People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Rajasthan, has written a letter to chief minister Vasundhara Raje to stop cow vigilantism in the state immediately. Text:
On the 1st of April, 2017, 55 year old Pehlu Khan, s/o Mohhamedan and Azmat Son of Suleiman Khan along with 2 milch cows and 3 calves were travelling back home from Jaipur after having bought the cows from the Ramgarh, Hatwara. They had collected the “ravana” receipt of Rs. 700 from the Jaipur Municipal Corporation. Close on the heels of their vehicle was a second truck carrying cows and calves, with Irshad and Arif, both sons of Pehlu and Rafiqson of Mahtu. They took the NH 8 from Jaipur to travel to Nuh, Mewat district, Haryana. At about 6.30 pm when they very close to the Jaguwaas crossing near Behror they were stopped by a big crowd of cow vigilantes, and before they could ascertain what was happening, they were all pulled out of the vehicle, their vehicles were smashed and with stones, sticks and iron roads. Pehlu Khan and others were chased and beaten with the same sticks, iron rods and stones for the next 30 minutes till Pehlu Khan became unconscious.
The tragedy is that this attack happened in the presence of the police and other security men like home guards, the highway patrol and other responsible citizens, who came into action only after the fainting of Pehlu Khan. The so called Gau Rakshaks were led by Hukam Chand, Jagmal, Omprakash, Sudhir, Rahul Saini, Navin Saini and others who are also active members of the VHP and Bajrang Dal.
Pehlu Khan and Azmat Khan were badly injured and along with the other three were admitted in Kailash Hospital, located on the Highway in Behor, a hospital run by the Kailash Charitable Trust of Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma. For four days neither did the administration, the police, nor the hospital transferred Pehlu Khan and Azmat Khan to a multi-speciality hospital either in Jaipur or in Gurgaon so that they could save his life instead, the family members of the injured alleged that they were not treated with dignity but like criminals. However, all the agencies came into action soon after the death of Pehlu Khan, which also got the SP to reach the spot of the crime the next day, on the 5th of April, and monitor the investigation.
On the 4th of April two FIRs were lodged against the 5 dairy farmers of Nuh by Behror police, charging them for having violated Sections 5 and 8 of the Rajasthan Bovine Animal (Prohibition from Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration and Export), Act, 1995, saying they did not have the permit issued from the Jaipur District Collector’s office to take the cows to Nuh. One of the FIRs, lodged by one Damodar Singh, claimed that they were cow traffickers and were carrying cows to their village Nuh simply to slaughter and eat beef and had no papers on them. However, Pehlu Khan and his family and associates had a Rs 45000 receipt and a JMC seal receipt of serial number 88942 dated 1st April.
On behalf of Pehlu Khan too an FIR was lodged, and despite serious injuries, the police applied sections 323, 143, 341,147 and 379, all bailable sections for simple assault, unlawful assembly, illegal confinement and theft, along with section 308 of the IPC alleging attempt to culpable homicide, non-bailable but punishment between 3 years and seven years maximum. According Irshad, son of Pehlu Kha,n he had Rs 75,000 which were stolen, and Rs 35,000 from others.
The Behror and Alwar district police’s partisan attitude is obvious as they brazenly applied lesser degree punishment sections, rather than 307, after seeing their injuries were serious. Only after the death of Pehlu Khan that Sec 302 was applied. Arrests were only made in the evening of the 5th April, and here too the police is refusing to arrest those who have been named in the FIR as their contention is that Pehlu Khan being an outsider could not have known the names, so his list of accused is suspect.
It is important mention that Azmat Khan is still very serious in the Nuh Civil hospital of Haryana. It is shocking to know that despite the seriousness of the crime of the cow vigilantes the Home Minister of Rajasthan, Gulab Chand Kataria, has lauded the effort of the hoodlums, stating that they were doing good by protecting cows and that both sides had wronged: Pehlu Khan and others were at fault and that the Gau Rakshaks ought not to have taken law into their hands and beaten the cow traders so brutally.
It is important to raise a few questions here:
- Has the law and order machinery been now handed over by the police to these cow vigilante groups? Suppose Pehlu Khan and others had violated the law, then the police should have followed due procedure to handle the crime.
- Is not the statement of the Home Minister glorifying the cow vigilante groups tantamount to State support and sponsorship of such attacks including murder?
