Azmat Khan would have never imagined that his plans to start a dairy business at his village Nuh in Haryana would land him in hospital with multiple fractures. And leave a friend dead, lynched by Hindu radicals.
Khan, 22, had gone to a weekly animal market in Jaipur to procure milch cows last week. Among those accompanying him was Pehlu Khan, who died at a hospital in Alwar two days after the group were brutally assaulted by activists suspected to be from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal.
Speaking to the Hindustan Times at his house, Khan recalled the incident that is likely to remain etched in his memory for his entire life.
“Before we could say anything, they started beating us mercilessly. We were pulled out and beaten with sticks, belts and other weapons for a long time. They also tore the transportation permit we got from Jaipur municipal corporation,” Azmat said at his village Jaisinghpura in Nuh, that falls in the Muslim-dominated Mewat region which lies across Haryana and Rajasthan.
The attack took place when they were returning from Jaipur after obtaining a permit from the municipal corporation. Transportation of cattle is banned in Rajasthan without official permission.
He said they were chased by bike-borne vigilantes and stopped near the Jaguwas Chowk in Alwar district on the Jaipur-Delhi highway.
“I fell unconscious and somebody took me to the hospital. I was in hospital when I heard about the death of Pehlu Khan,” said Azmat, expressing anger at no one helping them till the police came.
His brother, Yousuf, said that ever since Azmat returned to his village he has not been able to sit properly due to his injuries.
“My brother wanted to get into the dairy business and that’s why he went with Pehlu Khan to Jaipur to buy milch cattle. Never did we imagine that he will come back maimed and injured,” said Yousuf.
Pehlu Khan’s two sons -- Irshad and Arif -- who were also assaulted, said the ‘gau rakshaks’ were not willing to listen to them.
“I said we have a valid permit and cows have been bought for dairy business. But, they were not willing to listen to us and pulled us out accusing us of being cow killers,” Irshad said after performing last rites of his father in the village, where anger against union minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi was palpable.
Speaking in Parliament, Naqvi ruled out lynching of Pehlu Khan and beating of others.
“I doubt if Naqvi knows anything about Islam and is being truthful. One person has died, my brother is grievously injured and a minister says in Parliament that the incident didn’t happen? We really have no words to say and are shocked,” said Yousuf.
Most people in the village share the anger.