The police on Tuesday arrested four people and detained several others in connection with the violence in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr on Monday that left a police officer and a civilian dead. The violence broke out as a group of villagers blocked the Bulandshahr-Garhmukteshwar state highway outside a police post in Chingrawathi, alleging that they had found the carcasses of slaughtered cows in a field on the outskirts of Mahaw village, around four kilometres away.

The first casualty in the violence was a 20-year-old man identified as Sumit Kumar, a resident of Chingrawathi village, who sustained a bullet injury on his chest. He had travelled to a spot near the police post to drop off a friend on his two-wheeler and was caught in the crossfire, his relatives said. The police, however, have listed him as a suspect in the case related to the violence.

The second casualty was Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh, who was found shot dead under mysterious circumstances. Singh’s professional background has led to several conspiracy theories, even within the police department. For a brief period, Singh was the investigating officer in the high-profile Dadri lynching case of 2015, before being transferred. This was the first prominent case of cow vigilante violence in recent times, when allegations of slaughter resulted in a mob murdering 52-year-old Mohammed Akhlaq in Uttar Pradesh’s Bisara village near Dadri. Several police officials in Bulandshahr recalled how Subodh Kumar Singh had been the official who brought the mob under control in Dadri.

“Sometimes, he would be told not to investigate some case...but he always did,” Subodh Kumar Singh’s son, Shreya Singh, was quoted as saying. His other son, Abhishek Singh, added: “He wanted us to be people who didn’t incite violence in the name of religion.” Subodh Kumar Singh’s sister Sunita Singh was more direct. “My brother was killed in a police conspiracy as he was probing a cow slaughter case,” she was reported to have said on Tuesday.

This is the sequence of events as they unfolded on Monday that Scroll.in has been able to reconstruct, based on various eyewitness accounts.

Around 8 am

Rajkumar Chaudhary, a resident of Mahaw village, received a phone call that animal carcasses had been found in his fields and he left his home immediately, his wife Preeti said. Around half an hour later, she added, some villagers came to their home and took away Chaudhary’s tractor trailer.

Around the same time, in Nayabaans village, around two kilometres from the Chingrawathi police post, Bajrang Dal leader and second-year law student Yogesh Raj received a call and rushed for Mahaw with some friends, his sister Suman Mahur said.

While Chaudhary’s wife was not sure about who had phoned him, his neighbour Prem Jeet Singh, a former pradhan of the village, told The Indian Express that some labourers had informed Chaudhary about the carcasses. “My plot is next to Rajkumar’s and he was informed by labourers working on the field about the incident,” Singh said. “I went with him to the spot. It started with four or five villagers expressing their anger but later the crowd burgeoned.”

Around 9 am

Suneeta Jatav, another resident of Mahaw village, was gathering fodder for her cattle from a forested area in the outskirts of the village when she heard a commotion in the neighbouring fields. She saw several men, a tractor trolley and within minutes they were all gone. Jatav was curious but, she said, she could not muster the courage to take a closer look at what was really happening. Jatav said that she came to know about the incident after her husband returned home early evening but she did not see any carcasses.

Siyana Tehsildar Raj Kumar Bhaskar told The Indian Express that he went to investigate on hearing reports about the alleged cow slaughter. “I went to the area where they claimed cow carcasses were found,” he said. “It looked like a carcass which was several days old, displayed for all to see.”

Bhaskar told News 18:“Dead cow meat was hanging in a sugarcane field. Head and skin of a cow hung as if they [were] clothes on a hanger. It is strange because anybody who would indulge in cow slaughter would not put it out for display, knowing the situation in the state. It was visible from far away.”

It was in the presence of the tehsildar that members of various Hindutva groups appeared on the spot and started agitating. The crowd then loaded the carcass on a tractor and tried to take it towards Bulandshahr-Garhmukteshwar State Highway to protest.

The tehsildar was aware of how communally sensitive the event could prove to be, particularly as nearly 10 lakh Muslim devotees had gathered in the Dariyapur-Akbarpur area on the outskirts of Bulandshahr for the Tablighi Ijtema, a three-day Islamic congregation, which began on December 1. The devotees would have to take that very highway to return.

