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Digvijaya accuses Modi & BJP of shielding those accused in lynching cases

Akash Bisht | Updated on: 15 September 2017, 21:01 IST

Pehlu Khan's lynching was not an isolated incident but such things hardly move Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said Digvijay Singh. To drive home his point, the senior Congress leader cited the recent murder of Gauri Lankesh: "He (Modi) didn't have the time to react to that" even though he finds time to tweet about the smallest issue, the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister said.

Fresh from a controversy over a tweet allegedly demeaning to Modi, Singh Friday held him responsible for instigating mob violence across India. Yes, law-and-order is a state subject, but has the PM ever inquired with BJP chief ministers on what action they have taken in cases of lynching? Singh asked. Then he himself answered the question: “He has not. I would charge him of being an accomplice in the whole issue."

The Pehlu Khan case

Singh was addressing the media on the recent controversy over Rajasthan Police giving clean chit to six persons accused by dairy farmer Pehlu Khan in his dying declaration.

On 1 April, Khan along with his sons and brothers had gone to Jaipur to buy milch cows and buffaloes from a cattle fair.

While returning, they were ambushed by gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes) affiliated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, who beat them mercilessly despite the family having legal permits to transfer bovines. Two days later, Pehlu succumbed to his injuries.

The removal of the six names from the list of accused created a huge uproar and Pehlu's family is seeking a court-monitored probe outside Rajasthan.

“If those who can be seen in the video did not kill my father, then who did?" Pehlu's youngest son Irshad asked, referring to a clip. "The police should at least tell us who killed my father. Instead, they gave clean chit to the accused,” said Irshad, who was also beaten up along with his father.

Accusing the police of being hand-in-glove with the perpetrators, Irshad said the family was being threatened with dire consequences by one of the accused.

“One of the accused, Ravindra, after securing bail, asked us never to come to Behror again. Or else he would shoot us,” Irshad said, asking how the family could fight for justice under such open threats.

“We can't even go to the Behror court. Otherwise we too would have the fate of that of our father. They killed one, they will kill others too. Even our lawyer tells us that there is threat to our life and that we should travel during the night to avoid any confrontation,” said Irshad.

Claiming that not even once was anyone from the family called for identification, he added that the accused never entered the police station once and were granted bail.

“Instead, they had put up a case on me," he said. Rajasthan Police had initially registered a case against Pehlu and his sons, Irfan and Arif, under the Rajasthan Bovine Animal (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act, 1995. This was done despite the family having all the legal documentation for purchase and transport for the purchased animals.

However, he stated that the family will fight the case till their last breath and that they have faith in the Supreme Court.

Elusive justice

eanwhile, Shehzad Poonawala, who along with his brother, Tehseen Poonawala, arranged a meeting of the family members with media, raised concerns over the way bail was granted to five other accused by the Rajasthan High Court.

Ravindra was granted bail by the High Court on 12 July on the grounds that it is clearly visible in the video footage that he was trying to protect Pehlu from the mob. Contradicting its own position, the court in the next page of the bail order claimed that Ravindra was not even at the spot of murder.

“The petitioner is said to be present at Jaguwar Chowk while the murder happened at Ramkumar Chowk. In the video clip, the petitioner was not present at Ramkumar Chowk,” read the bail order.

Tehseen Poonawala, who has filed a petition in the Supreme Court on cow vigilantism, said that in the next hearing they will raise the case of Pehlu Khan.

“We, as petitioners in SC, will appraise the court of this massive cover up in the Pehlu Khan case and how justice is being denied to the family. We will seek the transfer of the cases outside Rajasthan and demand a court monitored probe as no fair probe can be expected from the Rajasthan police given the political and ideological given to the perpetrators by the high and mighty in the state,” he said.

In the previous hearing on this petition, the apex court had issued notices to the central government and six state governments, including Rajasthan, and had asked for strict action against cow vigilantism. The next hearing on the petition is on 22 September and Pehlu's case will certainly be raised then, assures Tehseen.

BJP's agenda

Meanwhile, Digvijay promised those present that the Congress would raise the issue in the next session of the Parliament while highlighting that Pehlu's murder has consistently been raised in the Vidhan Sabha in both Haryana and Rajasthan. He added that the state home minister said that such incidents happen, while another MLA is saying that the accused are innocent.

“This goes on to prove that the entire government is trying to save the accused and this is not an isolated incident. Similar thing happened in Akhlaq's case, when the accused died, a Union minister draped him in national flag. Be it Swami Aseemanand, Sadhvi Pragya Thakur or Lt Col Shrikant Purohit, the entire government is trying to save such people,” he said.

He maintained that it is a well-thought out strategy of the BJP government to protect the accused instead of punishing them for their crimes. “There is an atmosphere of fear and terror in the state which is not at all in national interest,” said the veteran Congress leader.

Singh also cited that 16 instances of mob lynching have been reported between 2015 and 2017 and raised the demand for implementation of MASUKA (Manav Suraksha Kanoon) law which has salient provisions for a quick and certain probe in such cases.

First published: 15 September 2017, 21:01 IST