Pehlu Khan murdered twice, 1st by gau rakshaks, 2nd by politicisation of police force

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Jaipur, Sep 15: Like most other barbaric murders, we once again comfortably forgot about the horrific mob lynching of 55-year-old dairy farmer Pehlu Khan from Haryana, who was brutally beaten to death by gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes) on suspicion of cow smuggling in Rajasthan on April 1.

On our television screens we saw a mad crowd possessed by the idea of protecting cow (considered holier than human lives by a section of Hindus) mercilessly beating Pehlu, his two sons and two others on a highway in Alwar, Rajasthan, which ultimately led to his death two days later in a hospital.

mob lynchings

Before his death, Pehlu mentioned the names of six persons who were mainly involved in his killing as a part of his dying declaration. In fact, the Rajasthan police mentioned the names of the six main accused in the First Information Report (FIR) related to Pehlu's murder case. However, none were arrested as they went into "hiding". 

Now, after the passage of more than five months since Pehlu was mercilessly killed, the Rajasthan police have given clean chit to the six main accused of the murder. The police came to the decision based on statements of the staff of a cow shelter and mobile phone records, Hindustan Times reported.

The staff of the cow shelter said the six accused--Om Yadav (45), Hukum Chand Yadav (44), Sudhir Yadav (45), Jagmal Yadav (73), Naveen Sharma (48) and Rahul Saini (24)--were present at the Rath Gaushala at the time of the incident.

"Based on the findings of the investigating officer, it is recommended that the names of the six accused be removed from the case," the investigation report said.

However, according to media reports, the investigation will continue against nine other persons who have been identified as those who had beaten Pehlu to death. The police are also trying to find out more people who are said to be a part of the lynching episode.

The family of Pehlu, who has been demanding justice for the deceased, got a second blow when they learnt that the six main accused named by the victim himself was given clean chit.

Pehlu's son Irshad, who was also injured in the incident, told Scroll.in that the six main accused managed to get clean chit as they were politically influential.

"This is part of a political conspiracy. If they were not involved, why would their names randomly emerge in my father's dying declaration? They were identified from the spot. Many people who had gathered around but my father clearly remembered six names. They were all calling out to each other," Irshad was quoted as saying by Scroll.in.

The chilling murder of Pehlu reminded the nation of 2015 Dadri (in Uttar Pradesh) mob lynching where Mohammad Akhlaq was killed for allegedly storing beef in his refrigerator. The family of Akhlaq is still waiting for justice.

The dairy farmer and others, including his two sons, were attacked by a group of gau rakshaks in Behror area of Alwar, Rajasthan on April 1 on suspicion of smuggling cows for slaughter.

While others survived, Pehlu succumbed to his injuries after the brutal attack. The accused attacked the victims on suspicion of cow smuggling which is illegal in Rajasthan.

According to a report published by The Indian Express, Irshad claimed that they were attacked in spite of showing the "legal" receipt -- having the stamp of the Jaipur Municipal Corporation (serial number 89942 dated April 1, 2017) -- of purchase of a milch cow to the cow vigilantes. 

Actually, Pehlu, his two sons and others went to Rajasthan from Haryana to buy a milch buffalo, but the deceased ended up buying a cow, as the cow seller extracted 12 litres of milk in front of Pehlu and offered him a good deal. "That was the worst decision ever. It took my father's life," Pehlu's son Irshad told The Indian Express.

Pehlu's other son, Aarif, also accompanied him in his 'last journey' to Rajasthan. "My father was in a pickup truck with a Rajasthan number plate, along with Azmat, who is also from our village. There were two cows and two calves in the truck. Irshad, I and another villager were in the other pickup truck which had three cows and three calves," Aarif added.

Pehlu, his two sons and other two men were dragged out from their vehicles and were mercilessly beaten by the cow vigilantes. The worst part is that the Rajasthan police registered an FIR against Pehlu, his two sons and two others for illegally transporting cattle for slaughter after a complaint was filed against them by cow vigilantes. The FIR was lodged against Pehlu and his associates before his killers were nabbed.

Moreover, it took several days for Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia to condemn the incident of mob lynching. Before that, Scindia's colleague and state home minister GC Kataria in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Rajasthan said that both parties were to be blamed for Pehlu's death because cow smuggling was illegal in the state.

Unfortunately, Prime Minister Narendra Modi never individually condemned Pehlu's murder. However, Modi during his three years in power has three times criticised those who used violence in the name of cow protection. But it seems Modi's words failed to stop the gau rakshaks from carrying out their "dance of death" in the name of cow protection which also led to the death of 15-year-old Junaid Khan who was stabbed to death by a group of 15-20 men while he was travelling in a local train in Haryana in July. The attackers called Junaid and his brothers "beef eaters" and "anti-nationals".

While a group of politicians belonging to the saffron party maintain silence and indulge in blaming the victims, right-wing groups directly support and eulogise those who kill people to protect cows.

Days after Pehlu's death, a leader of the Rashtriya Mahila Gau Rakshak Dal, saffron-robed Sadhvi Kamal, visited 19-year-old Bipin Yadav, one of the lynchers of Pehlu under arrest, and applauded him by saying that he's the Bhagat Singh of modern day India.

If murderers in India have tactical support of the ruling dispensation and their associates, then the police (which mostly follow the diktats of politicians from ruling parties) fail to perform its duty without any fear and bias which exactly what has happened in the investigation of Pehlu's murder case.

So, when the Rajasthan police gave clean chit to the main accused in the mob lynching case, activists called it "travesty of justice".

"It is totally absurd for the police to give a clean chit to persons named by the victim in his statement before death," said lawyer and civil rights activist Prashant Bhushan. "It clearly shows that the police investigation is biased and it raises concerns about the functioning of the police system in a state led by the BJP which is visibly protecting murderers," he added.

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