Nuh (Haryana): On the wintry night of December 6, 2017, as Shareef lay on the bed in his courtyard in Salaheri village in Nuh, flashes of memory from 25 years ago kept disrupting his sleep. He recalled how his friend Aarif was killed in Jaipur in the aftermath of the communal violence that followed the Babri Masjid demolition. Shareef shut his eyes to block images of the night of December 6, 1992. Under his breath, he cursed the Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists who that very evening had taken out a ‘victory rally’ to protest the number of mosques in his village. The rally brought back memories of Aarif’s death. Shareef said a quick prayer, covered his face with the quilt and went off to sleep.
The next morning, he woke up to a WhatsApp image of his dead 23-year-old son, Taleem. The message claimed Taleem, a truck driver, was killed in a police encounter the previous night, on charges of cow smuggling.
At present, 24 out of 29 states in India have laws on cow protection. Some states allow cattle slaughter following ‘fit for slaughter’ certification, depending on the age, gender and economic viability of the cattle. Other states have fully banned it. All state cow protection laws lead to criminal offences, most of them cognisable and non-bailable. They gesture towards how the law is prone to being used to protect majoritarian sentiments.
Haryana passed the Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan Act for cow protection in 2015. Section 16 of this law authorises the police or any other designated person to enter, stop and search any vehicle used or intended to be used for exporting cows. The authorities are empowered to seize the vehicle as well as the cows. Section 17 authorises confiscation of vehicles.
Taleem’s killing is only one instance of the use of unbridled power, impunity and political patronage by the police, in the name of cow protection. Such a culture of impunity has wreaked havoc in Mewat.
The Wire’s investigations revealed how 16 people lost their lives in extra-judicial killings by the police on the suspicion of smuggling cows in this region in recent years, 13 of them after 2014. Most victims were young Muslim men from weaker socio-economic castes such as Qureshis and Meos, with marginal assets or land. Most among the slain were truck drivers, partially dependent on farming, animal husbandry, dairy and meat supply for livelihood.
1. Death by bullets
It took Shareef more than 12 hours to locate and identify Taleem’s body. His son was hit by two bullets, fired from a close distance. The wounds disfigured his face. He took one bullet on his neck, the other pierced his chin.
The police claimed that along with four others, Taleem was rounding up some stray cows in a Tata 407, a light duty truck, at 2 am on December 7, 2017 in Alwar. Two constables alerted the police control room. Soon after, the police chased them, trying to detain Taleem at the Janta colony checkpoint in Alwar. In response, the alleged cow smugglers fired from the truck and threw stones at the police. Devendra Pratap, station in-charge, NBI police station, Alwar fired two rounds using his pistol and constable Jai Kishen fired five rounds with his SLR rifle. The FIR filed by the policemen says that in the process, Pratap hurt his ankle and finger. And Taleem lost his life.
Thereafter, the four alleged cow smugglers abandoned the truck and ran away. Alwar superintendent of police Rahul Prakash said that the truck’s number plate and the vehicle’s registration number were fake. The owner, therefore, remains untraceable. The police found a dead cow in the truck, along with four other cows.
Taleem grew up with six siblings in a family that depended on his father, Shareef, a small farmer, for survival. As financial hardship grew at home, Taleem dropped out of school after class 5. He started working as a truck cleaner at the age of 13. Five years ago, he started driving trucks.
“Since time immemorial, we have reared cattle. Our livelihood depends on them. Why will Taleem try to take them away for slaughter? What is the proof?” asks Shareef. He has many questions around the circumstances of Taleem’s killing. “Why did the police not get hit by any bullets if the people in the truck shot at them? Can the police open fire just like that on anyone? And how could the other four in the truck escape on foot and the police failed to nab even one of them?” The police also claimed that Taleem drove his cousin Jabbar’s truck, who was a kingpin in the cow smuggling business. Shareef denies he has a family member by that name.