- The role of SHO Behror police station and SP Alwar is suspect. Initially there was silent support and now they are actively trying to save the accused. Is not the lodging of an FIR against Pehlu Khan and others a form of harassment?
- Pehlu Khan was beaten to death, the post mortem report also states it. However, as part of the never ending voices of support for this vigilantism, the latest is BJP MLA Gyan Dev Ahuja who brazenly said that the 55 year old died of a heart attack and all the allegations of attack are just fiction.
In the Pehlu murder case we demand:
- Immediate arrest of all the attackers that led to the death of Pehlu Khan and all be prosecuted in the murder case
- SHO Behor Police Station, be suspended with immediate effect and the SP of Alwar should be thrown out of the district and be made APO.
- There was a failure of due diligence. Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria should resign on moral and ethical grounds for openly glorifying and lauding the criminals.
- Azmat Khan be shifted to a good hospital in the vicinity in Gurgaon.
- Rs 1 crore be compensated to nearest kin of Pehlu Khan.
- All the injured be provided with Rs. 10 lakh for rehabilitation and recovery.
- All FIRs against Pehlu Khan and others be closed
You are well aware that this is the second case of murder caused by cow vigilantes. On the 30th of May 2015, Abdul Ghaffar Querishi was murdered in Birloka village of Khimsar Tehsil, Nagaur district. The 60 year old was lynched by a mob for no fault of his, simply because the RSS network of organisations spread a false story that more than 200 cows had been slaughtered by Muslims and they had consumed the beef. The local animal bone contractor of the Municipality had left the carcasses of dead cows in an empty plot in Kumhari village, and started shouting slogans that Muslims had slaughtered and feasted on 200 cows. The rumour spread fast through social media.
Thousands of people started attending the meetings that were taking place at Kumhari, led by these so called Gau Rakshaks, and before all knew what would happen, Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi, who had nothing to do with the incident, was attacked with rods in the market of Birloka and killed for no fault of his. Despite several of his Hindu friends trying to help him he could not be saved. The hate speech had provoked the neighbourhood to just kill the man as they wanted a Muslim free village.
Almost every other day we read about attacks on farmers who are trading with cows. Both sellers and buyers are at risk. And if you are a Muslim or a Dalit buyer, your right to life is at risk. This atmosphere is criminalising all Muslims. On the 19th of March 2017 a group of cow vigilantes which had its nexus with the police and Jaipur Mayor Ashok Lahoti, raised baseless charge of serving of beef by the owner and the staff of Hotel Rabbani.
The hotel staff was beaten up, the hotel residents were made to vacate the hotel and with the support of the JMC, the hotel was sealed well before midnight. Was this not a conspiracy to close a well-run hotel and attack the livelihood base of a middle class Muslims? Such is the control of the so-called Gau Rakshaks over instruments of governance and law and order.
You are well aware that since time immemorial cattle trade fairs are held all over the State. Some of the fairs in Pushkar and Parbatsar are renowned world over. These are nothing but spaces where buyers come to trade in cattle. Rich and poor farmers all come to buy milch cattle. The future of these fairs is under serious threat with business on the decline. Every time farmers are returning from a fair, the cow vigilante groups catch them somewhere, and not only do they poach on the precious cattle bought, but are extremely lawless and violent and cause injuries and harm to the farmers in particular if they are Muslims, Banjaras and Dalits, and end up criminalising them.
This raises serious questions on the attack on the economy of a state which has the highest number of cattle, livestock and camels in the country, where revenue from rearing cattle, milk, sheep and wool and tourism is high. Please know that the best bullocks the Nagauribael, the Rathi cow of Bikaner and Tharparker, Barmer, reared by ordinary farmers who are Hindu, Muslims and Dalits.
IT is our appeal that you urgently intervene and stop this lawlessness and free run being given to the cow vigilantes with the support of many people in high places, including the Home Minister, the Mayor of Jaipur and the police. If this is not stopped now then lawlessness will prevail on the streets, the foundation of the economy will be attacked and the attack on the Muslim community will destroy the harmony of the State which has long term repercussion.
Signatories: Kavita Srivastava ( President), Aruna Roy, DL Tripathi, Radha Kant Saxena, Mamta Jaitly, Sawai Singh, Nishat Hussein, Ramesh Nandwana, BhanwarMeghwanshi ( all vice presidents), P R Sharma ( treasurer), Kailash Meena, Harkesh Bugalia (joint secretaries), Dr Meeta Singh, Kapil Sankhla, Prem Krishan Sharma and others.
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