“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 Scroll.in’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.”