A report produced by a Khudai Khidmatgar Central and Haryana Fact Finding team has found that cow vigilantes allegedly beat a young cattle-trader for hours earlier this year, in January 2019. The report outlines the incident, and highlights inaction from the police until they were pressured by civil society groups.
The fact-finding report explains that the victim, Naushad, worked for Sunil, a cattle-trader and dairy owner, for ten years in the Dhoki village near Dadri charkha. On January 19, 2019, Naushad and his coworkers Mehboob and Iqbal set off with one buffalo and three buffalo calves loaded into a pickup truck; they were to be sold at an animal fair in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh. Their vehicle was checked at two police check-points, and they were given receipts.
That night, when they neared the Bhalout village in Haryana’s Rohtak district, the report says that they were stopped by "heavily drunk cow vigilante Jaspal Gumana," who calimed that there were cows in their vehicle. Although Naushad explained that this was not the case, and told Gumana he could check the vehicle, the report alleges that Gumana began shouting about cow smugglers so as to draw a crowd. Mehboob and Iqbal fled the scene with the vehicle. Naushad was allegedly stripped and beaten up, being slapped, kicked, and dragged on the road. He was allegedly tied to a pole and tortured for nearly two hours. According to the report, the mob burned his skin, lips etc using a beedi and beat him until he was unconscious; they allegedly revived him with water before continuing to thrash him.
According to the report, Mehboob and Iqbal called a helpline repeatedly before it was answered, and they were given the phone number of the nearby police station; they contacted the police, who then reached Naushad and untied him. Naushad was taken to the Sadar police station in Rohtak, and was allegedly bleeding from various parts of his body. According to the report, he pleaded for medical help, but was only given a pill and some tea. The report alleges that he was then handcuffed and made to sit on the floor in the cold, and was not given any medical assistance. Sunil reached the station and gave Naushad food and clothing.
According to the report, on January 20, 2019, civil society groups that had read about the incident decided to visit the police station. These included representatives from the local All India Progressive Women’s Association, the local Kisan Sabha, Centre of Indian Trade Unions, among others. According to the report, they were greeted with the sight of Naushad, half-unconscious, handcuffed and chained to a bed, while the accused Gumana was sitting on a chair, having tea with the police. They reportedly questioned why Naushad was treated in such a manner, and the police allegedly claimed that they handcuffed him because they thought he would flee. However, the report notes that Naushad could barely walk at the time. He was only taken to a public health centre at the delegation’s behest, on the evening of January 20, but still allegedly did not receive adequate medical attention.
The report says that the delegation of civil society groups spoke with the accused, Jaspal Gumana, who allegedly narrated the entire incident while police were present. He allegedly admitted that he was told that the vehicle did not contain cows, and also allegedly accepted that he stripped and dragged Naushad, tying him to a pole, and beating him. When asked if there were cows in the vehicle, Gumana allegedly denied this.
The report said that SHO Manjeet More, when asked why an FIR had not been registered, stated that an FIR would be filed against Gumana, and that Naushad would be freed as he was innocent. The report alleges that an initial complaint naming Gumana was torn up after a call from someone. It also states that one Bitto Pradhan took Gumana from the police station, promising to bring him back the next morning, but failed to do so.
According to the report, on January 21, Naushad, Sunil, Mehboob and Iqbal visited the civil society delegation to inform them that their vehicle was still in police custody. The report says that they said they provided all relevant proof and documents, but alleged that the police said they would file cases against all of them. The delegation visited and spoke to the local SP, who reportedly promised that justice would be delivered. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) was reportedly formed after this.
The fact-finding team explains in the report that when they reached the police station on February 1, they were given the runaround, and were unable to meet ASI Balkishan whom they were told was handling the case. Balkishan finally asked a fellow staff member to share information with them.
According to the report, an FIR has been filed against the victims in the incident for animal cruelty and cow protection; when asked about the cow protection charges given that there were no cows, the fact-finding team states that they were told the charges would be removed. Another FIR has reportedly been filed against the accused for Indian Penal Code sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement), 506 (criminal intimidation), 325 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt), and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention).
The fact-finding team notes that they met with Sunil, Naushad and Mehboob, highlighting that Sunil told them that the intervention by civil society groups greatly helped the situation, and that they had doubted Naushad’s well-being in the absence of this intervention. Reportedly, the police had earlier refused to even talk to them in a proper manner. The report emphasises that such incidents ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections are a cause for concern, noting that it seemed as though the police was initially under "political pressure" which is why "they kept the rule book aside," only acting "when the issue got highlighted" to try "to save themselves."