The son of Pehlu Khan, a Muslim man killed by cow vigilantes this April in Alwar, has been acquitted of cattle-smuggling charges by two courts, an HT investigation revealed, contrary to the Rajasthan home minister’s remarks implicating the family.
Minister Gulab Chand Kataria said in the state assembly on Monday that Khan belonged to a family of cow smugglers, and he cited two closed cases against his son to assert his point.
But Khan’s eldest son Irshad has been acquitted in both cases, filed by gau rakshaks or self-styled protectors of cows, which are sacred to Hindus.
The first case was registered in Nuh, the second in Rohtak, Haryana, in 2011.
Police officers in Nuh and Rohtak said the cases against Irshad were more of cruelty to animals and less of transporting cows for slaughter. In Nuh, he was booked for cruelty. An additional section of transporting cows for slaughter was added later to the case in Rohtak.
Irshad said he was acquitted in both cases in 2015.
His 55-year-old father had no cases against him. Khan was waylaid by a mob on April 1 when he was transporting cows for his small dairy farm, beaten up mercilessly, and he died of his wounds two days later.
The death triggered national outrage and a demand to rein in right-wing vigilante groups, whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi had blamed last August for fomenting social tension and called for action against them.
Irshad said he was falsely implicated in Nuh’s Tawdu village when police caught a man for transporting cattle. The man was asked about the cattle’s owner and he gave Irshad’s name.
On basis of his statement, a case under the cow slaughter act of animal cruelty was registered against Irshad.
In Rohtak, Khan’s 24-year-old son was arrested with 50 people after buying bullocks at a local cattle fair in Rohtak.
“When we were bringing the bullocks along with several people from our village, men from Hindu outfits attacked us and police were informed. Police registered cases of animal cruelty against 51 of us, citing that we were walking the bullocks,” Irshad said.
A local court declared Irshad a proclaimed person in the case who could not be produced even after repeated warrants. Others accused in the case pleaded guilty for animal cruelty and they were released on probation after furnishing bonds of Rs 30,000 each.
For slaughter, punishment under the cow protection act is jail and fine of up to five years and Rs 5,000.
Police in Nuh and Rohtak said the cases were registered on complaints of cow vigilante groups.
Acharya Yogendra Arya, the president of a group in Haryana, blamed police inaction for letting the “culprits” off the hook. “Nothing happened in the case.”
The Rajasthan home minister’s statement on Khan’s criminal antecedent was from a report by Alwar police, which are investigating his death.
Kataria’s remarks came under fire from the Opposition, which said the BJP government was trying to turn the case against the victim, instead of catching the real culprits.
Police have not been able to arrest any of the six men named by Khan in his dying declaration. However, those identified from a video of the assault that went viral have been arrested.
CM Vasundhara Raje said on Tuesday that such incidents will not be tolerated and police were investigating the case. She did not respond to Kataria’s statement in the House.
(With inputs from Hardik Anand in Rohtak)