A day after two Muslim men from Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district were allegedly abducted and burnt to death in a car in Haryana, the Rajasthan Police on Friday detained six persons for interrogation in the case. The incident is suspected to be linked with cow vigilantes of Bajrang Dal, who have been active in the region for quite some time.
The victims – Nasir, 25, and Junaid, 35 – both residents of Ghatmika village, were allegedly abducted on Wednesday and their charred bodies were found inside a burnt vehicle near Loharu town in Haryana’s Bhiwani district on Thursday morning. The families of the deceased had lodged a missing complaint with the police, on the basis of which a first information report was registered in Bharatpur’s Gopalgarh.
Loharu Deputy Superintendent of Police Jagat Singh told The Hindu that a police team found two skeletons inside the burnt car after a call was received at the police control room. “We traced the vehicle’s owner with the help of the chassis number and found that it belonged one Haseen Khan. He told us that the vehicle was with his relative Nasir who was reported missing from Bharatpur,” Mr. Singh said.
The post-mortem was conducted in Loharu and the two bodies were handed over to the relatives, said Mr. Singh. According to the Rajasthan Police, the DNA examination of the bodies will ascertain their identities, while the investigation will confirm if it is a case of cow vigilantes taking the law into their own hands.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot condemned the incident and said the Rajasthan and Haryana Police were taking action in coordination with each other and searching for the accused. “Rajasthan Police have been directed to take strict action in the matter,” he said.
While Nasir had no criminal record, Junaid had five previous cases of bovine smuggling registered at different police stations. The FIR registered at Gopalgarh police station has named five persons – Monu, Anil, Srikant, Rinku Saini and Lokesh Singhla. All are from Haryana and associated with Bajrang Dal. Teams formed by Rajasthan Police were conducting raids to nab the accused till late evening on Friday.
The accused have been booked under Sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 365 (kidnapping), 367 (grievous hurt after abduction) and 368 (wrongful confinement) of Indian Penal Code. Section 302 (murder) of IPC was added to the FIR on Friday.
Junaid’s family members alleged that a police team of Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) of Ferozepur Jhirka in Haryana’s Nuh district had colluded with the Bajrang Dal activists in first lynching the two victims and then setting their bodies ablaze inside the vehicle. Junaid’s brother Ismail said in his complaint that the victims were taken to a police station after being assaulted, but the police personnel there refused to take them into custody.
However, Nuh Superintendent of Police Varun Singla termed the allegation baseless and said the Haryana Police were not involved in the case in any manner. “The allegations [levelled] by the family are baseless,” he said.
Education Minister Zahida Khan, representing Bharatpur’s Kaman Assembly constituency, visited Ghatmika village on Friday to meet the families of the deceased. While Ms. Khan attended a meeting of the Meo Muslim community, to which the two victims belonged, a heavy police force was deployed in the area. The State government announced financial assistance of ₹20 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased.
One of the accused, Monu, a local Bajrang Dal member, was earlier booked in an attempt-to-murder case after he allegedly opened fire injuring a young man during a clash between two groups in Gurugram’s Pataudi more than a week ago. Monu also allegedly runs a regional network of gau rakshaks (cow protectors) and uploads videos on social media platforms showing him in hot pursuit of alleged cow smugglers.
Less than a month ago, the family of Nuh resident Warris had also accused Monu of lynching the young man over allegations of cow smuggling. The police, however, had maintained that Warris had died in a road accident.