In Junaid and Nasir’s Rajasthan Village, Stunned Silence Has Given Way to Anger, Fear

The two Muslim men were burnt alive on the Rajasthan-Haryana border, allegedly by self-proclaimed ‘cow protectors’.

Ghatmeeka (Rajasthan): When The Wire reached Ghatmeeka village in Rajasthan, on the border with Haryana, on Thursday night, we found heavy police presence and simmering tensions in the neighbourhood. But the eerie silence of the night was interrupted in the morning, when over 2,000 locals from nearby villages gathered for a protest meeting against the alleged hate crime in which two Muslim men from Ghatmeeka were killed.

Last night, The Wire first reported on the alleged murder of Nasir and Junaid in Haryana, close to the Rajasthan-Haryana border. The gory details of the crime, and the alleged impunity of the accused self-proclaimed ‘cow protectors’, have left spectators stunned.

Ghatmeeka is largely inhabited by small farmers and lorry drivers, and the village has not seen such a tense environment since the lynching of Umar Khan in 2017. Speaking to The Wire, Umar’s son, Maqsood said that since his father was hacked to death, people cannot get themselves to buy cows from adjacent villages even for the purpose of milking, “fearing what happened to my father can happen to them too”. As he spoke, his elderly grandmother sat beside him, shivering, shaking, crying and mumbling something to herself while holding a photo of her son Umar.

Maqsood believes that the present Union BJP government has created an atmosphere of impunity for goons and criminals who continue to remain emboldened “even after so many cases like Pehlu, Rakhbar, Junaid and my father Umar”.

Many angry locals questioned why the police have not included sections for murder amongst the charges cited in the FIR and why they are trying to present it as a case of only abduction. (The FIR has been filed under IPC Sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 365 (abduction), 367 (kidnapping or abducting in order to subject a person to grievous hurt, slavery) and 368 (wrongful confinement)). However, some locals also praised the police action and said that they feel that the Rajasthan police will arrest the accused soon.

Locals gather in protest in Ghatmeeka village, Rajasthan. Photo: The Wire

Mursaleen, a young student from the village, is visibly shocked at the news of two men from his neighbourhood being set ablaze while alive. He told The Wire that he has been following the videos posted by Monu Manesar in which he can be seen posing with rifles and arms while boasting to have the Haryana Police’s support. “Today it is Junaid, tomorrow I think they will kill and bury me too. And I don’t think we’ll ever get justice,” he said.

“I watched him grow up before my very eyes, and I always knew him to be a hardworking and kind-hearted young man,” Junaid’s neighbour, Sahuni, told The Wire. “He was well-respected in our village, and everyone knew him for his gentle nature.”

“To see his skull now is something I never could have imagined,” she said. “It’s like losing a son. Junaid was the breadwinner for so many people…his family’s future is uncertain without him.”

Tahir Hussain, Sarpanch, Gram Panchayat Dhimri, the village adjacent to Ghatmeeka, said, “We demand to know from the state government how they are going to stop this act of terrorism which has been prevalent in the area. The people responsible for this horrific incident should be arrested, charged with relevant sections and hanged.”

A few weeks ago, a Muslim man named Waris had died in the area. While the police said it was in a road accident, Waris’s family has accused Bajrang Dal leader Monu Manesar – also allegedly involved in the killing of Junaid and Nasir – and others of committing murder. “There are a few people who want to vitiate the social fabric of the country, there are some who wish to destroy societal peace among communities,” the sarpanch said. “We demand that the administration take note of these happenings and do the needful. We are happy with the administration, as of now. The IG and SP are here with us. We only request them to take the strictest action possible, no relief should be provided so that these incidents are not repeated.”

Umar Khan’s wife, Khurshida. Photo: The Wire

The Haryana police’s role, though, is questionable, according to Hussain. “How can someone from Haryana come to Rajasthan, commit such a horrific crime, and leave? Was there no police booth, no check post to stop them? They should think about this. How can anyone go anywhere, and lynch and burn people?”

It is essential, he continued, that the administration take action against the accused – otherwise cases like this will only continue. “The atmosphere is being vitiated, people are living in fear. How will they go out? How will they do business? This is not how the country will run.”

All cattle-related industries and those making a living from them, Hussain said, have been deeply affected by rising crimes by ‘cow vigilantes’. “Samajhdar aadmi toh gay rakhna hi chhor diya hai. Bhains Rs 2 lakh ki aati hai aur gay Rs 30,000-40,000 me toh gareeb admi sochta hai ki bachcho ke liye gay ka doodh ka intezam ho jaega. (All intelligent people have stopped keeping cows at home. A bull costs Rs 2 lakh but you can buy a cow for Rs 30,000-40,000, so a poor man thinks that at least there will be milk for his children.) But even he is looked upon with suspicion.”

Shyam Singh, the Bharatpur superintendent of police, told The Wire on the telephone: “One of the accused has been detained, we are looking for the rest. The post-mortem is complete and we are conducting DNA tests too.” When asked about delays in arrests, as alleged by families of the two victims, the police refused to comment.

Wasim Akram, a social activist who works in the area, told The Wire, “Does an organisation have the right to take the law into their own hands? Police is there, the administration is there. But the way Monu and his team are committing these crimes is condemnable,” he said, alleging that this was not the first time the group was behaving in this way.

Like others in the village, Akram is troubled that people are taking the law into their own hands – and are being allowed to do so. “If you see Monu’s [social media] profile, the way he chases vehicles and opens fire at them, is this his job? What is the police doing, then? And then Monu is seen with the Nuh SP and in meetings with other officials. Is this how they want to serve cows? How can you use weapons in the name of gau raksha?”

Edited by Jahnavi Sen.