Cow protection groups and local police trade allegations over the events in the last hours before Rakbar Khan’s death.
Alwar: The cold-blooded murder of yet another man on the suspicion of cow smuggling has rocked Rajasthan’s Alwar district again with serious questions emerging on the role of local police in the last hours before his death.
Two young Muslim men were attacked late Friday in the Ramgarh town of Alwar by villagers who accused them of cow smuggling. Of the two, Rakbar Khan, 28, was allegedly beaten to death in the vicious attack. The other man, Aslam, managed to escape.
The police have arrested three ‘gau rakshaks’ in the case till now. However, local cow protection groups allege that the victim died in police custody and not because of mob violence as suggested by officials.
Role of local police
As local cow protection groups and officials trade allegations, certain curious facts have come up in the case.
According to its own FIR, the police first got information at 12.40 am Saturday that the two men, who were taking cows on foot with the intention of slaughtering them, were being attacked by villagers. While the police reached the spot in Lalawandi jungle within half an hour of receiving the information, the victim’s body was brought to the hospital — barely a kilometre away from the Ramgarh Police Station — after 3 long hours at 4 am, according to the Community Health Centres records, a copy of which is with ThePrint.
“What was the police doing between 1-4?” asked Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA from Ramgarh, Gyan Dev Ahuja, who is known to be a powerful patron of cow protection groups in the region. “The villagers just lightly beat up the man, it was the police which beat him up to death,” he said.
“How is it possible that a man was dying and it took the police three hours to get him to hospital, when it’s barely 5-6 km away?” asked a rattled Nawal Kishore Sharma, chief of a local cow protection squad in Ramgarh, and a member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
Sharma, who enjoys immense clout locally, was the one to call the police and alert them about the alleged cow smuggling activity in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
According to Sharma, when he reached the spot with the police at 12.50 am in the police van, a number of villagers who were beating up Rakbar ran away. However, the two men who had alerted him — Dharmendra Yadav, 24, and Paramjeet Singh, 28 — stayed. The two were arrested Saturday while the third accused Naresh Chand, 25, was arrested Sunday.
“These boys who the police have arrested are the ones who alerted me… If they had killed him, they would have run away after they saw the police,” Sharma said, denying any possibility of their role in the murder.
At the time, Rakbar, who was lying in a pool of mud, was beaten and injured, but not profusely so. “The two boys stayed there and helped the police put him in the van,” he said. “His condition was not bad, we even stopped for tea,” Sharma said, as he showed a photograph he clicked of Rakbar sitting in the car.
“But the police beat him up inside the station and then arrested these two boys to save their own skin,” he said. “We had gone to the gaushala (cow shelter) to drop the cows, and by the time we came back, he was dead,” he added.
Sharma’s allegations of police violence could not be confirmed. The police strongly dismissed the allegations.
However, the story of the curious familiarity and cooperation between the police and the alleged killers was also corroborated by the doctor at the community health centre who declared the victim as “brought dead”.
Hours before the cops had arrested them, Yadav and Singh had accompanied the police and the victim to the hospital in the police van, where they were purportedly “helping the police out”.
“They came in the police van and brought the victim on a stretcher along with the police,” Dr. Hasan Ali Khan, the medical officer and in-charge of the Community Health Centre in Ramgarh village of Alwar, told ThePrint. “At that time we didn’t wonder who they were,” he said. However, on being shown the photographs of the two arrested, Khan confirmed that they were indeed the men “helping out” the cops.
“Why would the police take help from the accused to bring the victim to the hospital?” Khan asked. “It’s surprising.”
However, in stark contrast to Sharma’s claim that Rakbar was alive until long after he was brought to the station, Khan said, “it seemed like he had been dead for about 2-3 hours.”
When asked if the police indeed took the accused to the hospital, Subhash Sharma, in-charge of the Ramgarh Police Station, denied any such claims. “We can’t help it if the doctors are saying all this,” he said.
Questioned over the time it took the police to get Rakbar to the hospital, Sharma said, “We were looking for his friend, who was with him to make sure if he was okay. One can get busy with certain things.”
According to the FIR, Rakbar identified himself to the police and related the incident to them before he fainted. “Some people came to us, stopped us and started beating us up because they thought we were cow smugglers,” Rakbar is quoted to have said in the FIR, a copy of which was accessed by ThePrint. “At this stage, my friend Aslam managed to escape and run away, (but) the villagers beat me up with sticks and lathis because of which (I) have got injuries,” he further said before fainting, the FIR stated.
“We are going to investigate the case from all angles. And if the police did not do its job correctly, we will take action accordingly,” Rahul Prakash, superintendent of police, Alwar, told the media Sunday.
Rakbar made ends meet by working as a labourer and selling cow milk. Now, his family, consisting of his wife and seven children, will have to think of ways to survive without their sole breadwinner.
The case comes days after the Supreme Court weighed in sternly on the issue of mob violence, asking the legislature to consider enacting a new law to deal with the growing menace.
Alwar, in particular, has become notorious for cattle vigilantes who routinely patrol the villages and highways to purportedly track cow smuggling activity. Last year, 55-year old Pehlu Khan too was beaten to death by suspected cow vigilantes while he was transporting cattle.