Police are protecting the murderers of Pehlu Khan: Fact-finding committee report
A fact-finding committee comprising Indira Jaisingh - Former Additional Solicitor General, Supreme Court Lawyers - Prashant Bhushan and Colin Gonsalves, Human Rights Defender Teesta Setalved and many others conducted an independent probe into the apathy of the police in investigating the murder of Pehlu Khan, who was lynched in Rajashthan's Alwar last April. The report was released on October 26th in the Press Club on India in the national capital in the presence of the committee members, and Pehlu Khan's family.
To give a background, Pehlu khan was lynched on suspicion of smuggling cows by cow vigilantes or 'gau rakshaks' on April 1, 2017, and those named by him as accused in the case in his dying declaration were given a clean chit by Rajasthan CIB-CD on grounds of statement provided by one of the gau rakshaks - linked to the incident and also on the locations of their mobile phone network. The lackadaisical approach of the police was evident as pointed out by the independent probe:
- Delaying registration of FIR without any explanation
- Not invoking appropriate IPC sections for conspiracy, attempt to murder, destruction of evidence, and dacoity, etc.
- Invoking IPC sections for lesser crimes, such as wrongful restraint and causing hurt, with smaller punishments
- Exonerating named accused on dubious testimonies
- Failure to arrest any attackers from the crime scene
- Failure to defend arrests leading to the accused getting bail
Cover-up in the FIR
The independent probe also revealed the glaring loopholes in the investigation starting with the filing of the FIR. According to the FIR the attack took place between 7 pm and 10 pm on April 1, however police registered the FIR at 4 am on the next day after a delay of nine-and-a-half hours, in spite of the crime scene being just a mere 2 km away from the police station. The FIR also claimed that the police was informed of the attack at 3:54 am. The FIR does not explain the reason for the delay of almost 10 hours.
The second glaring contradiction in the FIR regarding when the information was received - In a detailed statement of Pehlu Khan to the police, recorded in the FIR, it was claimed by Pehlu that the police took the victims to the hospital from the scene of crime. Also, the jurisdiction in which the crime occurred, records that Pehlu khan gave his statement to the police at 11:50 pm on April 1 at Kailash Hopital - run by Union Minister Mahesh Sharma, in which he had been admitted after the attack. The hospital is just 2.9 km away from the police station, why did it take four hours for the police to reach?
Medical Manipulation - Contradictions in medical report
The probe finds that "the final report and the charge-sheet also betray an effort to weaken the case against the accused by challenging the finding of the most of the post-mortem report, in a bid to prove that Pehlu Khan did not die to injuries from the attack but of natural consequences. It is important to note that Khan's post-mortem report, conducted by a 'medical board' of three government doctors from the Community Healh Care Centre (CHC), Behror, revealed that Pehlu Khan's death was indeed caused by the injuries that he had sustained during the attack on him.
Dr. VD Sharma, who was in charge of Pehlu Khan even said that Khan was absolutely fine on April 2, and suffered a cardiac arrest which led to his death on April 3, completely negating the injuries sustained by him during the attack, which was also a reason stated in the post-mortem report for his death
Similar pattern in other cases of lynching
The probe also established a similar pattern of investigation and an effort to subvert justice in other cases of lynching. Case in point - when Muhammad Akhlaq was lynched in September 2015 in Dadri, Union Minister Mahesh Sharma - owner of Kailash Health Care Limited, called the incident an 'accident' and denied any 'conspiracy'. In an interview to The Indian Express he even said that Aklaq had eaten beef, which is why his death was provoked.
Sharma had also sparked controversy when he attended the funeral of one of the accused in the Aklaq lynching case.
- Probe demands for justice
- Arrest the six men named by Pehlu Khan in his dying dealaration
- Add IPC sections outlined in this report to the charge-sheet
- Register FIR afresh to include names of accused, detailed of looted cattle
- Investigate VHP and Bajrang Dal for involvment in Pehlu Khan's murder
- Investigate connection between Pehlu Lhan's and other gau rakshak killings
- Appeal against bails of the varios accused
- Act against policemen who failed to make arrests at the crime scene
- Conduct a much broader and more exhaustive investogation
The probe report has also been endorsed by various international organisations such as Alliance for Justice and Accountability, New York, Dalit American coalition, New York, Indian American Muslim Council, Washington D.C, South Asia Solidarity Group, London and South Asian Solidarity Initiative, New York.