In an article published on May 9, right-wing propaganda website OpIndia claimed that a mosque sacrificed a Hindu boy in Bihar’s Gopalganj. “A new mosque had been built in the village and it is being alleged that there was a belief that if a Hindu was ‘sacrificed’, the mosque would become powerful and its influence would increase,” wrote OpIndia claiming that 15-year-old Rohit, son of Rajesh Jaiswal, was killed in Bela Dih village of Kataiya. The article also stated that the boy’s family had to leave the village because of police brutality. “She [Rohit’s sister] alleges that the police had taken a bribe from the accused, hence they were not taking any action against the killers,” read the article.

“The guardians of those Muslim children, who were sent to call Rohit, were waiting for all the children in that new mosque. When they reached there along with Rohit, he was captured and allegedly strangulated to death, family alleges. There are allegations that six people were involved in the heinous act,” it further stated, claiming that the victim’s sister alleged that his dead body was thrown in a river.

Apart from videos of the victim’s sister and father, the article also carries videos of Kataiya police. These are the first two clips attached in the article where the police can be seen misbehaving and hurling abuses at the victim’s family. In a Facebook Live on May 17, DGI of Bihar police Gupteshwar Pandey informed that Kataiya SHO Ashwini Tiwari has been suspended. In the two remaining videos, the victim’s family members are pleading for justice. It is noteworthy that they accuse a few people of murder and do not mention any mosque. Nowhere in the videos have the family members claimed that Rohit was killed in a mosque or that he was sacrificed.

OpIndia published two follow-up stories on the incident and the common element in every report was ‘Gopalganj mosque sacrifice case’.

Title of the report published on May 9: Hindu family leaves Gopalganj district in Bihar due to fear, claims their minor son was sacrificed to make a local Mosque ‘powerful’

Title of the report published on May 11: Gopalganj mosque sacrifice case: 4 accused arrested by the police, silence on the family’s charges

Title of another report published on May 11: No enmity with anybody, only want justice for son – Father in Gopalganj mosque sacrifice case pleads

Apart from OpIndia, Sirf News, ABP Bihar and Vijay Karnataka published similar stories. It is to be noted that ABP Bihar is not a part of ABP Group.

On May 13, OpIndia published two more articles (1, 2) on the incident. There is no mention of mosque or sacrifice in the title but the articles maintain the claim, crediting it to the victim’s family. A few questions are raised based on OpIndia’s story:

1. Is there a custom of human sacrifice in Islam?

2. Was a Hindu boy sacrificed to make a mosque ‘powerful’?

3. Were all accused Muslims?

4. Are Hindu residents of the village scared of Muslim residents?

Fact-check

We will investigate each of these questions, however, before we begin, let us see what the initial reports on the incident say. According to OpIndia, the incident took place on March 28. Dainik Bhaskar had published a report on March 30. As per the report, “Rohit had gone for a swim with four of his friends to Goita Tola river. When he did not return home till late in the evening, his family members went looking for him. In the meanwhile, Vijay Mal Bhagat’s son informed that Rohit had drowned in the river and that his friends threatened to kill him if he told anyone which is why he was mum. The police has recorded his statement.” Kataiya SHO told Dainik Bhaskar that for some reason the children had kept the information to themselves. They were unwilling to share any details regarding the case. The police arrested a few people from the victim’s village.

Therefore, it can be said with certainty that initial reports on the incident have no mention of mosque, sacrifice or a communal angle.

1. Is there a custom of human sacrifice in Islam?

Alt News contacted Islamic scholar Mufti Mohsin Idree Qasmi who informed, “Islam does not permit Halal sacrifice of any animal for any reason other than an offering to Allah. Human sacrifice is forbidden. According to Quran-e-Pak verse in Al-Ma’idah, the Zibah of an animal for anyone except Allah is not considered Halal.”

2. Was a Hindu boy sacrificed to make a mosque ‘powerful’?

Since OpIndia’s entire story is based on the statement of the victim’s father, Rajesh Jaiswal, his testimony is of utmost importance for the fact-check. We spoke with Rajesh who sounded visibly distressed. The father has been trying to come to term with his son’s death and looking for answers for the unfortunate incident. He shared two theories with us — first, Rohit had told his mother days before his death that a Maulvi of a new, under-construction mosque used to sprinkle water on him whenever he passed through the area. Second, Rajesh used to manage a pakora stall with his son. Right opposite to their stall was Sabir Ansari’s shop which wasn’t doing very well. “So maybe they killed my son for this reason,” Rajesh speculated.