Officials and local police stood in front of the tractor and asked the mob to calm down. “We wanted the matter to end in the village itself,” the tehsildar told News 18.

Around 9.30 am

A mob led by Hindutva activists brought animal carcasses in Chaudhary’s tractor trailer to the Chingrawathi police post, 4 km from Mahaw, and alleged that the carcasses were of cows that had been freshly slaughtered in a field in neighbouring Mahaw village. The activists blocked the Bulandshahr-Garh road in protest.

Chingrawathi police post comes under the jurisdiction of Siyana Police Station, about 7 km away. On being informed about the situation, Station House Officer Subodh Kumar Singh immediately left for Chingrawathi with a team of 10 police officers.

Between 10 am and 1 pm

Singh tried to pacify the agitated villagers, eye-witnesses said, and assured them that action would be taken against the people responsible for the alleged cow slaughter. In a video clip, Singh can be seen speaking with Bajrang Dal leader Yogesh Raj. Several eye-witnesses said that Singh had managed to convince some of the village elders to withdraw the protest but Raj was adamant.

With time, the crowd grew. Initially, most of the members of the crowd were from Mahaw, Chingrawathi and Nayabaans. But within two hours, more young men joined from the Siyana township and even further way, from Lounga, Barowli, Khanpur, Bugrasi, Jawaharganj and Chandpur, the First Information Report said.

Meanwhile, at Siyana police station, at around 1 pm, the police registered the cow slaughter case against seven Muslims, including two minors, on the basis of a complaint by Yogesh Raj who, the police said, was leading the agitated villagers. Raj told the police that he saw “seven people slaughtering cows” while he, along with his friends, had gone for a walk in the forested area near Mahaw, around six kilometres away from his own village of Nayabaans. The accused people fled the scene on being spotted, he told the police as per the First Information Report registered in connection with the case.

It is significant to note, however, that Raj’s account to the police as registered in the FIR contradicts what his sister Suman said. While Suman said that Raj had rushed out of the house on receiving a phone call in the morning, Raj told the police that he had gone for a walk to Mahaw and happened to see the seven Muslim persons slaughtering a cow. This also contradicts the tehsildar’s assessment that the carcass looked several days old.

In a video he put out on social media on Wednesday, Raj contradicted his reported statement in the FIR and said he had gone to the spot after he received information about the cow slaughter. He added that he himself went to Siyana police station to lodge the complaint in connection with the matter.

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While Raj specifically named seven Muslims from his own village as suspects in the cow-slaughter case (two of whom are aged 11 and 12), residents of Nayabaans, Mahaw and Chingrawathi villages were visibly confused. All these villages have Muslim residents and such a case was unprecedented, they said. There was no slaughterhouse in the area and the news about the carcasses was a mystery to them.

Shortly after 1 pm

Some members of the swelling crowd suddenly attacked the police officers in Chingrawathi post with stones, eye-witnesses said. When the police resorted to a lathi charge, some of the protesters opened fire, forcing the police officers to run for their lives. The mob then started torching vehicles on the road, some of them belonging to the police. The mob proceeded to storm into the police post and set two of the rooms on fire, police officials in Chingrawathi said.

Some members of the mob even started snatching wireless sets from police officials, which delayed the SOS call for reinforcements. Finally, one officer managed to lock himself away in a room in the Chingrawathi police post and send a message to the control room. Before the reinforcements could arrive, the police began to shoot at the mob in self-defence. Several officials said that Singh had to shoot a few rounds to defend himself, though others said that they had not seen Subodh Kumar Singh firing.

Between 1.30 pm and 2 pm

Chingrawathi village resident Sumit Kumar was shot dead in the crossfire. The police have not yet been able to ascertain who fired the bullet that hit him. However, in a video clip that surfaced, some of the members of the mob could be seen accusing a police officer of shooting Kumar and threatening him.

Around the same time, in another corner of the road, Singh was found lying on the ground. It is yet not clear whether Singh had already sustained a bullet injury by then or was injured by stones hurled at him.

