Mob lynching in Rajasthan has torn families apart

“They have not only killed my husband, but all nine of us."

A good monsoon has brought smiles back on the faces of people in Kolgaon, a village in the historical Mewat region on the Rajasthan-Haryana border, along the Aravalli Hills. In contrast to the springs of hope is the predicament of Akbar Khan’s family, residing in the same village. In July 2018, the fate of this family changed after 31-year-old Akbar Khan alias Rakbar was lynched by a mob in Alwar’s Ramgarh village, on the suspicion of smuggling cows.

Gazing the formation of a rainbow over the rain-kissed fields, his widow, Asmeena, who is still inconsolable, mumbles, “Sixty days have gone by.” After her husband’s murder, she is living in a separate portion of the house to observe four months of iddat, a period of seclusion for a Muslim woman after the death of husband or divorce, before she can lawfully remarry.

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“They have not only killed my husband, but all nine of us. Now how do I raise my seven children? The incident haunts me day and night. It has been over 60 days since my husband was killed. Each day, I cry and pray to the Allah that his killers be punished,” says 30-year-old Asmeena. Her eldest daughter is 12, while the youngest one is a toddler.

Asmeena, wife of mob lynching victim Akbar Khan, with her kid. dh photos /Tabeenah Anjum

Asmeena has become frail but one cannot miss the fire in her eyes. Her fingers roll the beads of tasbeeh (rosary) as she recites Quranic verses. She takes a pause and adds, “I have decided that once the period of iddat gets over, I, along with my seven children, will sit outside the office of the magistrate in Alwar and seek justice.”

While four children have been sent to a Madrasa in Aligarh, the rest three stay with her in a single-room house. The eldest daughter, Sahila, left her studies to take care of her siblings. She also takes care of two cows and four goats, the family’s sole source of income. Sitting on a cot under a thatched roof, Akbar’s father, 60-year-old Sulaiman, said, “He was the only breadwinner in our family. He used to rear cows and even work as a labourer.”

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Three accused have been arrested for killing Akbar. The unfortunate incident happened at Lalawandi village in Alwar district when he was transporting his two cows and their calves. The family is demanding the arrest of Nawal Kishore Sharma, Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Gau Raksha cell chief in Ramgarh, who incidentally was the one who informed the police. He was the one who narrated the entire incident to the media on that fateful night and even circulated a photograph of Akbar seated in a police van to prove that he was alive when police made him sit in the van.

Moreover, Aslam, who was accompanying Akbar when he was attacked, said in his statement to the police that around six people attacked Akbar and they were citing the name of Nawal.

Akbar Khan was lynched two months ago, but the Mewat belt is infamously known as the ground zero of lynching, after Pehlu Khan and Umar Mohammad were killed last year in the same region. DH visited the families of Pehlu and Umar and found similar tales of miseries.

Ghatmika of Bharatpur district, another Meo village (village in the Mewat region), is the native place of 42-year-old Umar Mohammad, a dairy farmer who was shot dead in November 2017 while transporting cows in a pickup with his two companions and his body was found on railway tracks near Govindgarh in Alwar.

Ten months later, nothing seems to have changed in the family which lives in a single-room thatched house without doors, with two buffaloes and three goats. It is heart-wrenching to hear when Umar’s wife, 36-year-old Khurshidan, says that their ninth child, Ibran Mohammad, was born on the same day when the body of his dead father reached home.

After the death of her husband, Khurshidan started working as a labourer in the nearest field and now earns Rs 300 per day. “I don’t want the situation to affect the well-being of my children which is why I started working in the fields in spite of having to look after the infant. It is not easy to feed a family of 13 members,” said Khurshidan, covered in a black chaddar and holding Ibran close to her chest. Her eldest son Maqsood (18) is now driving a taxi in Gurugram and helps his mother and grandparents in running the family. “I have studied till 8th standard but I would want my siblings to study more. We have enrolled two in a nearby school. Our father was the only breadwinner and after his death, the responsibility of looking after the grandparents has also come on my shoulders,” Maqsood shared with DH. Selling milk from two cows brings some additional income to the family.