The police met Shareef’s questions with hostility, threatening him when he tried to file a complaint against Devendra Pratap, the constable who shot Taleem. “He said he will kill us just the way they killed Taleem,” says Shareef. The police took three days to conduct the post mortem, and even after that were reluctant to hand over his body to the family.
Several cases have been registered against Taleem and ‘unidentified people’ under IPC sections 307, 332 and 353 in the Aravalli police station in Alwar. The case has been handed over to the CB-CID, with SP Suresh Maharaniya in charge of the investigation. Meanwhile, Subhash Aggarwal, regional secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, has urged the Ministry of Home Affairs to felicitate the policemen involved in this killing.
Taleem’s case is just a microcosm of the fake encounters sponsored by the police in the name of cow protection. These have been a part of Mewat’s political and cultural narrative for more than a decade. This is how a typical police case is constructed: The police tries to intercept and stop a truck carrying cattle, the smugglers try to run away. The police chases the vehicle.The smugglers fire at the police, the police kills/apprehends the smugglers. Or the vehicle meets with an accident. The police then registers cases against either the deceased or ‘unknown persons’.
SP Alwar Rahul Prakash told The Wire, “The case is disposed of at our end and details are in the chargesheet. The case is undertrial. As far as the family’s objections on the circumstances of the encounter are concerned, as long as there is judicial scrutiny, there is no space for speculation on this.”
Modi’s pink revolution
Just a month ahead of general elections in 2014, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi said that he feared a ‘pink revolution’, referring to an expansion of the meat export industry. The party promised to cut off subsidies to those slaughtering cows. Similarly, in October 2014, on the eve of the Haryana assembly elections, the BJP released a manifesto saying, ‘If voted to power, BJP will take steps for stricter implementation of the laws against cow slaughter. The chairman of the manifesto committee, Ganeshi Lal, said cow slaughter will be equated with culpable homicide.”
Out of the 16 cases of extra-judicial killings that The Wire probed, 13 were post 2014 incidents.
The Haryana government’s move to provide private gau rakshak dals with official accreditation seems to enforce religious prejudices. Families of several victims talked about how these groups accompany police patrols on highways at night. Armed with sticks, rods and guns, they stop lorries carrying cattle, extort money from passengers and assault them on suspicion of cattle smuggling. Sometimes these assaults result in deaths. After the assault, the alleged smugglers are handed over to the police and their vehicle is seized. The victims and their families said that on occasion, the police is present at the site of attack. Several eyewitnesses to these attacks have claimed that neither the police nor the gau rakshak dals asked them if they had the relevant documents for transporting cattle. They operated with an inherent assumption that if cows are being transported by Muslims, they are breaking the law.
The case of Qarar and Zahid
“Till now, we thought the police does not see people as Hindu and Muslim. But now, for the police, killing young boys in the name of cow protection is a quick tool to gain praise from ministers and political parties,” says Azmat from Dhulawat village in Nuh. On June 30, 2015, his grandson Qarar and his friend Zahid, 18 and 23, who drove a vegetable pick-up truck for a living, were called by Leela, a local youth from the village. Since they knew each other, they left in their truck. The same night, both of them were killed in a police encounter on the checkpoint of Kasola police station in Rewari. The police claimed that they were “planning to smuggle cows”.
Qarar was shot in his ribs and died on the spot. He had just finished school and planned to start a business and attend evening college. His body was handed over by the police the next day. Zahid’s body remained missing. After a relentless pursuit by his family, his body was found five days later. His face was disfigured by acid. His nose, eyes and ears were completely mutilated. His family identified his body by the brass ring on his finger. The initial post mortem that was conducted five days after his death on July 4, 2015, claimed that “the reason of death cannot be identified”.