Singh’s driver Constable Ram Ashray told reporters that he along with two other constables had helped Singh get inside the vehicle. Ashray said he then drove towards an open field, around 50 metres away from the police post, in an attempt to take Singh to hospital but members of the mob were shooting at the vehicle and throwing stones. Before long, Ashray said, the vehicle got stuck in the field. He jumped out of the vehicle and fled, fearing for his life, leaving Singh behind.

Singh’s lifeless body was later found in the vehicle, with his upper body hanging upside down and the legs stuck somewhere close to the steering wheels. There was blood on his head and oozing out of his mouth.

By 2 pm, reinforcements arrived and Singh was taken to a hospital where doctors declared him dead. In the meantime, the mob had set Singh’s vehicle on fire.

The police initially said that the inspector died of a blunt injury on the forehead sustained when a stone was thrown at him. But during the autopsy, doctors spotted an exit wound at the back of his head and concluded that he had died of a bullet wound. However, Singh’s driver could not confirm when Singh was shot. The police are yet to ascertain if Singh’s killers used his own gun to kill him but suspect that they may have fled with his licensed pistol and mobile phones. Singh’s licensed gun and three mobile phones – including one with the SIM card issued to him by the government – were missing when he was taken to a hospital, the FIR said. The police are yet to recover them.

HuffPost India quoted a “policeman who was part of the SHO’s team” telling them on condition of anonymity that “the mob wanted to attack three Muslim men who were walking past them, and that SHO Singh tried to prevent this and ordered a lathi charge to disperse the crowd”.

The article quoted this unidentified policeman as saying, “If he hadn’t done that, those three Muslims returning from Ijtema would have been killed. The SHO sacrificed his life to prevent a bigger riot.”

In between, the Bulandshahr Police was forced to counter Sudarshan TV owner Suresh Chavhanke, who had sought to link the violence to the Ijtema. “Please do not spread misinformation,” the official handle of Bulandshahr Police tweeted. “ This incident is not linked to the Ijtema procession in any way. The Ijtema concluded peacefully. The incident happened 45-50 kms away from where the Ijtema was held. Some rowdy elements are the perpetrators of this incident. Necessary action is being taken in the case.”

Around 2.30 pm

Mahur, the sister of Bajrang Dal leader Raj, said that her brother returned home around 2.30 pm but left again in another half an hour. “We have learnt from our neighbours and relatives that he did go to the police station to get the cow slaughter case registered but did not participate in the violence,” she said. “He had an exam scheduled from 11 am to 2 pm and he told us that he appeared for the exam.”

But in a video clip shot between 10 am and 11 am, Raj can be seen speaking with Subodh Kumar Singh. The Indian Express found out from his college that no exam had been scheduled on Monday.

Remains of the day. Image: Abhishek Dey
Remains of the day. Image: Abhishek Dey

Around 2.50 pm

The police registered a case of violence and pressed 17 charges that include murder, attempted murder, arson, rioting, assaulting public servants and damaging public property. In the First Information Report, the police named as many as 27 suspects which include Raj, two of his relatives, Sumit Kumar and Rajkumar Chaudhary.

Around 3 pm, Raj left his home, his relatives said, and he had not been seen since. He and Chaudhary were still absconding when this report was published on Wednesday evening.

Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police OP Singh has said the violence was part of a “big conspiracy”. He said it was not merely a law and order issue. “How did the cattle carcass reach there?” he asked. “Who brought it, why and under what circumstances?”

Corrections and clarifications: In an earlier version of this article, Rajkumar Chaudhary’s wife’s name was erroneously mentioned as Suneeta.

After the publication of this article, another video has surfaced, showing what could be the final moments of Sumit Kumar and Subodh Kumar Singh.

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In this video, as reported by NDTV, Kumar is seen with a chest wound, but does not appear to be a bystander as had been reported so far, and as claimed by his family. He is seen in the video as part of the mob throwing stones at the police. Some in the crowd can be heard shouting that “shots have been fired”. Shouts of “snatch the guns. Maaro, maaro” can also be heard. The final frame in the video shows Singh lying prone on the ground.