In an irony of ironies, the cows that Pehlu Khan - the Muslim man lynched by vigilantes in Rajasthan’s Alwar in April - was suspected to be smuggling have found shelter in a gaushala run by one of his alleged assailants.
The cows are currently sharing space with 600 other bovines in Shri Rath Sarvajanik Gaushala of Dahmi village. The cowshed was run by one Jagmal Yadav, who has been on the run since Khan’s death at a hospital two days after being brutally assaulted.
The attack on Khan and four other companions while they were transporting cattle to their dairy farm on April 1 caused national outrage. Khan died of his injuries after he recorded a police statement in which he named six people.
Yadav is among the six. They are all absconding though the police have made several other arrests on suspicion of their involvement in the thrashing.
Back at Dahmi village, the incident of April 1 is still a subject of animated discussion. Even Khan’s cows that the police brought to the gaushala for safe keeping enjoy a special status. Special orange tags have been pinned to their ears so that they stand out among the other cattle. Policemen from the local police station also visit occasionally to check on them.
“These are Pehlu Khan’s cows. Everyone living around here knows that,” pointed out Rajendra Yadav, a member of the cowshed administration.
Though locals are tending to his cows, Khan does not enjoy much sympathy in the region. Most residents defend his alleged assailants.
“All the six men who have been named in the FIR used to spend several hours almost every day in the gaushala. But Jagmal was the most enthusiastic of them all,” Rajendra Yadav added. He is also convinced that Khan was a cow smuggler.
The Muslim man’s family has denied the allegations. An HT investigation revealed that Khan faced no charges and his son was acquitted in two cases.
Members of the administration said the septuagenarian Yadav was always trying to secure donations and ‘rescuing’ bovines from cattle smugglers. An electronic showroom owner Devendra Yadav at the nearby market in Behror also defended the suspected assailants.
“At the time when Pehlu Khan was attacked, all the men who have been named in the case were at the Dahmi gaushala. They are social workers have been framed as part of a conspiracy,” claimed Devendra Yadav.
Behror has also observed a day’s bandh in support of the absconders. Besides Jagmal Yadav, they include Om Yadav, Hukum Yadav, Sudhir Yadav, Naveen Sharma and Rahul Saini . The police have announced a cash reward of 5,000 rupees each for information on their whereabouts.