The six cases related to the alleged cow smuggling and subsequent mob-lynching of Pehlu Khan in April were transferred from Alwar to Jaipur on May 11, keeping in mind the assertion made by Khan’s family that the local police is too close to Alwar’s political leadership – considered to be patronising the cow protection groups in the area.
55-year-old Pehlu, a dairy farmer from Nuh in the Mewat region of Haryana had gone to Jaipur, 240 km away, to buy a milch buffalo so that he could increase his milk production during the upcoming month of Ramzan. He decided to buy a milch cow instead when the seller claimed the cow gave 12 litres of milk everyday and offered him a good price. That one decision turned out to be fatal mistake.
On their way back with the cow, Pehlu, his two sons Irshad and Arif, and two others Azmat and Rafiq were stopped by gau rakshaks in Behror, Alwar on NH-8 and beaten brutally in broad daylight. While four of them survived despite sustaining severe injuries, Pehlu succumbed.
The mob lynching became the focus of attention for many days. The impunity with which gau rakshaks were operating in various places became the topic of national debate.
Given that incidents of such violence against Muslims in Mewat and eastern Rajasthan have become increasingly common over the last three years, the Alwar police, many felt, was poorly placed to secure justice for Pehlu’s aggrieved family. Apart from arresting four persons allegedly involved in the murder as public noise around the case grew louder, nothing concrete has been done by the regional police to stem the ever-escalating lawlessness practiced in the name of cow protection.
Against this backdrop, political and human rights activists welcomed the Rajasthan government’s decision to transfer the case out of Alwar.
The survivors of the deadly attack – Irshad and Arif, along with Azmat and Rafiq – and a few prominent activists in Rajasthan met the Inspector-General of Police (IG0 (Jaipur range), Hemant Priyadarshi, who will now supervise all the six FIRs related to the case. Priyadarshi informed the family that a new investigative officer Ram Swaroop, additional superintendent of police, Kotputli, will be the new investigative officer investigating the cases.
“The IG has assured us that the cases will be investigated independent of the political powers who may try to influence the case,” Sumitra Chopra of Communist Party of India (Marxist) told The Wire.
The delegation that met the IG included human rights worker Maulana Hanif from Alwar, Hussain Khan, Pehlu’s uncle from Jaisinghpur in Nuh, Kavita Srivastava (president of People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Rajasthan), Sumitra Chopra, (Jaipur district secretary of CPI (M)) and Basant Haryana (coordinator, Rajasthan Nagrik Manch) along with the four survivors.
Chopra also said that the IG assured the delegation the cases of cow smuggling that were registered against Pehlu – his family has alleged that the charges were false as everyone in their village knows that Pehlu was a dairy farmer – will be fairly investigated and closed if the charges are found to be false.
The stigma of “cow smuggling” that Pehlu’s family is living with at present needs to go, said the activists who, along with Pehlu’s sons, insisted they had never indulged in such a thing and they were only dairy farmers.
The activists also demanded that the six persons named by Pehlu in the FIR filed before he died should be arrested and a chargesheet be filed at the earliest.
Irshad and Arif repeatedly told the IG that each of them had past records to prove their business was selling milk and the same could be sought by police if “it had any doubt on their intent of buying cows.”
Irshad told the IG that they were attacked only because they were Muslims.
One of the survivors, the 25-year-old Azmat, also a polyglot who can speak and write Arabic, Urdu, Hindi and some English, said that had the local police come on time, Pehlu would have been saved.
“Had the local hospital referred them to a better hospital in Jaipur or Gurgaon, probably Pehlu would have been alive,” said Azmat as he pointed out several gaps in the police investigation until now.
Azmat, who had two ribs broken in the attack, went to AIIMS, New Delhi for his own treatment. The doctors there told him to take complete bed rest but poor financial conditions have prevented him from consulting the doctors further. He expects the wounds to heal on their own, said Kavita Srivastava.
Azmat became the collateral victim in the attack. He told the IG that he had accompanied Pehlu and his family to Jaipur to buy a milch animal but insufficient funds did not allow him to do so. He was taking a lift back with Pehlu and others when the incident happened.
“I had almost Rs 25,000 in my pocket, all of it was snatched by the gau goondas,” Azmat told the IG.
Khan’s sons talked about their helplessness on the day their father was beaten brutally and they could not do anything to prevent the attack. He said they had all the necessary proof that they were carrying the cow for their dairy business and had all the necessary permissions.
The four survivors also showed their anticipatory bail order by the Rajasthan high court in cases that were lodged against them for alleged cow smuggling.
While assuring a fair investigation, the IG also said that he had transferred all the cases of alleged cow smuggling lodged in Alwar. Most of these cases are those in which Muslims from Mewat have been arrested but rogue gau rakshaks have been let free.