Kushwaha, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Prime minister Narendra Modi’s BJP is in power in Madhya Pradesh.

The video showed Mr Kushwaha slapping Jain repeatedly and asking him to produce his Aadhaar card, a federal government issued ID, to prove if he was Muslim.

“What’s your name? Is your name Mohammed?” the attacker asked Jain repeatedly even as the elderly man can be seen struggling to understand the situation.

The family had no clue initially that Jain had been assaulted. They found out only after seeing a video of the incident on social media.

Mr Kushwaha had originally shared the video on WhatsApp as a sign of bravado. The police arrested him on 21 May.

“After the video went viral on social media a murder case was filed prima facie. Although the video showed the elderly man being beaten up, the cause of death was uncertain,” said Sundar Singh Kanesh, a senior police official from Neemuch district.

Further investigation and the postmortem report revealed that he died “due to the injuries incurred by getting assaulted”.

Jain’s family is distraught. His brother Rajesh Jain told local media: “My brother was assaulted and killed because someone suspected him of being a Muslim. There are 250 million Muslims in India, how many will you kill?

“This is just wrong and should not happen to anybody.

“Dinesh Kushwaha’s nuisance has been troubling the localities for a while and now he killed our brother,” Mr Jain said.

Demanding justice, he added: “Why is there no bulldozer action against him? His house should be demolished and he should be given the strictest punishment for killing my brother.”

His comments refer to demolition drives carried out by municipal authorities in several states including Madhya Pradesh and India’s capital Delhi in recent months. Though authorities in some states described these efforts as routine anti-encroachment work, in MP the BJP’s state officials said it was to punish Muslims involved in religious clashes.