The three accused in the Muslim cattle traders’ hanging case in Jharkhand have links with Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM), a political outfit led by Babulal Marandi.

Investigations have revealed that one of the accused, Vishal Tiwari, is the brother of the bodyguard of Prakash Ram, a JVM MLA from Latehar, while another accused, Manoj Sao is the son of Munsi Sao, a panchayat level worker of the JVM. The third accused is the son of Bantu Sao, a relative of JVM Bariatu block president.

Speaking to The Sunday Guardian over telephone, Chief Minister Raghubar Das said there was a sinister design by some political parties to paint the incident as a communal one, whereas the investigations so far have revealed that it was a “criminal” act. “The police acted swiftly in the case. Five of the eight accused were arrested within 24 hours of the incident, while the remaining three surrendered within three days. Our administration made every attempt to restore law and order in the area. But still some political parties are hell-bent on giving a communal colour to the incident, which is unfortunate. But the people of Jharkhand know this and therefore they are not ready to buy the opposition’s concocted theory,” said the Chief Minister.

Md Majloom (32) and Imtiyaz Khan (35) were found hanging from a tree at Jhabbar village under Balumath police station of the Maoist-infested Letehar district, which led to violence, leaving an SDO and six policemen injured. The two were herding eight buffaloes and were on their way to a Friday haat (village market).

“Let the law take its own course. I have been appealing to everyone not to politicise the matter for vote bank politics. We have handled the situation very sensitively. Please do not paint a criminal incident as a communal incident just because there is a BJP-led government in the state,” Das said.

Latehar has been a hotbed of Maoists with Balumath at the centre. Police source said many small time criminals of the area have been involved in petty crimes in the garb of Maoists for extortion and have nothing to do with any organisation related to any Hindu outfit.

The other accused are Mithilesh Sao, Awadhesh Sao, Pramod Sahu, Manoj Sahu and Sahdeo Soni. Contrary to rumours that the Gau Raksha Manch was behind the incident, police sources said it appears to be a case of extortion or robbery.

Soon after the incident, Das announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh to the family of each victim. The cheque was sent the very next day to the victims’ families through Latehar Deputy Commissioner Ravi Shankar Shukla, who personally visited them on 22 March.

However, the families refused to accept the cheque. The Chief Minister said the cheque can be collected anytime from his office in Ranchi.

However, there have been attempts to portray the incident as a communal one. So far Opposition leader and former CM Hemant Soren, CPM politburo member Brinda Karat, another former CM Babulal Marandi, state Congress president Sukhdeo Bhagat, Rajya Sabha MP Dheeraj Sahu have visited the village.

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