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Politics

New Rajasthan Govt Under a Cloud After Attack on Muslim Man, Farmer Suicide

The incidents have come following the Congress party's announcement of a farm loan waiver and assurance of control over the law and order situation in the state.

Jaipur: Within a month of Congress taking charge in Rajasthan, a case of mob violence over suspicion of cow smuggling and of a farmer’s suicide over crop loss has been reported, sending a negative signal about the party’s ideals. So far, the Ashok Gehlot government has maintained a stoic silence on the two incidents.

A 23-year-old Muslim man carrying cattle was allegedly assaulted by locals in Bagheri Khurd village of Rajasthan’s Alwar on Sunday morning over suspicion of smuggling cows.

Saghir Khan, a resident of Mirzapur village of Alwar district – along with his colleague Mustaq – was driving a pick-up van loaded with cattle. While on their way home, the duo got caught in an incident of road rage. The matter quickly intensified when the men in the other vehicle discovered the cattle. As they tried to escape from a short-cut in the jungles, their pick-up got trapped in mud, a few metres away from the main road. Seeing the alleged attackers heading towards them, Mushtaq escaped, but the mob caught hold of Saghir.

The police, when informed of the assault, rushed to the spot and took Saghir to a hospital.

“As we received information of the attack on Sunday morning, we rushed and found Saghir in a terrible condition. He was taken to the hospital immediately. A pick-up was recovered from the spot that had four cows and two bulls. An FIR against the unknown men who assaulted Saghir was lodged. More details will come out after investigation,” Rajesh Sharma, station house officer at Kishangarh Bas police station told The Wire.

The cattle were moved to a nearby gaushala and Saghir booked under the Rajasthan Bovine Animal (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export), Act, 1995. His vehicle was also seized.

“Saghir used to live separately, far away from our home in the same village. We have no idea with whom he went and what happened to him. We got to know only when the police informed us in the evening. Since then, we are occupied in shifting him from one hospital to another, with no improvement in his condition,” Nasir Khan, Saghir’s brother told The Wire.

The police have made three arrests in the case.

Speaking to The Wire, Alwar superintendent of police, Rajendra Singh said, “So far, three men belonging to the Gujjar community have been arrested by us. This incident appears to be an ‘accident’ between two vehicles rather than a mob lynching. However, the investigation is still in process.”

The incident has caused unrest among the Muslim community that believed that attacks against them would come to rest in Alwar after the Congress government came to power.

“Those men were local Bajrang Dal activists. It’s sad the situation of Muslims hasn’t changed with the change in government in Rajasthan. However, we appreciate the prompt response of the police this time, unlike Rakbar’s lynching where the police facilitated the goons. But we will have to fight a long battle in order to live with dignity here,” Maulana Hanif, chief imam of Alwar told The Wire.

According to the locals, Saghir used to work as a driver and had no business transporting cows.

“Saghir worked as a driver and the pick-up found at the site was registered in his name. Apparently, he was carrying cattle of Mushtaq who ran after the mob attacked them,” said Javed, a local who is helping Saghir deal with the situation.

Also read: From Restoring Right to Contest, to Education, Rajasthan Congress Reverses BJP Decisions

“Khan’s family isn’t aware of the incident. They also work as drivers and are currently out of town,” he added.

Congress, which remained silent over the lynchings during its election campaign in Rajasthan, didn’t utter a word against this incident as well. Earlier, the party had promised in its manifesto to increase the subsidy allotted for gaushalas under the previous Raje government.

“No official statement has been issued by the Pradesh Congress Committee on this matter so far,” Satyendra Raghav, Congress’s spokesperson in Rajasthan told The Wire.

Farmer suicide

Two days after being sworn in, the Gehlot government in the state announced a farm loan waiver. However, waiving formal loans does not provide relief to a large number of small farmers – like 48-year-old Lehrulal Keer, who was found hanging in his field on Sunday.

The family has claimed that he was stressed over the crop loss due to intense cold in the region and his mounting debt.

According to the police, Keer went to irrigate his field on Sunday morning. When he didn’t return until 11 am, his wife Gauri Devi reached the farm and found him hanging from a tree. He was immediately rushed to the hospital where he was declared dead.

“Following the suicide, Keer’s son submitted a police complaint and currently the matter is under investigation under section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The body was taken for last rites after a post-mortem,” Kailash Dan, SHO of Kankroli police station told The Wire.

Also read: Without Rise in Farm Income, Congress’s Loan Waivers Won’t End Rural Distress

Keer was reeling under a debt of about Rs 3 lakh that he had taken from a moneylender for his crop and his son’s education in a private college. He’s survived by a wife and three sons.

“His land was declared as ghair khatedari (non-agricultural land) following government norms, hence he used to grow his crops on a small rented land. Since he didn’t own any land, he wasn’t eligible to take a loan from the bank. So, he retorted to local moneylenders. He had also recently taken some money for his son’s admission in a private college,” Manohar Keer, a relative told The Wire.

“He was indebted with approximately three lakh rupees and following the crop loss this season, he finally gave up,” he added.

The family has demanded fair compensation and economic support from the government.