After persistent demands by Zahid’s family, his body was sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory in Haryana, which confirmed that the cause of Zahid’s death was a bullet injury and not acid. According to Mariam, Zahid’s mother, the police wanted to shield itself by claiming that only one person died at their hands and not two. Sitting in her broken house, she says, “Trigger-happy policemen don’t think for even a second while taking away young Muslims’ lives. We raised Zahid with such difficulty, only to see him dead like this. Why is the police doing this? What does the government want? They want us to leave, but where will we go?” No enquiry was initiated into the killings even when the families have written to several statutory bodies and the National Human Rights Commission for intervention.
There is an all-pervasive feeling of alienation, resentment and marginalisation among Muslims, who are targets of police violence in Mewat. The Haryana government’s institutionalisation of cow protection violence further adds to this alienation.
On August 9, 2016, 23-year-old Vaseem from Bawila village in Nuh was killed in a police encounter while he was driving a dumper truck. The police fired straight at Vaseem’s left temple, killing him. This indicates that the shot was intended to kill and not to scare an alleged cow smuggler into stopping.His death appears to have tipped his father, Khurshid Ali, 75, over the edge. He imagines that he migrated from Pakistan to India at the time of partition and that Pakistani agents are out to finish him off. “My father was a freedom fighter but the Indian government is not helping me protect my family from Pakistan,” he says. “First, I will deal with the Pakistani Sindhis sitting on my land and then I will deal with the Haryana police. It is a conspiracy.”
Vaseem’s mother, Harooni, says that Khurshid Ali’s family was part of the Indian independence struggle and they chose India over Pakistan at the time of Partition. “I don’t know if my son was smuggling cows or not that day. What I do know is that he was shot dead on the accusation because he was a Muslim. Hindu smugglers are only arrested. Our own country has turned against us.”
According to an IndiaSpend report, 84% of those who died in cow-related violence since 2010 are Muslims. Ninety-seven percent of these attacks took place after 2014, when the Modi-led BJP government came into power. Until June 25, 2017, half of the incidents of cow-related violence – 30 out of 60 cases – occurred in states governed by the BJP.
Also, the number of Muslims arrested on charges of cow smuggling is disproportionately high in Haryana. According to this report, in the first two years of the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government, 513 people were booked for cow smuggling and other related offences in Haryana. Of those booked by the police, 86 were Hindus, 421 Muslims and 24 Sikhs.
According to ‘Lynching without end’, a fact-finding report authored by a civil society collective called Citizens Against Hate (published in September 2017), a majority of shootings in cow smuggling cases have not been registered by the police. In some cases, the victim’s family members are too apprehensive of the police to file a complaint. In others, the parents of the deceased have petitioned the high court to give directions to the police to register FIRs, but have not been able to follow up on the case. In several cases, FIRs were filed without applying section 302 of the IPC. This meant there was no mention of the murders in police records, even though cases against victims were registered. In some cases, FIRs did not name the accused despite victims or witnesses naming them. Instead, they registered the assailants as ‘unknown’. This makes it impossible for families to pursue the cases against the police, given the legal costs and risks involved.
2. Death on the Mewat border
In July 2016, the Haryana government set up a 24-hour helpline for citizens to report cow slaughter and smuggling. The same year, in September, it deployed a Special Task Force in 21 districts on the borders of the state to check cattle smuggling across the state. They have been stationed on the adjoining western and southern Uttar Pradesh borders and on major highways: the Grand Trunk Road connecting Sonipat, Panipat, Karnal and Kurukshetra, the Maneser Palwal Expressway connecting Gurugram, Mewat and Palwal; National Highway 2 connecting Palwal with Mathura and Agra; and National Highway 8 connecting Gurugram, Rewari and parts of the Rajasthan border. Bharti Arora, DIG, Haryana police and the nodal officer for cow protection and conservation, told Mail Today, “As Mewat is highly vulnerable, we have decided to deploy two STF teams there.”
