In Raje's Rajasthan, law brands dead Pehlu Khan a cow smuggler, but can’t pin his murderers
Since the time the Alwar lynching came to light, the ruling BJP made no attempt to hide where its sympathies lay.
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We don’t know who killed Pehlu Khan, and thrashed and robbed his companions. The men whom the 55-year-old had named in his dying declaration have been given a clean chit, those the police had booked have been given bail. However, 10 months after the Haryana resident was beaten to death by gau rakshaks, the police have managed to establish this – Khan was a cattle smuggler.
Pehlu Khan's family has been demanding justice.
According to a report in The Indian Express, a chargesheet filed by the Alwar police has named two of Khan’s companions as accused and “concluded that all three had indulged in cow smuggling under state laws”.
Crime and investigation
The report continues: “The January 24 chargesheet names four as accused – Azmat and Rafique who are from Khan’s village, Jaisinghpur in Haryana, Arjun Lal Yadav who was driving one of the two pickup trucks that were attacked on April 1 and his father Jagdish Prasad.” Prasad was booked because the truck was registered under his name.
Khan and his companions had bought cattle from Jaipur and were returning to their villages in Haryana when they were attacked by a mob of gau rakshaks.
Khan’s son Irshad and his other companions have consistently claimed that they had receipts for the purchase of animals. After the fresh chargesheet was filed, Azmat said they were not aware that they needed more permits. Rajasthan government officials seemed equally at a loss. A Hindustan Times report quotes an Amer sub-divisional officer saying: “The JMC (Jaipur municipal corporation) must be issuing the permits. I have never issued any.”
However, the police are meticulous, and have duly booked the men.
Contrast this with the probe into Khan’s murder, where many of the attackers are affiliated to Bajrang Dal and the VHP: the six men he named were let off, at the time of the bail hearing of one of the accused, Khan’s family could not find a private lawyer to represent them, the filing of the FIR in the lynching was delayed, and the men were booked not for attempt to murder, but for the lesser offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, for which the maximum imprisonment is seven years.
An independent fact-finding team in October last year had said that the Rajasthan Police had deliberately attempted “to weaken the cases against the accused gaurakshaks”.
This latest development in Pehlu Khan’s case is in keeping with a trend clearly visible in Rajasthan and other parts of the country – reckless polarisation and majority pandering has emboldened Hindutva storm troopers to murderous extents, and the BJP seems to have forgotten that its job is not just to win elections, but after forming the government, also uphold law and order.
Since the time Khan’s lynching came to light, the ruling BJP both at the Centre and the state made no attempt to hide where its sympathies lay – in the immediate aftermath of the murder, Rajasthan home minister Gulab Chand Kataria had declared, wrongly, that Khan belonged to a “family of cow smugglers”, while Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had said in Parliament that no such incident took place at all.
The leader of the Rashtriya Mahila Gau Rakshak Dal, Sadhvi Kamal, visited the murder-accused and compared them to Bhagat Singh and Chandrshekhar Azad, implying that attacking Muslims was akin to driving out the British in building a better Bharat.
Amid all this, the CM made a perfunctory statement that the “culprits would not be allowed to get away”, but neither visited Khan’s family nor announced any compensation for them.
Rajasthan reaped the bitter harvest of this in great bounty – after Pehlu, in November, Ummar Muhammad was shot dead for “illegally transporting cows” near the Rajasthan-Haryana border.
The encouragement-by-inaction offered to saffron terrorists reached such a stage that Shambhu Lal Regar decided to settle a personal score by packaging a murder as “love jihad avenging”, and even circulated its video. His supporters later charged the Udaipur District and Sessions court and more than 30 policemen were injured in the clashes.
Chandan Gupta lost his life in the recent Kasganj violence.
In November last year, Reuters came out with a story on how gau raksha is essentially an economic attack on Muslims – their animals are seized by vigilantes and then given to Hindu farmers.
IndiaSpend reported that in the first six months of 2017 alone, 18 cow-related terror attacks came to light – 75% of the 2016 figure, which was the worst year for such violence since 2010. Nine of these were in Uttar Pradesh, five in Rajasthan.
In the recent Kasganj violence in Uttar Pradesh, while the police somehow failed to put a stop to incidents of arson for three days, the local BJP MP openly made patently false, incendiary statements, painting the Muslim community as Pakistan-loving traitors.
The BJP needs to rise above saffronism
The BJP has a staunchly saffron ideology, which has brought it rich electoral dividends. But the party needs to realise that with the support of one faction of one community, it can win elections, not lead the nation.
If such incidents, the administration’s tacit complicity, and statements by leading lights of the ruling party are contributing to a community feeling abandoned and vulnerable, it is a matter of shame for India’s democracy and its elected government.
The BJP’s poisonous rhetoric has polarised the country to such an extent that we are sitting on a tinderbox – any dispute can flare into a communal, fatal clash. While it will take years for the damage to the social fabric to be repaired, what the government must do in the interim to curb such violence is to show intent to clamp down on the perpetrators.
Frequent clashes are bound to claim victims from all communities, and voters are likely to get tired of it. A virtual free run to saffron goons and groups like the Karni Sena could not guarantee a win for the BJP in Rajasthan by-polls, the results of which were declared on February 1.
The BJP government owes it to the country to live up to our “secular, democratic” nature. That will not happen till a dead Pehlu Khan is branded a smuggler and his murderers walk scot-free.