Mathura/Bulandshahr: A week after a 55-year-old man was shot dead in Uttar Pradesh’s Tumaula village in a suspected case of cow smuggling, the Mathura district police is yet to identify any suspect in the case. The deceased’s family, however, said it was a “well known gau rakshak in the area” who killed Sher Khan, a cattle trader.
The Mathura police has lodged two counter-FIRs in the case — one for the murder and the other for alleged cow smuggling — but while Sher Khan is an accused in the second FIR, the one for his murder does not name anyone.
Speaking to ThePrint, Sher Khan’s family accused one Baba Chandrashekhar of getting him killed, but the police said his son’s complaint, on the basis of which the FIR was registered, did not identify any suspect.
Chandrashekhar is the complainant in the FIR registered against Sher Khan and others for alleged cow smuggling.
Denying the police version, Sher Khan’s wife Sitara told ThePrint that the family wanted to name Chandrashekhar in the FIR but the police at Kosi Kalan station, where the complaint was lodged, refused to mention him. “They refused to use Baba’s name in the FIR… Instead, they simply lodged the complaint against unidentified persons,” she alleged.
The local police, however, denied this.
“The family did not name anyone in the FIR. Why would police ask them not to put any name? Day before yesterday, when all six injured including Shahrukh were produced in CJM court, they were asked if they want to name anyone and they said no,” said Pramod Panwar, the SHO of Kosi Kalan police station.
ThePrint reached Mathura Senior Superintendent of Police Gaurav Grover and Mathura SP (Rural) Shrish Chandra through phone and WhatsApp messages for a comment on the family’s allegation, but there was no response till the time of publishing this report.
Speaking to ThePrint, meanwhile, Chandrashekhar said he works to protect cows and patrols an area covering a few adjoining villages, including Tumaula, where the incident took place.
Khan’s family, on the other hand, said he had only been a cattle trader who transported bullocks to fairs or wherever the animals are required to pull carts or work in the fields. They alleged that Khan had been “trapped” by Chandrashekhar, who they said had assured him of “safe passage” through his village, but had instead stopped and killed him.
The family said they needed that assurance of a “safe passage”, citing recent instances of cow vigilantism in UP.
Denying the allegations, Chandrashekhar said the “firing was over” when he reached the place where the incident took place. He also said he helped take the injured to hospital and that it was Khan and his associates who had fired at the villagers when they tried to stop them from travelling with the cows.
No arrest has been made so far in connection with any of the two FIRs.
‘Killed during an altercation’
Speaking to ThePrint earlier about the incident, SP Chandra had said. “Two FIRs have been lodged — one by Sher Khan’s son Shahrukh, alias Titu, against unidentified persons, accusing them of murder, and the other by a villager from Tumaula named Baba Chandrashekhar asking for the Uttar Pradesh Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act to be invoked against these persons (Khan and his associates).”
Chandra had also said the police were not looking at any specific suspect because Khan’s family did not name anyone in the FIR. “The FIR is against unidentified persons so we are only collecting evidence at this point.”
According to the police, Sher Khan was killed during an altercation with the residents of Tumaula village, after his speeding vehicle allegedly crashed into a cart on a road.
“The incident took place between 3.30 and 4 am Friday night. Eight persons were transporting cows in a speeding vehicle and they crashed into a cart in Tumaula village, which had been put there by villagers to stop them. Villagers found six cows with them and thought they were smugglers, so there was an altercation, in which one person by the name of Sher Khan was shot dead,” Chandra told ThePrint.
“Of the eight, one died, three were taken to hospital by the police, another three by the Baba, and the eighth person is absconding. The one who is absconding has a history of cow smuggling,” he added.
The police also said no arrest has been made so far. “We are interrogating the injured people, but no arrests have been made so far,” Chandra had said.
The SP also said that a gun had been recovered from the crime scene, and it belonged to Khan and his associates, but it was not the one that had been used in the crime. The gun that killed Sher Khan is yet to be found, he said.
There have been several instances of cow vigilantism in UP in the past two weeks. On 23 May, a Muslim man was assaulted by cow vigilantes in Moradabad. Four alleged cattle smugglers were arrested in Agra after a shootout on 16 May.
A 2019 Human Rights Watch report said at least 44 people, 36 of them Muslims, were killed in cow vigilantism attacks between May 2015 and December 2018.
‘Duped by Baba’
Speaking to ThePrint in Bulandshahr’s Rohnda village, where Khan lived, his family alleged that it was Chandrashekhar who had set up a barrier to trap Khan and then fired on him.
“My father was passing through Tumaula and Mahatma (Baba Chandrashekhar) had set up a barrier to stop my father. He saw my father’s vehicle and started firing. My father tried to reverse and leave the village, but there was heavy firing and he was shot dead. Bullets hit him in his stomach and back. The other five-six people who were with my father were also injured, including my elder brother, Shahrukh, who is currently undergoing treatment in a hospital in Mathura,” said Khan’s another son Faizan, who works in Rajasthan and was visiting his family following his father’s death.
The details of what happened that night were told to him by his brother Shahrukh, Faizan said.
Khan’s family said he had been a cattle trader.
“My father has been transporting cattle for the past few years, to melas or wherever bullocks are required (to pull carts or work in the fields), on a contractual basis, not just in UP but in Rajasthan as well,” Faizan added.
The family alleged that it was Baba Chandrashekhar who had called Khan and promised him that he would be allowed to safely pass through his village.
“Baba had called him and he left with his vehicle at night. He had promised him safe passage through the village, but Shahrukh said Khan was the one who set up the barrier and fired six shots at him,” said Kanjim, Sher Khan’s daughter-in-law.
Asked if Khan had prior acquaintance with Chandrashekhar, Kanjim said: “He must have known him, why else would he have gone?”
While some news reports have claimed that he had been on his way to Mewat the night he was killed, Khan’s family said they had no idea of where he was headed to. All they knew, they said, was that Chandrashekhar had called him and promised him a safe passage through his village.
‘Serve to protect and save cows’
When ThePrint met Baba Chandrashekhar at his gaushala in Ajnokh village near Tumaula, about 50 km from Mathura, he alleged that it was Khan and his accomplices who had fired at the villagers, but by the time he reached the spot, the firing was over.
“I received information from a nearby village (he lives in Ajnokh, a village next to Tumaula) that a speeding vehicle was transporting cattle, so I went there. But by the time I reached, the firing was over and we took the injured to the police, along with the cows,” he said.
Chandrashekhar, who has about 400 cows in his gaushala, said he works to protect cows and was only out on his “daily night patrol” — he patrols an area covering two-three adjacent villages — when the incident took place.
“I patrol the area on my motorcycle every night, along with a few boys from the village. I only inform the police if something suspicious happens. If I find a cow is sitting on the road, I ensure no one takes it away, or if a cow is injured by speeding vehicles at night, I provide treatment. If we find suspicious activities, we inform the police,” he said.
While on patrol duty, Chandrashekhar said, the group only carried sticks to protect themselves and no other weapons.
Chandrashekhar is said to be a known ‘gau rakshak’ in the area.
The police also said there have been no previous complaints of cow vigilantism against him. “He is well known in the area as a gau rakshak, but there haven’t been any incidents in the past or any complaints against him in any matter,” Chandra said.
Chandrashekhar, however, said there have been instances of cow smugglers transporting cattle in speeding vehicles.
“Several cows are transported like this in speeding vehicles, many are left injured, some vehicles even hit cows that are sitting on the road at night and run away. My only job is to protect the cows. If there are accidents, then we come help the cows that have been injured and keep them in my gaushala,” he said.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)