Mewat is a historical region with no exact predetermined boundaries and extends to three states – Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Just 50 km from the national capital of New Delhi, the region includes parts of Nuh, Gurgaon, Palwal and Faridabad districts of Haryana, Alwar and Bharatpur districts of Rajasthan and some parts of UP’s Mathura district. Given Mewat’s geographic location, any transportation of cattle within the region qualifies as ‘cross-border smuggling’.
On April 2, 2018, the NITI Aayog released a preliminary or baseline ranking for India’s 101 most backward districts that have signed up for the Modi government’s ‘Transformation of Aspirational Districts’ programme. Mewat’s Nuh district ranked the lowest in the order. Poor health, severe water crisis, lack of industrial policy and lack of education infrastructure are the key contributors to the region’s backwardness. Repeated demands to establish a university and railway connectivity with Delhi have gone unheeded so far. Given the dearth of government school teachers and the absence of a public higher education system, there are hardly 1,000 people in government jobs in Nuh. This despite 90% of the population figuring in the Central and state OBC list.
Notwithstanding the education and employment crunch, Haryana chief minister Khattar, in the first 14 months of his government, sanctioned more than Rs 6.25 crore from the state’s discretionary grants to dozens of private gaushalas across the state. The lack of employment drives youth to scour other avenues – even murky ones – for a livelihood. Cow smuggling fetches them quick money sometimes, even though it poses a grave threat to their lives.
The roots of communal violence run deep in Mewat. For decades, accusations of cow slaughter have been ramped up to polarise and create sectarian tensions in the region. Shail Mayaram, a professor at the Centre for Study of Developing Societies, has written about the Meo community in her book Resisting Regimes: Myth, Memory and the Shaping of a Muslim Identity. She says that Meos are a tribe with a pastoral-agrarian economy who worship the cow. They also have a Hindu-Muslim liminal identity, considering their clan to have descended from Arjuna and Krishna of the Mahabharata. In the 1920s, two separate religious movements – a Hindu reform movement led by the Arya Samaj and Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamist revivalist movement founded in Mewat by an Islamic scholar Maulana Muhammed Ilyas – gained currency in the region.
In the 1930s, Kisan Sabha, a mass front of peasants affiliated to the Communist Party of India, including members from Jat, Ahir, Gujjar, and Meo communities and led by Meo leader Yasin Khan, mobilised a peasant movement in the princely states of Alwar and Bharatpur. The movement came against the backdrop of a global economic depression, leading to a 30% rise in revenue rates. Dubbing the movement to be fundamentalist, the ruling elites of the princely states said ‘Muslim mullahs’ were the ones to have stoked it. Meos were described as ‘Muslim’ in the state and media discourse of the period – a description that was internalised by Hindu fundamentalists.
According to Mayaram, Meos were subjected to ethnic cleansing during Partition, and nearly 200,000 people were killed in the violence organised by princely states and Hindu fundamentalists. While Meos were not interested in Pakistan, Urdu or the Muslim League, they had three options before them – get killed, convert or cross the border. More than half of the Meo population left for Pakistan. As soon as the borders of India and Pakistan opened in the 1950s and 60s, many Meos returned to Mewat, the land of their ancestors. With religion-based polarisation on the rise, many Meos, facing threats from religious fundamentalists, gave up their dual religious identity. They endorsed Islam after Partition for anchorage, security and relief from the Islamic Jamaat.
Mayaram, in an article, mentions her conversation with a VHP leader who was part of Dharma Sansad, a Hindu nationalist seminar:
“The Dharma Sansad leader in an interview tells me how eastern Rajasthan, Haryana and the adjoining part of Uttar Pradesh are part of a “cold” belt as far as his organisation is concerned. He elaborates on how the issue of cow slaughter has to be periodically raised to generate “heat”. The leader is alluding to attempts made by his and allied organisations to fabricate inter- communal disputes. In Mewat, the area southwest of Delhi, where the Meo population is concentrated, these attempts are in the form of allegations, most often, of cow slaughter.”
