India: Family of Man Lynched for Cow Slaughter Alleges Conspiracy

Akash Vashishtha
New Delhi
160727-IN-lynched-620.jpg Indian Hindus take part in a demonstration in Bangalore in support of a Karnataka state bill to ban the slaughter of cows, July 20, 2010.

Family members of a day laborer who was lynched by a Hindu mob in northern India over rumors that he kept beef in his house struggle to overcome their trauma 10 months later.

“Our lives have been irreparably damaged. Our fellow countrymen have hurt us immensely and the wounds are too deep to heal,” Danish Khan, the 22-year-old son of Mohammad Akhlaq, who was killed by the mob in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) state in late September, told BenarNews.

Danish was beaten when he tried to save his father from the angry crowd.

The lynching in Dadri, a district of U.P. about 45 km (28 miles) from New Delhi, forced the Muslim family to leave their home village of Bisada – which is majority Hindu – and move to the “safer” national capital, Khan said.

His mother, Ikraman, remains traumatized by the killing and his teenaged sister, Shaista, has yet to resume her high school studies, the young man said.

Khan was preparing for his Civil Services Examinations (CSE) when the nearly 100-strong mob attacked their house on Sept. 28. He could not sit for the tests because of severe head injuries from the beating, which forced him to be hospitalized for nearly five months.

And if that wasn’t enough, on July 15 police charged the family under the Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, which carries a maximum prison sentence of five years, after a forensic report confirmed that meat recovered from Akhlaq’s house was that of a “cow or its progeny.”

Cow vigilantism on the rise

The slaughter of cows – which are considered holy in Hindu culture – and beef consumption is banned in most states of officially secular India, including Uttar Pradesh.

Although the Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act has been in place since 1955, vigilantism carried out on behalf of cows has frequently grabbed headlines since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014.

The latest incident took place on Tuesday, when two Muslim women were publicly assaulted by a mob of self-styled cow protectors in central India’s Madhya Pradesh state for allegedly carrying beef. A witness filmed the assault, which occurred in the presence of at least one policeman, and posted the footage on YouTube.

About 30 kg (66 pounds) of meat was recovered from the women, according to an NDTV report, which quoted unnamed police sources. However, the meat belonged to a buffalo, not a cow, the report said.

The incident came close on the heels of a similar attack earlier this month on four lower-caste Hindu tannery workers who were publicly flogged for skinning a dead cow in the state of Gujarat. That incident helped bring about widespread protests by the historically marginalized Dalit community.

‘Rubbing salt on our wounds’

Khan rejected the findings of the forensic report, which was released in May, saying that it had been “concocted to shift focus from the brutal killing of my father.”

“[There is] not even an iota of truth in the claim that we had consumed or stored beef. The meat stored in our house was of a goat, not a cow,” he said.

Reacting to the charges brought against the family, Khan said: “This is like rubbing salt on our wounds. They are going on talking about a cow being slaughtered, but what about the brutality with which my father was slaughtered? No one is concerned about that. There is neither any remorse nor any trace of repentance among the Hindu fundamentalists who attacked us on the basis of a mere rumor.”

Nineteen people, including two juveniles, were arrested for the attack, which triggered national outrage. While the two juveniles have been released on bail, the 17 other suspects remain behind bars, police said.

 Danish Khan [Courtesy of Danish Khan]

Demand for attackers’ release

Advocate Thakur Shishpal Shisodia, who is defending the 19 accused, said he wants the charges of murder and attempted murder against his clients dropped and members of Akhlaq’s family arrested for cow slaughter.

“It is now forensically proven that they [Akhlaq’s family] had consumed beef. So, we want all 17 people jailed for the attack released. We want the Akhlaq family arrested after a thorough investigation. If the probe is not conducted fairly, we will approach the appellate court,” Sishodia told BenarNews.

Police ruled out any immediate arrests of Akhlaq’s relatives.

“Following a court order on July 14, we have registered a FIR (first information report) against the family. This is just the beginning of the investigation. We are recording statements of all concerned parties. Any arrest would be made only after the conclusion of the probe,” Dadri Senior Superintendent of Police Dharmendra Singh told BenarNews.

As the investigation threatens to drag on, Khan said it would be hard for his family to move on.

“After the attack, the government compensated us with 3 million rupees ($44,662) and an apartment in the Delhi outskirts. Apparently that’s the price for snatching away a human life here, for uprooting his family and their happiness,” he said.

“And now, with the police case against us, there is a good chance it will be concluded that we indeed killed a cow. But that won’t be the truth. To find the truth, someone first needs to probe who switched the meat sample allegedly recovered from our house. And no one is investigating that,” Khan said.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.