May a good source be with you.

Book Excerpt: Nobody Killed Pehlu Khan

Mander pointed to the dramatic increase in such incidents and the fact that they were mostly against one community.

Before he sat down on the highway at the Behror area in Alwar district, a bagful of marigold flowers by his side, protesting the murder of 55-year-old dairy farmer Pehlu Khan, who was beaten to death by a mob near this spot on 1 April 2017 even as bystanders watched and recorded the horrific crime, Harsh Mander visited the state’s senior police officers to get some answers to a troubling pattern that he had noticed in the first 10 days of the journey.

From a reporter’s point of view, the Caravan of Love was suddenly in the right place at the right time. Our entry into Rajasthan coincided with the news that the state’s Crime Investigation Department, Crime Branch, had found no evidence against the six suspects Khan had named as his attackers in his dying declaration, a key standalone piece of evidence that can be used to convict a person.

“The previous night, organisations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Hindu Jagran Manch had threatened to welcome our bus with sticks and stones. Many news anchors wanted Mander to be a guest on their primetime shows.”

At some point during the bus ride to Alwar, he stood at the centre aisle and dialled into Nidhi Razdan’s discussion on NDTV. By now the Karwan had met at least 33 families that had recounted stories that eerily echoed Pehlu Khan’s tragic tale.

Mander shared his finding on Razdan’s show: ‘I’ve met so many families and the pattern is exactly the same. The police consistently registers cases against the victims … There’s no defence against it.’

Harsh Mander at the site where Pehlu Khan was allegedly lynched. Photo credit : Neyaz Farooquee

When we met the Additional Superintendent of Police (ACP) and Additional District Magistrate (ADM) the next morning in Behror, Mander asked them why, in the case of Pehlu Khan, the local police couldn’t tell the difference between a ₹30,000 milch cow and ₹5,000-a-head cattle being transported for slaughter.

‘When you see the cow in the van is not for slaughter, where’s the question of cow slaughter and calling the transporters cow smugglers?’

They didn’t have permission to transport cattle, the men argued.

‘The law is very clear. You require permission only if the cattle are for slaughter,’ Mander said.

“According to Section 5 of the Rajasthan Bovine Animal (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act, 1995, only the latter require a permit for transportation across the state border, Mander said.”   

The act holds the transporter just as responsible as the person who slaughters the cow.

Mander persisted. Why were the police filing cases against Muslims who were transporting milch cows?

‘Who says it was a milch cow?’ ADM Rajendra Prasad argued.

‘It was,’ Mander replied.

When the police said they had nothing to do with the case as it was being probed by the CID, Mander pointed out that it was the local police that had filed the case of cow-smuggling.

‘You are discussing it like you are in court. The time for such questions has gone,’ said Prasad.

Mander pointed to the dramatic increase in such incidents and the fact that they were mostly against one community.

When we wear this uniform, we don’t distinguish between Hindus and Muslims,’ said Prasad. ‘Your journey is supposed to be about love. Why don’t you focus on love instead of trying to cause problems?

Mander replied, ‘There is no love without justice.’

“At least his family will get some solace if I acknowledge the death by placing flowers at the spot, Mander told the officer. ‘It will become a new tradition to pay homage at these sites,’ Prasad said.
‘It should,’ said Mander.

That hasn’t happened yet, but it looks like the tradition of the police filing cases against Muslims who dare to venture anywhere near cattle is here to stay. According to one news report that quoted police sources, an average of seven cases of cow-smuggling were registered every month in Alwar in 2017 under the Bovine Animal Act. Most media that report this story rely entirely on police data. Who is to verify if the case is actually one of cow-smuggling or just another instance of the state police harassing minorities?

‘If Muslims don’t have the right to keep cows, the government should tell us directly,’ one distraught Alwar dairy farmer who had lost his son in a police encounter told us.

It’s not like the terrorists (or gaurakshaks, as they call themselves) who attack Muslim farmers and transporters ferrying cattle bother to check whether the driver of the vehicle has a permit. State governments have failed miserably to prevent the harassment of, and violence against, minorities in the name of the cow.

Harsh Mander at the site where Pehlu Khan was allegedly lynched. Photo credit : Neyaz Farooquee

Rajasthan is among the country’s top bovine-obsessed states. It is the country’s only state to have a cow welfare ministry. The BJP-led Vasundhara Raje Scindia government introduced a 10 per cent surcharge for cow protection on the stamp duty on all non-judicial instruments in 2017. Not once has the chief minister spoken against the vigilante groups who terrorise the Muslim residents of the state in the name of the cow. When the Alwar Lok Sabha seat came up for by-election, the BJP candidate Jaswant Yadav was reported to have said, ‘If you are Hindu, vote for me. If you are Muslim, then vote for the Congress.’

As for Pehlu Khan? Police said they were investigating his three sons, who were travelling with him, to determine if they were cow smugglers too. In January 2018, the Behror police submitted a fresh chargesheet against two men who were travelling with Khan, saying that they didn’t have the permit required to transport cattle outside Rajasthan. Once again, the victims became the accused.

A few days after this news, the by-poll results were released. The victory probably had no bovine angle, but the Congress won every assembly segment in the Alwar Lok Sabha constituency. The BJP lost its seat.

(Since 4 September 2017, a group of volunteers led by Harsh Mander have been travelling in India on a journey of shared suffering, atonement and love in the Karwan e Mohabbat, or Caravan of Love. This is a call to conscience, an attempt to seek out and support families whose loved ones have become victims of hate attacks in various parts of the country.

This book is part travelogue, part reportage and part testimonials from some of the travellers—concerned citizens, writers, journalists, photographers, students, lawyers—seeking to replace fear and hate with empathy and love. Put together, it makes for a searing but compassionate account of how hate violence is tearing apart communities, destroying families and, in the end, threatening the idea of India itself.

Wherever they travelled, the Karwan encountered grief and bewilderment. Many of the victims sought solace in the fact that a group of citizens was reaching out to them in solidarity and helping them to seek justice. But there were also several people, across the political and social spectrum, who opposed the Karwan and its mission to highlight the oppression and violence faced by minority communities, especially Muslims.

In Assam, the group met the families of two young cousins who had been attacked and killed on suspicion of being cow thieves. In Jharkhand, they spoke to Usman Ansari, who had been beaten nearly to death by his neighbours, for allegedly killing his own cow. In Rajasthan, they were met by a belligerent mob that did not want them to revive memories of the lynching of Pehlu Khan, a cattle trader, by a cow-vigilante mob.)

An excerpt from the book : Reconciliation: Karwan e Mohabbat’s Journey of Solidarity through a Wounded India  by Harsh ManderJohn DayalNatasha Badhwar


Buy here:

अब आप न्यूज़ सेंट्रल 24x7 को हिंदी में पढ़ सकते हैं।यहाँ क्लिक करें