According to the ‘Lynching Without End’ report, inter-state cases of bovine-related violence largely affected victims from Nuh district of Mewat in Haryana. The report observes that “in the inter-state cases of bovine violence, since the incident of violence takes place in provinces outside the victim’s own, it poses additional challenges for survivors or victim’s families in their efforts to obtain justice – anyways an uphill task for poor, unconnected and devastated families. These are made worse by their having to travel long distances to police stations and court houses in another province, spend dearly, and organise practicalities of the long legal battles in unfamiliar circumstances.”
Finding justice in these cases is an even more protracted battle, and the complicity of the police makes it worse.
In Uttawar village in Palwal, Alam’s grave has sunk so deep in the mud that the cheap red stone with the date of his death written on it in amateur handwriting is no longer visible. Surrounded by overgrown dried weeds, it is just a shadow of what a proper grave should be. On July 7, 2005, Alam, a 24-year-old pick-up truck driver, was killed by the police when he was transporting cows in his truck. When the police stopped him, he ran into the nearby forests on the Kosi Mathura border. The police caught him, cracked his skull with the butt of a rifle and then threw him into a well. Hakeem, his elder brother, found out a day later that he is dead. “He was not smuggling cows. He was merely a driver and was transporting cows for someone else. Yet, he was killed on mere suspicion and the real owners of the cows were not even questioned to know the real nature of the transport,” says Hakeem. He is the sole earning member in a family of eight. Alam’s truck has been parked at the Hodal police station in Palwal for the last 13 years.
A few feet from Alam’s grave lies Rozedar’s – fresh, visible and crying for attention. Rozedar was shot by the police on February 17, 2016, on the Mathura highway while he was carrying cows in his truck. Like Alam, he also ran into nearby fields to escape the volley of bullets fired by the police. He called several people on the phone, informing them that he had been shot and asking them to come and pick him up. “Since the location he described was vague, we kept looking for him but could not find him,” says Nasir, his younger brother.
They were finally informed that the Kosi police station in Mathura had found his dead body. “They kept refusing to give us his body. They said that his body is lawaaris, ‘unclaimed’, so they cannot hand it over to us. It was a ploy to not take responsibility for the police encounter,” he says. The police finally handed over the body after the family signed papers stating that they will not take any action against the police. The police filed cases of cow slaughter against Rozedar in Palwal and Mathura. Nasir says,“In the last few years, so many dead bodies of young men have come back to our village. Our graveyard will soon be full if this continues.”
Hidayat’s is another cross-border case where the Haryana police displayed its trigger-happy attitude. At around midnight on November 2, 2011, as he was passing through Ajanta chowk in Bhiwadi, a city in Alwar district of Rajasthan, in his truck, a Maruti car with two Haryana police constables, Manoj Sharma and Vinod Yadav, fired at his forehead on the suspicion that he was “going to smuggle cows”.
Rajasthan police reached the spot and first took Hidayat to a civil hospital in Bhiwadi and later to Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi. Rajasthan police also filed a case against the accused constables from Haryana police for unlawful shooting and attempt to murder. Vinod Yadav had objected to the fact that he was being charged in the case, when the five rounds of bullets were fired by Manoj Sharma. The next day, Yadav was found dead with bullet injuries on his forehead. Hidayat, who had received a bullet in the middle of his forehead, remained in a coma for the next 3.5 years. He died on January 17, 2015 in his village Chilawara in Nuh. No compensation or medical aid was ever provided to the family. Nothing came of the legal case against the accused policemen either.
“One of the prime reasons for the frequent accusations of cow smuggling in Mewat is also that Mewat has gone through so many official divisions. First it was part of Gurgaon, Faridabad, Mathura and Bharatpur. Over the past few decades, new districts have been carved out in the region, which are now under the jurisdiction of different states. But for the rural Mewati, unaware of such high level government decisions, Mewat continues to be one region. So they often do not realise that they have crossed over into another state, without the required papers for transporting cattle,” says Aarif, a local activist from Mewat.