But the FIR filed by Rajesh has no mention of either the Maulvi or Sabir. When asked if the police investigated Sabir, Rajesh said that he has no role in the case. He also denied ever having an issue with Sabir. Speaking with him, we realised the helplessness in his voice. Here was a father gouging every corner to make sense of his son’s death. He was also disappointed with the lackadaisical efforts of the police and the administration.

It was evident that his theories stemmed from the fact that he had no clear answers. He did not know what killed his son and was thus looking at all possibilities. OpIndia based a story on his speculations — on the emotional state of mind of a father who lost his child.

On May 14, DGI Vijay Kumar Verma, who was investigating the incident, said that the matter has now been transferred to the CID and five people have so far been arrested. In a video statement, he said that OpIndia’s claim that the child’s death is connected with a new mosque’s construction is false. He informed to have verified the allegation himself. An FIR has been filed against OpIndia and Khabar Tak, DGI Verma further informed.

On May 17, the Director-General of Bihar police Gupteshwar Pandey went on a Facebook Live to address the rumours. He also tweeted about the Live. In the nearly 30-minute briefing, he clarified that the rumours about the boy sacrificed in a mosque are false. The DGP himself visited the village and the river where Rohit’s body was recovered from. He investigated the water body in the presence of the victim’s family. He also spoke with residents of the village, none of whom claimed that the incident has communal overtones. The victim’s family has maintained that he was murdered. DGP Pandey said that the police is investigating if the death was premeditated murder or accidental drowning while adding that no locals could give the motive of anyone wanting to kill the child. Furthermore, the top cop added that a few cattle grazers had spotted the five children when they had gone for a swim in the river. They did not see a sixth person in the spot. DGP also spoke with the doctor who performed the postmortem on the dead body and other forensic experts. The doctor stated that the boy’s lungs had become spongy which is indicative of drowning. During his address, the DGP also requested people to refrain from promoting rumours on the case.

 

The FIR was filed by Rajesh a day after his son’s death. The FIR has no mention of a mosque and it lays down the following sequence of events — a few kids had come to the house and asked Rohit to play with them. Among these boys, three were Hindus and one was a Muslim. Rohit did not return home in the evening and the next morning his family found out that a child’s dead body has been recovered from the river. The family suspected a boy. When he was questioned, the boy said that six children murdered Rohit and dumped his body in the river. His clothes were hidden behind a bush. Rajesh has named six people for Rohit’s death. Among them, one is Hindu and the rest are Muslims. Since four out of the six are minors, we are nor disclosing their identities. Their names have also been blurred in the FIR copy posted below.

The postmortem report states ‘asphyxia due to drowning’ as the cause of death. The report from March 29 does not mention that the body had severe injuries.


Expert opinion of a forensic scientist on the postmortem report

“While the postmortem report could have been more comprehensive, based on the existing information, the cause of death is most likely drowning. Whether it is accidental or homicidal is a matter of police investigation. As far as bloating of drowned bodies is concerned, it is not necessary that it happens every time. Bloating up of the body is not necessary even after being in water for 19-20 hours as water is a lot cooler, and can significantly slow down decomposition. As the body remained in water overnight, it would have been cooler than in the daytime,” said Melbourne-based forensic scientist Jaydip Sarkar.

Victim’s father Rajesh sent us a few videos of the body being pulled out of the water. The videos are disturbing in nature hence we are only attaching a screenshot. The body does not have any injury marks on the neck. If Rohit had been ‘sacrificed’, his neck would have injury marks. The body does not have any marks that would suggest that Rohit was sacrificed according to Islamic or Hindu customs.

Therefore, the claim that Rohit was sacrificed in a mosque is false. The victim’s father also does not mention any mosque’s role in the FIR. It is unclear how OpIndia created the story — a question that only the outlet can answer.

Rohit’s dead body was recovered on March 29. The postmortem report is also dated March 29 and so is the FIR filed by the victim’s father. None of the reports on the case between this date and May 8 mention either mosque or sacrifice. The first occurrence of the words was found in OpIndia’s report from May 9. The ‘news’ subsequently reached social media and one report after the other, OpIndia tried to portray that Rohit died of communal reasons.

