It is hard to say that much has changed in Alwar, Rajasthan after the horrific lynching of dairy farmer Pehlu Khan last year. 28-year-old Rakbar alias Akbar Khan, who was with his friend Aslam, was lynched by a mob on a suspicion of cow smuggling on the night of July 20. The two were said to be herding two cows and their calves near Lalawandi, Alwar. The cattle strayed into the fields after getting startled by a motorcycle on road. Ironically, this comes just days after the Supreme Court’s strong condemnation of mob lynching, which has hit the country like a plague.
“Akbar’s youngest son is two years old and had said ‘Abba’ clearly for the first time a month ago. Akbar was so happy and promised him a grand Eidi on next Eid. We had been saving money and he had gone to Khanpur in Alwar to buy goats for Eid but managed to get a good deal on milch cows. He had spent our entire savings of Rs 60,000 on them. He had called me before leaving and said that we would now have four cows and soon our fate would change. He had promised me new earrings with the profits he expected to make by selling more milk but who knew that today I would be mortgaging my only pair of earrings to bury him. They killed my husband to save two cows but orphaned seven children,” said Akbar’s wife Ashmeena, as reported by the Tribune.
Akbar’s friend who managed to escape the attack, named five people in his statement to the Rajasthan police, as reported by The Hindu. According to Aslam, the assailants were said to be armed with firearms and sticks. They are said to have attacked the duo without any provocation after their cows strayed into the fields along the road.
The assaulters caught them while they were trying to drive the cows back. “I was few steps behind him (Akbar) when the men surrounded us and opened fire in the air”, Aslam said. While the accused caught hold of Akbar, Aslam somehow managed to escape. Aslam, recalling the horror, said, “Vijay, break his legs’; ‘Dharmender, hit him hard on the head’; ‘And Naresh, you break his hands’. This is how they were talking among themselves”, adding that he could remember names of five of the seven assaulters.
This incident has left many shocked. The villagers gathered around Akbar’s house, alleging that the Muslims transporting cows from Rajasthan were often targeted, subjected to physical abuse, theft and even lynching. On July 21, the family of the victim blocked the Gurugram-Alwar Highway for several hours, demanding the arrest of the accused and compensation for the family.
Police stopped for tea
The victim was taken to the Ramgarh Community Health Center (CHC) situated 4 km from Lalawandi. However, to cover this small distance, the Police took over two and a half hours, Indian Express reported. Akbar was announced brought dead on arrival. It was Naval Kishore Sharma, chief of Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) Gau Raksha cell in Ramgarh, after receiving information of suspected case of cow smuggling, who called up the police at 12.41 am, saying that “some people are smuggling cows from Rajasthan to Haryana on foot”, same has been mentioned in the FIR.
The police then arrived on the scene, along with Sharma, where they found injured Akbar. The police took Akbar in their jeep and asked a villager to load the two cows on his three-wheeler. Sharma said, “They also said Dharmendra’s (one of the accused) build matches Rakbar’s and so asked him to get a pair of clothes since the man’s clothes had become wet after a wash.”
Reportedly, the police again halted on their way to the health centre to have tea. Tea seller Lal Chand, said, “The police jeep stopped, the driver came out and took four tea cups. The others in the car didn’t get out. I didn’t see who was in the jeep. They went off after drinking tea.”
Sharma said that Akbar too was offered tea, but he refused to drink. He further claims that Akbar was then taken to the police station at around 2 am, “Police helped Rakbar change his clothes. They assaulted him as they questioned him and I discussed with the police the role of some people I suspected in this smuggling. Since I am a gau rakshak, I know Ramgarh well.”
Akbar was finally taken to the CHC at around 4 am. CHC in-charge Dr Hasan Ali Khan said, “My staff called me at 4 am sharp, saying that a man had been brought in and that he looked dead. I came downstairs (from the staff quarters) and saw that the man was already dead. There were 4-5 policemen and two youths with them, including a Sikh man (Paramjeet, subsequently arrested by the police).”
According to Khan, on being asked about the postmortem being done there itself, the police said that since it was a sensitive case, the post-mortem should be conducted at Alwar itself. Reportedly, Akbar died of a broken rib and internal bleeding.
Speaking on the claims by the villagers and the alleged series of events which reeked of negligence by the police, SP of Alwar Rajendra Singh said, “We will cover all aspects in the investigation. If there is any lapse — at any level and by anyone — we will certainly take strict action. We will take the investigation to its logical and correct conclusion.”
Union Minister resorts to ‘whataboutery’
Amidst this tragedy, Union Minister and senior BJP leader Arjun Ram Meghwal sparked a controversy by saying that with increasing popularity of PM Modi more such incidents would happen in the country. “We condemn mob lynching but this is not a single incident. You have to trace this back in history. Why does this happen? Who should stop this? What happened with Sikhs in 1984 was the biggest mob lynching of this nation’s history,” Meghwal said, as reported by Business Standard.