Ahmedabad: On September 21, five days after the death of Mohammed Ayyub – the 29-year-old auto rickshaw driver who was assaulted by gau rakshaks in Ahmedabad, Gujarat – the police arrested three people in connection to his death.
Dhaval Bhatt, Vikram Bhati and Alpesh Rabari reportedly are all self proclaimed cow vigilantes. Bhatt has even been arrested previously for killing a Dalit and was released on bail four months ago.
The special investigation team (SIT), led by Dipen Bhadran, deputy commissioner of police of the crime branch, Ahmedabad and B.C. Solanki, assistant commissioner of police of the Ahmedabad special operations group, have said that four others who may have been involved in the incident are still absconding.
The SIT team of 258 police personnel was formed on the evening of September 17. The same evening, P.B. Rana, the police inspector of Anandnagar police station, under whose jurisdiction the incident had happened, was transferred to the traffic department. Senior police officers also visited the family of the deceased to assure compensation and justice.
However, police action came only after a sustained protest and demand for justice for Ayyub. The city police, who had chosen to look the other way, was forced to act when the activists brought out the hard facts of the case.
The movement demanding justice for Ayyub gained momentum on September 17, after he succumbed to fatal injuries sustained in the assault. Activists and sympathisers gathered in largers numbers inside the premises of VS Hospital and were led by lawyer-activist Shamshad Pathan.
“Sharir ka koi hissa nai bacha tha jahan mara nai hoga” (There was not one part of the body where they didn’t beat him), said Mohammed Arif, Ayyub’s younger brother. Arif was detained by the city police from the premises of the hospital the day after his brother died. The 25-year-old, along with many others, were demanding that the cow vigilantes who had brutally attacked Ayyub be arrested and the concerned police officer under whose jurisdiction the incident occurred be held responsible.
The incident occurred on the night of September 12. Ayyub along with one Samir Sheikh, were reportedly carrying two calves in an Indigo car when the gau rakshaks began to chase them. Later, the vigilantes rammed their car into Ayyub’s car, pulled him out and assaulted him.
An FIR was filed against Ayyub and Sheikh at the Anandnagar police station under the law of animal cruelty. Another FIR was filed under section 307 (case of attempt to murder which later was changed to 302 – case of murder after Ayyub died) against “unidentified assailants”.
However, the Anandnagar police’s claim that the cow vigilantes were untraceable turned out to be wrong when activists got hold of the FIR filed against Ayyub and Sheikh.
Apparently, the gau rakshaks had identified themselves while filing the complaint against the duo. The Anandnagar police who had three names of the accused – Janak Ramesh Mistry, Ajay Sagar Rabari and Bharat Nag Rabari – did not do anything to arrest them. In fact, the three are still at large.
“When police took away Samir Sheikh, they could have also arrested Mohammed Ayyub. Instead they left him to the mercy of the cow vigilantes. The police also kept maintaining that the statement of Sheikh, the main complainant of the case was unreliable,” stated Pathan.
“Moreover the accused had themselves been to the police station and cops knew them by name and face and yet did not name them in the FIR. The police first told us that the car that had hit Ayyub’s car was an Innova, but later CCTV footage revealed it was a Xylo. The police tried their best to protect the accused until people came out in protest,” he added.
Amid heavy deployment of police in and around the hospital, on September 17, Ayyub’s neighbours, members of multiple human rights organisations and trade unions stood in support of Ayyub’s family, who refused to receive the body unless their demands were met.
The police had tried to disperse the crowd and heckled some activists, lathi charging within the premises of the hospital and detaining about 70 protestors, including Pathan, for eight hours. Activist and artist Pravin Mishra was beaten up by police and had to leave the hospital premises.
When the police detained Arif, his mother Mehraj Banu threatened set herself on fire if he was not released. Later, she and Ayyub’s wife fell sick and had to be taken to hospital.
When the police was unable to pressurise Ayyub’s family into receiving his body, they sent the body to the family’s residence in an ambulance and left it there while no one was at home to receive it.
Ayyub who was under treatment for four days before succumbing to his injuries on September 16, was reportedly always was surrounded by cops. Even when his family visited, he was not left alone with his kin, said Arif.
“He regained consciousness for a very brief time while under treatment at the hospital. We were desperate to talk to him to know what had happened that ill fated night. But all he could utter was the word accident after he saw police in the ICU ward,” said Arif.
“The police did not even leave my sister-in-law alone with him,” he added.
The police had maintained that Ayyub was primarily injured in an accident and did not take the investigation further. The inquest report, however, states otherwise. The external injuries on Ayyub’s body are not consistent with injuries sustained in an accident.
As per the inquest report, Ayyub’s left leg was fully bruised, his right leg had scratches and bruises and there were bruises on his upper left hand, thumb of his left hand, both sides of his waist, wrists, the right side of his chest,the right side of his jaw and his back. There were stitches between his eyes extending to his cheek, as well as behind his left ear, right hand and stomach area.
While mass protests have led to an investigation into the case, the last demand for compensation is yet to be fulfilled.
Ayyub was the sole earner in a family of six. The 29-year-old has left behind a mourning mother and a wife who has to take care of two kids, aged five years and five months. He has also left behind an unmarried sister and younger brother Arif.
“I don’t know how to sit and mourn my brother. I have to think of a means to run this family,” said Arif.
“This family has lost more than a son, brother or husband. He was the back bone of this family. He had urged our mother to quit working as a house maid after he started earning,” he added.
Their father abandoned them ten years ago when mother Mehraj Banu took to work as a housemaid to support the family. Ayyub studied till class seven and later started working as an auto rickshaw driver to support the family.
Arif is the sole male earning member in the family now. “I shall also resort to being an auto rickshaw driver,” Arif states.