Ranchi, Jharkhand: For 45 minutes, he begged and pleaded with a savage mob to spare his younger brothers. Then he watched them die after repeated blows and kicks, all in front of policemen who could do - or did - nothing.
Uttam Verma's brothers Vikas and Gautam were among the mob violence victims in Jharkhand last week. The family has refused to accept the state government's offer of Rs two lakh compensation.
"I saw my brothers being killed...Will money bring them back?" Uttam wept, his head tonsured for the funeral. His elderly father breaks down every now and then.
Vikas Verma, Gautam Verma and their friend Gangesh Gupta were attacked by some 500 people armed with rods and stones on Thursday in Nagadih in East Singhbhum district. What fueled the attack were rumours circulated on WhatsApp about child kidnappers. Vikas and Gautam's grandmother was also beaten.
344 people have been arrested, but on that day, one family experienced the breakdown of law and governance.
Uttam said he had gone with his brother Vikas to scope out land for building toilets and had told this to the villagers, who then demanded to see their IDs. Uttam produced his, but his younger brother didn't have one. Within moments, the mob descended on him.
"I even asked someone to fetch my mother from our home nearby...so they would see we are descent people. My (other) brother Gautam came with his friend Gangesh and brought grandmother," said Uttam.
Then, the shocker for the desperate brothers. "The police had arrived. But they didn't help. They told the crowd, 'they are bachcha chors (child kidnappers), beat them'. They encouraged the attack," said Uttam, describing how people with rods and stones came rushing at them.
"We kept trying to reason with them for 45 minutes. My mother came, brothers came. It was 2 km out of the area. As we tried to get away, the crowds suddenly came from all sides, blocking us."
Another cousin said, "The police had guns. They could have fired shots in the air to disperse the crowds, but no one did anything to save us."