Field Notes: Witnessing Agony In Bihar


The news of a Hindu mob lynching a 47-year-old meat merchant named Naseeb Qureshi was shared with us by a resident of the Siwan district in western Bihar. Our friend spoke about a rising tide of anti-Muslim violence in the state that produced one of India’s most secular leaders: Lalu Prasad Yadav. 

We made a 17-hour train journey from New Delhi to Bihar the next day. It took us another 45 minutes in a taxi from the railway station to Rasulpur village in Siwan, where Qureshi was lynched, 21 km from his own village, Hasanpura- Jogia, in the neighbouring Saran district.  

We found Hasanpura- Jogia,  a village of mostly Muslims who work as meat merchants and farmers,  filled with quiet apprehension. The villagers seemed unhappy. We spotted a few reading the Quran. Someone said it was to seek solace and protection. 

Qureshi was lynched by a Hindu mob on suspicion of carrying beef.

His was not an isolated case.

We were reporting on the spate of anti-Muslim violence in Bihar, a state governed not by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but by a ruling alliance of the so-called secular and Left parties. 

The Qureshis are Muslims who have traditionally been in the meat business.  The hate crime had left them feeling vulnerable. The question hanging over them was who was next. 

While trying to interview people, we saw the tension and fear etched on the faces of the people who shuffled past our camera. It was haunting to see people living in a suspended state of fear and dread and a reminder of life's fragility in the face of hate and senseless violence. 

It was challenging to speak with anyone at the Rasulpur police station. One policeman promised to connect us with the station house officer, but our calls to him went unanswered. Another policeman brushed off the lynching as an accident. When we finally managed to reach the SHO and the superintendent of police, Saran,  they declined to speak. 

When we first saw Naseeb Qureshi’s 17-year-old daughter, Roshni Khatoon, she was lying unconscious in a clinic around a kilometre from her house, receiving intravenous fluids. Later that day, Roshni asked us what was to become of their shared dream of her becoming a doctor. 

We thought a lot about the future of the young woman whose dreams were shattered by one act of bigotry. 

Qureshi’s wife, Anvari Khatoon, 45, was beside herself with grief, tears streaming down her face. Her loved ones told her to gather strength, but she was inconsolable. 

We cannot forget her wailing in agony: “Maar delan san re, bina dushmani ke maar delan san” (He had no enemies. They killed him for no reason). 

Watch Meer Faisal and Ubair ul Hameed’s full story here

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