3. Were all accused Muslims?

OpIndia claimed in its report that all accused were Muslims. The outlet alleged that the victim’s father was the source of this information.

The FIR names four minor boys. One among them is a Hindu. In fact, in the video statement of the father attached in OpIndia’s article, Rajesh takes the Hindu boy’s name who called Rohit to play cricket.

Therefore, OpIndia’s third claim that all accused were Muslims is also false.

4. Are Hindu residents of the village scared of Muslim residents?

Citing villagers, OpIndia claimed that even powerful Hindus were sacred of Muslims in the village.

Alt News contacted a local journalist who spoke with the victim’s family, including his mother, on May 13. The journalist wished to remain anonymous.

Rohit’s mother gave similar testimony as stated by his father and said that the family does not have any personal enmity with Muslims in the village. The family left the village frustrated with the administration. They did not leave because they were scared of Muslims, as claimed by OpIndia.

When asked about the claim that her son was sacrificed in the mosque, she said, “We won’t lie. We didn’t see the incident with our own eyes. You can ask anyone in the village. They called the boy, killed him and dumped him. The children themselves confessed that they killed him and threw his body in the river.” The victim’s mother also accused the police of not carrying out a proper investigation.

The journalist spoke with several villagers who were also of the opinion that the ‘mosque sacrifice’ claim is false. The people who made the claim are not from the village but posting rumours on Facebook. The villagers also said that the claim that the victim’s family does not have food to eat is false. The village in fact came together to feed the family. There is no Hindu-Muslim angle.

A resident of the village, Pradyuman Rai, was asked the ratio of Hindu-Muslim population in the village. He said that around 150-175 are Muslims and 600-700 are Hindus. Rai also informed that the claim that the victim’s family had to move out of the village because of Muslims is false. He specially said that he had read OpIndia’s article on his mobile phone and the report is incorrect. He denied the ‘mosque sacrifice’ claim as well.

Statement of the families of the accused

The journalist subsequently spoke with the family members of the persons named in the FIR. The man first seen in the video statement below is Idrees Ansari, the grandfather of one of the accused. He said that five children had gone to the river for a swim and one of them drowned. The rest of the children fled the spot because they were scared and did not say anything. The person who comes at 5:20 minutes — his son and father both have been named as accused. He said that the matter should be duly investigated. At 9:10 minutes, accused Mustafa’s family also shared similar sentiments. All of them said that the village has Hindu-Muslim brotherhood and the communities take part in each other’s festivals and marriages.

The police has filed an FIR against OpIndia for publishing false news. After giving details of the case, the FIR states, “Several baseless claims have been written on social media on the case. News portal OpIndia published a report on May 9 without knowing or understanding the case. It claimed that the boy was murdered to make a new mosque in Belahi Dih powerful. That the child was sacrificed. Similar news was carried by news portal Khabar Tak. After reading these reports it is clear that they were written based on the statement of former SP Rashid Jamal. However, he was transferred six months ago. The current SP is Manoj Tiwari.”

OpIndia later updated its story and removed SP Rashid Jamal’s name without any clarification. Below is a screenshot of OpIndia’s initial report where the SP is named.

OpIndia and a few other websites attempted to give the incident a communal colour. However, the victim’s family members have themselves denied any enmity with Muslims in the village. Moreover, the FIR filed by the victim’s father has no mention of ‘mosque’ or ‘sacrifice’. Both these words were first brought into the picture by OpIndia 40 days after the victim’s dead body was recovered. The incident was then heavily communalised and widely circulated on social media. The case has now been transferred to the CID. The FIRs filed against OpIndia and Kabar Tak are attached below.

At a time when the nation is coping with a deadly pandemic, OpIndia chose to push out dangerous, unverified rumours in one article after another causing communal disharmony to the extent that the DGP of a state had to intervene. The top police officer visited the small village in Gopalganj district to talk to the victim’s family, local residents and investigate the matter himself. OpIndia not only wasted the police’s time but also of numerous journalists who went on the ground to debunk the rumours. The individuals who intervened to stop the rumour mongering and communal disharmony caused by OpIndia’s articles could have been working on issues of greater importance at a time when the nation is in the middle of a health and humanitarian crisis.

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