3. Death by trickery
In September 2016, Bharti Arora, the nodal officer appointed by the Haryana government to supervise the functioning of the special task forces against slaughter and smuggling of cows, said that smuggling cattle is a crime of the highest order. “We have found that those involved in these activities are hardcore criminals with several police cases against them. Money from cattle smuggling is also used for anti-social and anti-national activities,” she told Hindustan Times.
According to the ‘Lynching Without End’ report, “In Haryana, the police seemed to have a greater involvement in the commissions of the crime against victims of bovine related violence.”
In March 2016, the Punjab and Haryana high court acknowledged the role of the police in brutal killings in cases of cow protection in the case of Mustain Abbas, who was chased by a police vehicle and later found dead. The court ordered the immediate transfer of the Kurukshetra district magistrate, superintendent of police, deputy superintendent of police and station house officer of the Shahbad police station “to a far-off place with inconsequential posting(s)”.
On the evening of September 15, 2017, 30-year-old Munfaid from Kharkhadi village in Nuh district received a call from four policemen – Vikrant, Shakti Singh, Satish and Siddharth – from the central investigation agency in Haryana. They summoned him to Rewari on the promise of closing all false cases against him in exchange for doing some work for the policemen. Fed up of the everyday police harassment, Munfaid left to meet them. The next morning, on September 16, his father, Islam, was informed that Munfaid was shot dead at Kala Pahad ki Ghati in the Tauru area in Nuh Road at around 2 am.
The residents of Roz ka Meo, a village close to where Munfaid was shot, informed a fact-finding team that visited the place a day after the murder that Munfaid was accompanied by three friends when he had gone to meet the police officers, who saw him being shot by the police. The report of the fact-finding team says,
“The eye witnesses informed the residents of the village that the police officers came in a green Bolero Car which stopped right in front of their vehicle. Munfaid who was sitting in a car with his three other friends was shot at by the officers. The three friends, scared for their life ran away from the spot and informed the villagers about the murder.”
The residents of the village said that the eyewitnesses, in hiding, were facing a threat to their lives and so were scared to register their statements. They also said that the police alleged that he was “going to smuggle cows” in the truck, and had to be shot.
Islam wrote a complaint detailing the sequence of events and alleging that his son was killed by the above mentioned six CIA policemen in a conspiracy at around 3 pm the same day. The superintendent of police, Nuh assured him that an FIR will be filed based on his complaint to look into the killing of Munfaid. However, in a cover up, his complaint was not acknowledged and instead an FIR based on the statement of a CIA staff member, inspector Mastana, was filed in the Tauru police station against ‘unknown people’. The FIR states that Mastana “came across a white pick up truck in the middle of the road near an abandoned mine in Tauru Ghati where he found an unidentified person grievously injured. The victim was taken to Nalhad Hospital, Nuh, where he was declared dead. It was found that the person was shot in his neck by unknown people. The CIA Staff contacted the police station, and the FIR was thus registered.”
The police also tried to tamper with Munfaid’s post mortem. They first insisted that the doctors at the Nalhad Medical College, Nuh conduct his post mortem. When the doctors refused to conduct the post mortem on an unidentified body (as per procedure, post mortem on an unidentified body can be conducted only after three days), they took the body to the community health centre in Nuh. When the doctors refused there too, they called a doctor from Palwal to conduct the post mortem. The police did this with an intention to tamper with the evidence before Munfaid’s family arrived. Firearm entry wounds were found on the front right side of his neck, and that led to his death.
Islam says, “I was thrown out of the hospital ward when I objected to them tampering with his clothes that could be evidence.” Both Islam and his son Munfaid worked as farmers. “The police want to kill young men using the justification that they are cleaning up cow smugglers. Police force has started believing that all young Muslim men are cow smugglers,” he says.
