In Alwar lynching incident, police admit to ‘error of judgement’
A four-member panel appointed to probe the circumstances surrounding the death of Rakbar Khan, a suspected cattle smuggler, admitted on Monday that there had been lapses on the part of the police.
“At the preliminary stage, we have found that there was some error in judgment. There was a time lapse of three hours, and the incident could have been avoided if the police had responded more efficiently,” said inspector general of police (law and order) NRK Reddy, who heads the probe committee.
While an assistant sub-inspector – Mohan Singh – has been suspended, three constables were transferred to the Alwar police lines in this connection, he added.
Rakbar (31) died after suspected cow vigilantes assaulted him at Alwar’s Lalavandi village on Saturday morning. However, while police have owned up to their “mistakes”, the exact sequence of events that occurred on the intervening night of Friday and Saturday remains unclear due to differing narratives.
In one, the police are accused of further thrashing Rakbar after the assault and squandering over three hours having tea and shuttling cows to a cow shelter before finally admitting him to a hospital.
Jaipur inspector general Hemant Priyadarshi, a member of the panel, visited the spot where Rakbar and his associate, Aslam Khan, were assaulted. The official spoke to the local residents – including Nawal Kishore Sharma, a gopalak (cow protector) appointed by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
Sharma says he was the first person to inform the law about the incident, and accuses them of beating up Khan.
The sketchiest version of the story came from Aslam Khan, who was with Rakbar at the time of the attack. According to him, he and Rakbar bought two cows for Rs 60,000 and were herding them home when they heard gunshots. “As we were passing through Lalavandi, some people started shouting that we were trying to steal cows. They rushed towards us. I got scared and ran into a field,” he said.
Aslam said he could not see the attackers because of darkness, but could recognise their voices as they were “abusing us very loudly”. He remained hidden in the field until daybreak on Saturday before returning to his village in Haryana.
In his statement to police on Sunday, Aslam said the attackers shouted “We are MLA’s men” as they came after him and Rakbar.
Rakbar’s father Sulaiman Khan denied allegations that his son was a smuggler. “I do not believe what the people and police are saying. We are a poor family and my son used to work as a labourer at a stone mine,” he said.
The police have arrested Dharminder Yadav, Paramjeet Singh and Jitendra Singh and charged them with unlawful assembly, wrongful restraint, voluntarily causing hurt and murder.
Dharminder’s father Kailash doesn’t believe his son could be involved. “We are so afraid of the police that I have not even gone to see my son yet. Like my son, police can arrest me too without any evidence.”
Ranjeet Singh, accused Paramjeet’s brother, also questioned the investigation. “The police have arrested those who have helped them. (Paramjeet) is the one who helped. Is he behind bars for his honesty? He could have very easily fled the spot but he stayed there with Dharminder because he is honest,” he said.
Sharma said he informed police about the attack on Rakbar at 12.30am on Saturday, 15 minutes after Dharminder Yadav called him up to say that some villagers were beating “a cow smuggler”. He said he accompanied the police to the spot, where they found Khan drenched in mud.
This is the second version of the events that does not portray the police in good light.
“(Rakbar) was conscious when we reached there about 1 am. We took him to a tube well nearby to clean him up,’’ Sharma said. He claimed that Yadav arranged for some clothes before police started questioning Rakbar.
“Just then, one of the constables, Surender Yadav, started beating him with his belt and gun’s butt saying he was a cow smuggler. ASI Mohan Singh tried to stop him but the constable continued to assault him,” he alleged.
Sharma also claimed that the police asked him to arrange for a vehicle to send the two cows to a shelter home.
“Police took Rakbar, Dharminder and Paramjeet to the (Ramgarh police) station,” he said, adding that he handed the cows over at the shelter around 3:15am and returned to the police station by 3.40 am. “I saw Rakbar being beaten at the station (too). He fell on after which the policemen took him to the community health centre where he was declared dead,” Sharma alleged.
But there’s a third version that questions Sharma’s own role, too.
Pushpendra (who uses only one name), a Ramgarh resident, said Sharma is a friend of ASI Singh and constable Surender Yadav, who were the first to reach the spot. “He provides information to the police on cow smuggling in the area and the police seek information from him. Sharma might have beaten Rakbar as he has done it in the past.”
According to the FIR lodged by ASI Singh, Sharma informed him about the attack at 12.41am. The officer first picked up Sharma and then left for the spot, around 4km away, he wrote in the FIR. “He (Rakbar) spoke about how the locals beat him up with sticks, injuring his ribs and limbs.”
The ASI claims to have taken Rakbar to Ramgarh health centre after asking constable Surender Yadav to take the two cows to Jain Sudha Sagar Gaushala.
Rakbar was brought to the health centre at 4am, according to the records kept there. “During the check-up, it appeared that there was a fracture in his leg,” said Dr Hasan Ali Khan, who shortly after declared him dead.
BJP’s Alwar MLA Gyan Dev Ahuja alleged that Rakbar was “a habitual offender” and “a known cow smuggler”. “An FIR for cow smuggling was lodged against him on December 24, 2014...”