Alwar, Rajasthan: “This is absolutely wrong. We don’t accept the investigation at all. Those men were RSS and Bajrang Dal agents and that’s the reason why the government is protecting them. Everyone is being sold. All the six men were present on the spot, Abbaji had himself named them before his death. How can they say that they were not present on the spot on the basis of mobile phone data records and set them free? We will take the matter to the Supreme Court. The culprits shall be punished,” Irshad (25), the eldest son of Pehlu Khan, told The Wire.
On April 1 this year, Pehlu and his sons Aarif (22) and Irshad, were on their way home to Nuh from Jaipur. They were stopped and assaulted by self-styled cow vigilantes for “illegally” transporting cattle, even after they told them they had the required permit. Pehlu, along with five other men who were beaten, was admitted to a district hospital where he died two days later. While in the hospital, he gave a statement to the police naming six men.
According to a Hindustan Times report, the Rajasthan police has now cleared the six men – Om Yadav (45), Hukum Chand Yadav (44), Sudhir Yadav (45), Jagmal Yadav (73), Naveen Sharma (48) and Rahul Saini (24) – named by the critically-injured Pehlu before his death. The six men have been absconding after being named.
The crime investigation department-crime branch of the state police has reportedly concluded on the basis of call records along with the base transceiver station locations of mobiles and the statements of the employees of a cow shelter, Rath Gaushala, situated four kilometres away from the crime spot, that none of the accused were present at the time of the attack.
Speaking to The Wire, Pankaj Singh, additional director general (crime) admitted that the department has given a clean chit to all six men accused in the case. “We didn’t find any evidence, be it photographic evidence or locational evidence for these six people to be there but from the photographs we found that there were two other people who were definitely present and their presence is corroborated by others also. So, we are recommending these two people apart from the seven people who are already chargesheeted but regarding the six people named in the FIR by Pehlu Khan, we didn’t find any evidence.”
“Murder of Pehlu Khan doesn’t seem to be a planned murder. It is a far-fetched probability that all six would leave their phones behind. In a time, when phones have become an indispensable part of our lives, I don’t think it’s possible that their phones were not with them especially when they were following vehicles carrying bovines. Pehlu Khan not being a local person, in a battered state in a hospital recollecting all six men with such clarity who were locals was slightly far-fetched. The six men after being named were absconding but we spoke to them before coming to this conclusion,” added Singh.
Three of the accused men are linked to Hindu right-wing organisations and Jagmal Yadav, one of the accused, is a patron of the Rath Gaushala.
Following Pehlu’s death, 200 other ‘unidentified’ people were listed as accused in the murder case. Nine other men were also identified based on video footage of the incident, out of whom seven, including two minors, were arrested on charges of murder, but the other two are still absconding.
State home minister Gulab Chand Kataria had earlier mentioned that it was “alright” if some people caught those who were illegally transporting animals. He also claimed in the state assembly that Pehlu belonged to a family of cow smugglers, citing two closed cases against his son to assert his point. However, Irshad has been acquitted in both cases filed by “gau rakshaks“.
“The government had already given a clean chit to all the accused even before any investigation took place. In a way, the subsequent ‘investigation’ has only produced a result that is in line with the state home minister’s statement right after Pehlu’s death. This shows how the investigation cannot be trusted. The Supreme Court should set up an independent investigation to monitor all the mob lynchings that happened under the name of cow protection,” Kavita Krishnan, politbureau member of the CPI(ML) told The Wire.
“All our savings have been drained fighting for justice. We haven’t even received the compensation promised by the government, forget justice. Our survival is becoming a struggle now. Mother suffered a paralytic attack a week ago and the tense environment at home is not letting her recover. She will also leave us soon,” said Irshad.
To curb growing instances of cow vigilantism in the country, the Supreme Court has directed all states to appoint a senior police officer as a nodal officer in every district to ensure that cow vigilante groups don’t take the law into their own hands. Earlier, in April, the apex court had also sought responses from the Centre and six states, including Rajasthan, on the issue within three weeks.
Note: This story was edited at 8:00 pm on September 4, 2017 to add the response of ADG Pankaj Singh. He was earlier not available for comment.