The trope of masking an extra-judicial killing by the police as an accident is not a new one. On August 6, 2013, three young men – Fareed, Sher Singh and Sahroon – were killed by a gau rakshak mob as police stood by as mute spectators. The police later called it “an accident that led to the death of three cow smugglers”.
The trend, according to civil society organisations, has gained more ground since 2014. On January 2, 2016, Azharu, a 25-year-old truck driver from Ghaseda village in Nuh, also died under mysterious circumstances in police custody. The police called it a suicide. On January 1, 2016, Azharu along with his five friends left in his cousin Shameem’s new car, a Ritz, to celebrate the new year. At 3 am in the morning, they were stopped by the cops at a bridge on the Rewari road near Dharuheda police station. “We tried to flee because we neither had car papers or the licence,” says Shameem. Everyone escaped except Azharu. The next day, the family got a call from the Dharuheda police station that Azharu had jumped from the nearby bridge and died.
When the family received the body, Azharu’s neck bone was broken, but he did not have any injuries on the body. “How is that possible? If he jumped from a 50-feet-high bridge, will he not receive other injuries? Will all his bones not break?” asks Israel, his father. They wanted to get hold of the post mortem report to find out the exact reason for his death. After months of chasing, they were handed only the first page of the report, which does not mention the post mortem details.
The police visited them at home a number of times. They said that they stopped Azharu and others in the car because they were going to rob a cattle truck. “How do you rob cattle in a Ritz car?” asks Israel. The police threatened to file a case against Israel and his other son, who also drives a truck for a living. “They made us sign some papers to say that we have no complaints against the police. They still keep a check on our house once in a while,” he says. Azharu’s three daughters, the eldest five years old, start crying as soon as they see outsiders. They think that the police has come to take them away.
4. Blocking justice
According to IndiaSpend, in 30% of attacks, the police registered cases against the victims/survivors of bovine-related violence. According to the Hindustan Times Hate Tracker data set, this figure of cases registered by the police against survivors was even higher – 46% of the incidents reported.
The ‘Lynching Without End’ report says that in almost all cases involving cattle, “cross cases” have been filed against the victims, parallel to cases registered for murder. Cross cases can be understood as counter cases. The police have, in these cases, registered FIRs against the victims under cow slaughter-related Acts, accusing the victims of smuggling cattle. Some cross-cases also include sections of the Arms Act, making the charges against the victims all the more serious. Other sections used in these cross cases include provisions of the IPC such as 307 (attempt to murder), 429 (maiming cattle), 304A (rash and negligent driving), 279 (rash driving), 323 (causing hurt), 337 and 338 (causing hurt/grievous hurt by endangering the life and personal safety of others).
There is a systematic use of cross-cases by the police to weaken victims’ case. These cross-cases can act as handy tools for the police to harass the already demoralised families of victims, and to blackmail them should they take the fight against the accused seriously. No wonder most extra-judicial killings by the police in Haryana in cases of cattle smuggling never make it to the public domain.
B.S. Sandhu, DGP, Haryana told The Wire, “There have been no extra-judicial killings in Haryana. Haryana government and Haryana police are absolutely following the rule of law and have not killed any innocent person. Our constable was killed yesterday but you journalists will not write about him because for you, he is not a human being. You only want to write about criminals.”
On December 6, 2017, while Taleem was being killed by the police, Khattar was in the UAE to promote investment and business in Haryana, highlighting the ‘vast opportunities’ the state offers to industries. The official statement read that given the rising number of middle-class people and changing lifestyles, the state government plans to come out with a liberal retail policy which would contain various provisions, including opening 24×7 stores in the state. Shareef says, “It is not a coincidence. Cleaning up a space by killing poor Muslims and taking away their livelihood is the first step towards vikas (development), no?”
All photos by Neha Dixit
This article is part of a fellowship from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) to undertake field-based investigative research on issues relating to the marginalised communities in India
Neha Dixit is an independent journalist based out of New Delhi. She covers politics, gender and social justice in South Asia.