The circumstances are similar for 46-year-old Jebuna Begum, widow of 55-year-old Pehlu Khan, another dairy farmer who was beaten to death by an angry mob of cow vigilantes in Nuh in Haryana, on April 1, 2017. Her youngest son who is eight years old has been enrolled into a private school, “He is the first in our family to study in a private school. It’s my dream to educate him so that he can take up teaching or any other job. I don’t want him to be a dairy farmer,” Jebuna said. Progressive in her approach, she is planning to buy a sewing machine so that her daughters and daughters-in-law can learn the skill and earn money.

Fifteen months have passed, but Pehlu’s family says it is losing sight of justice. His son Irshad, also an eyewitness to this incident, was accompanying his father on a 240-km road trip from their native village Jaisinghpur to Jaipur to buy a milch buffalo to increase milk production during Ramzan, when the attack took place. He said, “The memory of that fateful night when my father was killed in front of my eyes haunts me. I have to live through this nightmare each day. Justice in our case can be delivered only if it’s heard in the Supreme Court.”  

Case no 1
Pehlu Khan, Jaisinghpur village  

Dairy farmer Pehlu Khan was attacked by an angry mob of cow vigilantes in Mewat’s Nuh area on April 1, 2017. Two days later, he succumbed to injuries in a private clinic. His 30-year-old son, Irshad, was accompanying him on a 240-km road trip from Jaisinghpur village to Jaipur to buy a milch buffalo.

Pehlu’s family now has two difficult tasks to handle. 
Firstly, getting the accused behind the bars. Secondly, to be free of a charge sheet filed by the police on Pehlu’s sons and nephews as cow smugglers. CB – CID is investigating and out of the 13 accused, six have been given a clean 
chit and five are out on bail, granted by the High Court and the juvenile court. Two other accused are untraceable.

Police have managed to establish that Pehlu was a cattle smuggler. But Pehlu’s family said that they had valid documents to transport cows and also produced the purchase bill of the cows after the FIR was filed.


Case no 2
Umar Mohammad, Ghatmika village 

Umar Mohammad, a dairy farmer, was shot dead in November 2017 while transporting cows in a pickup with his two companions. His body was found on railway tracks near Govindgarh in Alwar.

Four days after the assault, police said two gau rakshaks, Ramveer Gujjar and Bhagwan Singh, both in their thirties, arrested in connection with the case, had confessed to the assault as well as mutilating Umar’s body and dumping it on the railway track, about 15 km away, to make it look like an accident. The accused have been booked under IPC Sections 302, 307, 147 and 201.

But police have called both sides criminals. They claim that Umar and his two companions, Tahir and Javed, were habitual cattle smugglers and were using a stolen pickup to transport cows. The police discovered a deserted pickup, allegedly used by the trio, on the morning of November 10, and found six bovines in it, one of them dead.


Case no 3

Akbar Khan, Kolgaon village 

On July 21, 2018 Akbar Khan alias Rakbar, a resident of Kolgaon village on Rajasthan-Haryana border, was beaten to death by a mob of cow vigilantes on suspicion of cow smuggling. Khan’s post-mortem report revealed that he died of shock and injuries from a blunt weapon or object and he succumbed to multiple injuries following the brutal attack. Akbar had 12 injury marks on his body and he died of excessive internal bleeding.

Khan’s friend and companion, Aslam, in a written statement to police, said around five men beat Akbar with sticks. Rajasthan police suspended Assistant Sub Inspector Mohan Singh and sent three constables to police lines for three hours delay in taking Akbar to the hospital. Ramgarh Police have so far arrested three persons involved in the alleged mob lynching.

Charge sheet was produced by Alwar Police on September 7, 2018. Three accused identified as Naresh Singh (28), Dharmendra Yadav (24) and Paramjeet Singh (28) have been booked under Sections 302 (punishment for murder), 334, 323, 341 of the Indian Penal Code.

According to the charge sheet, the three accused attacked Khan at Lalawandi village in Alwar district when he was transporting his two cows and their calves, eventually leading to his death.


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