Listen to this article:
New Delhi: Cow vigilante groups in Haryana’s Nuh district on Sunday, May 8, held a ‘mahapanchayat’ at a cow shelter in which they put forth several demands to state authorities, including the withdrawal of first information reports (FIR) against vigilante gau rakshaks and the bestowal of arms licences to them.
According to the Indian Express, the gathering also issued an “ultimatum” to the state government to end cow smuggling in the district within the month.
The mahapanchayat was reportedly called in response to a statement made by Congress MLA from the Ferozpur Jhirka constituency, Mamman Khan, wherein he had said that gau rakshaks who were engaging in illegal activities will not be allowed to enter the district’s villages, according to news agency PTI.
“We have told the administration that we will not tolerate these people entering our villages and abducting men,” he had said.
Khan’s statement had come after a spate of recent incidents in Nuh where Muslim men were beaten and abducted by groups of cow vigilantes accusing them of smuggling and slaughtering cattle.
On April 23, one Sahib Hussain, a resident of Sheikhpur village in Nuh was reportedly attacked by a group of 20-25 cow vigilantes armed with pistols. Hussain was then taken away by the group in a car and was booked under Sections 13(1) and 13(3) of the Haryana Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan Act, 2015 by the Nuh police.
Two videos of the incident subsequently went viral online after which an FIR was registered against “three or four unidentified persons” under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 286 (negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter), 294 (obscene acts and songs), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 342 (punishment for wrongful confinement) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) as well as sections of the Arms Act.
Locals of the area reportedly identified the assailants and alleged that some of them belonged to the Bajrang Dal.
Similar incidents were also reported from two nearby villages – Basai Meo and Rawli – where cow vigilantes reportedly fired guns in the air, assaulted locals and abducted men on allegations of cow smuggling.
These incidents led Khan to make his statement, which drew the response from the cow protection groups.
According to the report by the newspaper, several demands were put forth by the mahapanchayat.
They sought for a district-level committee to be set up to look into cow smuggling; for the vehicles and property of alleged ‘cow smugglers’ to be confiscated and auctioned and for the proceeds from the same to be given to cow shelters; for fast-track courts to be set up to hear cow smuggling cases; for arms licences to be given to gau rakshaks; and for FIRs against gau rakshaks to be withdrawn.
The mahapanchayat also said that its members are prepared to launch a ‘jail bharo’ movement should their demands not be met. The gathering reportedly included members of the Bajrang Dal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Gau Raksha Dal.
Nuh deputy commissioner Ajay Kumar told the newspaper that the authorities had granted permission to the organisers of the mahapanchayat to gather under the condition that law and order would be maintained.
However, one of the reported conditions for the gathering was that no arms or weapons were allowed. Yet, according to reports, at least three attendees were seen carrying guns and several had swords and axes.
The gathering was addressed, among others, by BJP MLA from Sohna, Sanjay Singh, affirming that he would give the mahapanchayat’s demands and memorandum to chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
Addressing the gathering, Kulbhushan Bhardwaj, legal adviser of the Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti, threatened that if FIRs were lodged against gau rakshaks, they would make sure that the current state leadership would not return to power.
“It is being asked why people are waving weapons. I want to tell the administration that today these gau bhakts have only come to mark their attendance, but if required, we would not let these arms rust. We will fight,” the Express quoted him as saying.
(With PTI inputs)