Cow vigilantism

In Rajasthan, family of Muslim man allegedly killed by cow vigilantes demands arrests before autopsy

Umar’s body was found on the railway tracks. The police believe this was a ploy to make his murder look like an accident.

“No one should have to confront death the way my nephew did,” said Razzak Khan, the uncle of 35-year-old Umar, who was allegedly shot dead on a highway in Rajasthan’s Alwar district on Friday, November 10, while transporting cows with two other villagers. The police believes the attackers left Umar’s body on the railway tracks to conceal their tracks.

The murder comes seven months after a mob killed Pehlu Khan, a middle-aged dairy farmer, while he was returning to his village in Alwar with cows purchased at a cattle fair.

Like Pehlu Khan, Umar too owned a small dairy farm in Ghatmika village in neighbouring Bharatpur district, Razzak Khan said. According to the first information report registered by the police, Umar and two other residents of Ghatmika, Taahir and Javed, were travelling in a pickup truck with cows and calves early Friday morning, when a group of seven to eight men stopped their vehicle near Govindnagar area in Alwar. The men, who identified themselves as gau rakshaks or cow vigilantes, allegedly pulled out pistols and fired at the three men.

While Javed escaped unhurt, Taahir sustained a bullet injury but managed to flee the spot. Umar’s partially mutilated body was later found lying on railway tracks about 15 km from the place where the vehicle had been intercepted. The police now believe this was a ploy by the attackers to make the murder look like an accident.

Cow slaughter case first, murder later

When the police first spotted an abandoned vehicle on November 10, with calves and cows inside, with one of the animals dead, it registered a case under the Rajasthan Bovine Animal Act, which prohibits the slaughter of cows. Only after Umar’s family identified his body, sparking protests by Muslim groups in the area, did the police register a case of murder on November 12.

Umar’s uncle Illyas told the police that Taahir, who is now recovering in a hospital, heard the attackers address one of their group as Rakesh. But the police has so far registered a case against unknown men under charges of murder, attempt to murder, rioting, and causing the disappearance of evidence of the offence or giving false information to screen the offender.

The superintendent of police in Alwar, Rahul Prakash, did not respond to’s phone calls and text messages. But a police official who did not wish to be identified said that two men have been arrested in connection with the murder.

Protest before postmortem

On Monday, civil rights activists, Umar’s relatives and leaders of the Meo Muslim community staged a protest in Jaipur, where Umar’s body has been sent for a postmortem examination. The relatives have so far refused to give permission for the postmortem, insisting that the police first arrest all those guilty of the murder.

The protestors also asked for monetary compensation for Umar’s family and police protection for Taahir and Javed. They demanded that the case be transferred to a Special Investigation Team, since they feared the local police was shielding the accused.

Repeated instances of mob violence against them have left the Meo Muslim community of Alwar and Bharatpur feeling vulnerable. As part of the protest, they asked the state government to draft a protection plan for them.

“We have been assured justice by top officials in Rajasthan police and on that we have kept our hopes alive,” said Razzak Khan.

Kavita Srivastava, the president of People’s Union for Civil Liberties in Rajasthan, said: “If this madness is not stopped now, the cases of such murders in the state are only going to increase.”

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Relying on the power of habits to solve India’s mammoth sanitation problem

Adopting three simple habits can help maximise the benefits of existing sanitation infrastructure.

India’s sanitation problem is well documented – the country was recently declared as having the highest number of people living without basic sanitation facilities. Sanitation encompasses all conditions relating to public health - especially sewage disposal and access to clean drinking water. Due to associated losses in productivity caused by sickness, increased healthcare costs and increased mortality, India recorded a loss of 5.2% of its GDP to poor sanitation in 2015. As tremendous as the economic losses are, the on-ground, human consequences of poor sanitation are grim - about one in 10 deaths, according to the World Bank.

