Cow vigilantism

Rajasthan Muslim man was killed in gang shootout and not by cow vigilantes, police claim

Umar was part of a cattle smuggling gang while his attackers belong to a gang that extorts money from transporters on the pretext of cow protection, cops claim.

The killing of Muslim dairy farmer in Alwar on November 10 was the outcome of a “confrontation between two criminal groups”, the Rajasthan police said on Tuesday. While one group was involved in cattle smuggling, the police claimed, the other was into extortion on the pretext of cow protection.

The police came to this conclusion after interrogating Bhagwan Gujjar and Ramveer, who have been arrested on suspicion of being part of the group that killed the 35-year-old farmer named Umar. This, however, contradicts the police’s earlier claim that no shots were fired during the attack.

According to the First Information Report filed by the police, Umar and two other residents of Ghatmika village in the neighbouring Bharatpur district, Taahir and Javed, were transporting cows and calves Friday morning when their truck was flagged down by a group of seven-eight men near Govindnagar, Alwar. The men, who identified themselves as gau rakshaks, allegedly pulled out pistols and fired at the three farmers. While Javed escaped unhurt, Taahir sustained a bullet injury but managed to flee. Umar’s partially mutilated body was later found on railway tracks in Alwar’s Bilaspur area. The police believe this was a ploy by the attackers to make the murder look like an accident.

Bhagwan Gujjar and Ramveer have since disclosed that there was firing from both sides although no one from their group was injured, the police claimed.

“We have identified three more persons from the group but they are absconding,” said Alwar South Circle Officer Anil Beniwal. “They are all from Bharatpur district. Prima facie they are a gang pretending to be cow vigilantes to target transporters with the intent of extorting money.”

Picking up clues

When the police first found an abandoned vehicle, with calves and cows inside and one of the animals dead, on November 10, they registered a case under the Rajasthan Bovine Animal Act, which prohibits cow slaughter. Only after Umar’s family identified his body, sparking protests by Muslim groups in the area, did the police register a case of murder, attempt to murder, rioting and causing disappearance of evidence against unknown persons on November 12.

The police said they are still verifying the criminal backgrounds of the two arrested men, but have already traced several cases of cattle smuggling, criminal assault and abduction to Umar and Taahir. They also said the truck ferrying the cattle was stolen and carries the registration number of a two-wheeler.

The police are now searching for Taahir and Javed. “It has become very important to question them to establish the exact sequence of events,” said Beniwal. “They have not told their families about their whereabouts and have constantly been changing their locations in Bharatpur and the neighbouring Mewat district in Haryana.”

According to the police, the arrested men have told them the incident actually occurred at a place in Bharatpur district and not Alwar. When the attackers realised Umar was dead, they drove his pickup truck to Govindnagar. There, they put Umar’s body in another vehicle and dumped it around 15 km away, on railway tracks.

Meanwhile, Umar’s relatives have so far refused to give permission for the postmortem, insisting that the police first arrest all those guilty of the murder. According to a report in Hindustan Times, they have also alleged that Taahir and Javed are “not giving the complete picture of the sequence of events” leading to Umar’s death.

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