The Rajasthan Police have closed investigations into six people named by dairy farmer Pehlu Khan before his death in a mob attack in April, Hindustan Times has found, sparking allegations that the authorities are under pressure to protect cow vigilante suspects.
The police have cleared the six men – three of whom are linked to Hindu right-wing organisations – based on the statements by the staff of a cow shelter as well as mobile phone records, according to the investigation report that Hindustan Times has read.
The staff of the cow shelter, Rath Gaushala, has maintained that the six -- Om Yadav (45), Hukum Chand Yadav (44), Sudhir Yadav (45), Jagmal Yadav (73), Naveen Sharma (48) and Rahul Saini (24) – were present on their premises, which was about four-km from the attack site. Rath Gaushala is patronised by Jagmal Yadav.
“The statements of witnesses in the case including policemen and the employees of the Rath Gaushala indicate that none of the accused was present at the time of the attack. Call record details of the six people along with Base Transceiver Station (BTS) location of mobiles further support this,” reads the report.
“Based on the findings of the investigating officer, it is hereby recommended that the names of the six accused be removed from the case as they have been found not guilty,” the report said. The investigation named nine other accused – two of them minors.
Khan was transporting cows from a market in Jaipur to his home in Nuh, Haryana, when he was lynched by alleged cow vigilantes near Alwar on April1, one of a string of attacks on Dalits and Muslims by self-styled protectors of an animal considered holy by many Hindus. Khan had the necessary permit to transport the cows for his dairy business.
On September 1, the Crime Investigation Department-Crime Branch that was investigating Khan’s killing sent its findings to the Alwar police, asking them to remove the six people from the list of accused in the case. This prompted Alwar police to cancel a reward of Rs 5,000 each for information about the six accused.
“The reward on the six people has been cancelled because the CID-CB investigation has found that they had no involvement in the crime,” Alwar superintendent of police Rahul Prakash told Hindustan Times over telephone.
The development angered Khan’s family members, who said they heard the accused call out each other by their names during the attack.
“These six men started the attack and were present there. As we were being thrashed, I heard them call each other’s name. One was saying Hukum, drag the men down here and break the pickup truck,” Irshad, Khan’s son who was injured in the assault, told HT. He said he heard the names of Om, Hukum, Sudhir and Rahul during the lynching.
“The police are saying this under pressure… Our quest for justice doesn’t end here. We will continue to fight until those six men are proven guilty.”
Khan’s statement was recorded in front of a police officer – and not a judicial magistrate – but lawyers said even this could be considered a “dying declaration” and admissible in court.
“At the stage of investigation, dying declaration can’t be disbelieved by the police. It is a settled law that dying declaration is the best evidence and in the past, courts have convicted accused on the basis of dying declaration recorded by police,” Vinay Pal Yadav, an advocate at the Rajasthan high court, told Hindustan Times.
Based on Khan’s statement made in an intensive care unit of the Kailash Hospital in Behror around 11pm on April 1 -- about four hours after he was attacked -- an FIR was registered against the six named and 200 unidentified people. He died two days after the attack.
The case will continue against nine other people identified from the video of the attack that circulated on social media. Seven of them have been arrested and two are absconding.
Alwar police chief Rahul Prakash said a charge sheet will be filed in court after the arrest of the two absconding accused.
(With inputs from Ashok Bagriya in New Delhi)