Poor sanitation contributes to about 10% of the world’s disease burden and is linked to even those diseases that may not present any correlation at first. For example, while lack of nutrition is a direct cause of anaemia, poor sanitation can contribute to the problem by causing intestinal diseases which prevent people from absorbing nutrition from their food. In fact, a study found a correlation between improved sanitation and reduced prevalence of anaemia in 14 Indian states. Diarrhoeal diseases, the most well-known consequence of poor sanitation, are the third largest cause of child mortality in India. They are also linked to undernutrition and stunting in children - 38% of Indian children exhibit stunted growth. Improved sanitation can also help reduce prevalence of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Though not a cause of high mortality rate, NTDs impair physical and cognitive development, contribute to mother and child illness and death and affect overall productivity. NTDs caused by parasitic worms - such as hookworms, whipworms etc. - infect millions every year and spread through open defecation. Improving toilet access and access to clean drinking water can significantly boost disease control programmes for diarrhoea, NTDs and other correlated conditions.

Unfortunately, with about 732 million people who have no access to toilets, India currently accounts for more than half of the world population that defecates in the open. India also accounts for the largest rural population living without access to clean water. Only 16% of India’s rural population is currently served by piped water.

However, there is cause for optimism. In the three years of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the country’s sanitation coverage has risen from 39% to 65% and eight states and Union Territories have been declared open defecation free. But lasting change cannot be ensured by the proliferation of sanitation infrastructure alone. Ensuring the usage of toilets is as important as building them, more so due to the cultural preference for open defecation in rural India.

According to the World Bank, hygiene promotion is essential to realise the potential of infrastructure investments in sanitation. Behavioural intervention is most successful when it targets few behaviours with the most potential for impact. An area of public health where behavioural training has made an impact is WASH - water, sanitation and hygiene - a key issue of UN Sustainable Development Goal 6. Compliance to WASH practices has the potential to reduce illness and death, poverty and improve overall socio-economic development. The UN has even marked observance days for each - World Water Day for water (22 March), World Toilet Day for sanitation (19 November) and Global Handwashing Day for hygiene (15 October).

At its simplest, the benefits of WASH can be availed through three simple habits that safeguard against disease - washing hands before eating, drinking clean water and using a clean toilet. Handwashing and use of toilets are some of the most important behavioural interventions that keep diarrhoeal diseases from spreading, while clean drinking water is essential to prevent water-borne diseases and adverse health effects of toxic contaminants. In India, Hindustan Unilever Limited launched the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, a WASH behaviour change programme, to complement the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Through its on-ground behaviour change model, SASB seeks to promote the three basic WASH habits to create long-lasting personal hygiene compliance among the populations it serves.

This touching film made as a part of SASB’s awareness campaign shows how lack of knowledge of basic hygiene practices means children miss out on developmental milestones due to preventable diseases.


SASB created the Swachhata curriculum, a textbook to encourage adoption of personal hygiene among school going children. It makes use of conceptual learning to teach primary school students about cleanliness, germs and clean habits in an engaging manner. Swachh Basti is an extensive urban outreach programme for sensitising urban slum residents about WASH habits through demos, skits and etc. in partnership with key local stakeholders such as doctors, anganwadi workers and support groups. In Ghatkopar, Mumbai, HUL built the first-of-its-kind Suvidha Centre - an urban water, hygiene and sanitation community centre. It provides toilets, handwashing and shower facilities, safe drinking water and state-of-the-art laundry operations at an affordable cost to about 1,500 residents of the area.

HUL’s factory workers also act as Swachhata Doots, or messengers of change who teach the three habits of WASH in their own villages. This mobile-led rural behaviour change communication model also provides a volunteering opportunity to those who are busy but wish to make a difference. A toolkit especially designed for this purpose helps volunteers approach, explain and teach people in their immediate vicinity - their drivers, cooks, domestic helps etc. - about the three simple habits for better hygiene. This helps cast the net of awareness wider as regular interaction is conducive to habit formation. To learn more about their volunteering programme, click here. To learn more about the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hindustan Unilever and not by the Scroll editorial team.