NEW DELHI: In the evenings, as other children play with their siblings in Arahara village of Jharkhand, Niyajul, 8, and Safina, 10, often say: "If only our brother was here..." It's something their parents find hard to respond to. Their 12-year-old son, the brother missed by his siblings, was killed by suspected cow vigilantes two years ago.
"They would say, 'If brother was here, he would have played with us'," Mohammad Azad, 45, said with his teary-eyed wife Najma Beebi, 35, by his side.
The couple lost their son Imtiyaz Khan on March 18, 2016, when he was beaten up along with his father's business partner Majlum Ansari, 32, by alleged "Gau Rakshaks", as they were transporting eight oxen on foot in Latehar in Jharkhand. Their bodies were found hung from a tree.
With a black shawl over her head, Najma Beebi told IANS that though her two younger children know about their brother's death, they still ask about him when they see other children playing in the evenings.
But answering the children is least of the family's worries.
Two years on, all the accused in the case are out on bail. And family members of the victims allege that that they were being threatened by them.
"After I testified in the court, Bunty (one of the accused) said in the bazaar: 'Now see what we will do'," Azad said.
When asked whether he was afraid, Azad replied: "When your son is dead, what is there to be scared of?"
Also, earlier this month, a report on the murders by a rights activist has alleged that police "sabotaged" the investigation by delaying filing of FIR in the case by 17 hours, and then not including relevant sections of the IPC. Also, a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) named by eye-witnesses as one of the accused is yet to be questioned, among others.
Ansari's widow Saira Beebi, 35, remembered how about 15 days before he was murdered, two of the accused came to their house with others and threatened her husband.
"They asked him to stop doing cattle business," Beebi said. "He told me that after selling the oxen that was already bought, he would not get any."
Beebi now carries bricks on her head at a kiln in the village to make ends meet.
"There is no one to help us, I'm my father's only child and he is too old to even look after himself," she said.
Saira Beebi makes Rs 120 a day, which she says is not enough for anything. "For everything we face problems: Food, clothes, everything."
"Sometimes I don't have energy to go to work, but I have to go. It's very hard work," she said.
Azad said that he along with two of his friends, Mohammad Nizamuddin, 50, and Mohammad Manowwar, 27, saw two of the accused hanging his son to death.
"Hiding behind the bushes, we saw it. But we did not have the courage to stop them," Nizamuddhin told IANS.
Nizamuddin also said that he was threatened by the accused Bunty.
"I met Bunty one day on the road and he came to me and said 'If you go for the case, we will kill you like we killed him'," he said.
"We told everything in the court, but nothing has happened," he said helplessly.
Azad said he wanted nothing but justice for his son: "What happened to my son, should happen to them."