26, Oct 2017 | CJP Team
Pehlu Khan was killed on a busy highway in Rajasthan by a mob of self-proclaimed cow protectors. Now in an exclusive investigation, senior investigative journalist Ajit Sahi has discovered that this was in fact murder. He has also found that the police sabotaged the investigation and engaged in an elaborate cover up. This weakened the case against the Gau Rakshaks. Here is a summary of the report titled How the Police are Protecting the Murderers of Pehlu Khan.
The story so far
On April 1, 2017, a small group of dairy farmers was driving up along the Jaipur-Delhi highway in Rajasthan with a few cows they had purchased at a cattle fair in Jaipur. The group included Pehlu Khan and his sons Irshad and Arif, who were returning to their village Nuh in Haryana. But just as they reached Behror tehsil in Alwar district, they were attacked by over 200 Gau Rakshaks or cow vigilantes. Khan kept pleading with his assailants to let them go and even produced paper work from civic authorities that stated that the cows were purchased for milk production and not for slaughter. But the attackers tore up the documents and mercilessly beat the hapless men with sticks. The Gau Rakshaks kicked and punched them causing many grievous injuries to Pehlu Khan and his companions. Khan who was a heart patient suffered cracked ribs, a bloody nose and even injuries to his eye. Two days later Pehlu died of his injuries at a private hospital.
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The FIR stage cover up
The cover began at the stage of filing the First Information Report (FIR) itself. Before Pehlu Khan died, he clearly named six men as his attackers. These men were Om Yadav, Hukum Chand Yadav, Sudhir Yadav, Jagmal Yadav, Naveen Sharma and Rahul Saini. This statement later became his ‘dying declaration’ and ought to have been accepted as such. But the police did not include these six names in the FIR. Subsequently, the police claimed that none of these men was even at the crime scene during the lynching. This virtual clean chit ensured that Pehlu’s attackers got bail despite their heinous crime.
Interestingly, according to the FIR, the attack took place between 7 pm and 10 pm on April 1. However, the FIR was registered only at 4:24 am in the wee hours of April 2. There was a delay of over 9 hours in filing an FIR when the crime scene was a mere 2 kms from the police station. The police however claim that they came to know about the attack only at 3:54 am. And this is where the police end up contradicting their own version of events.
Question-1: If the police became aware of the attack only at 3:54 am on April 2, how did they take Pehlu Khan to Kailash Hospital on the night of April 1?
The police took Khan from the crime scene to Kailash Hospital and that’s where his statement was recorded. According to the police’s own ‘Final Report’ that was filed along with the chargesheet before the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate on May 31, 2017, Khan gave his statement to the police at 11:50 pm on April 1.
Question-2: How did the police record a statement at 11:50 pm on April 1, if they only became aware of the crime at 3:54 am the following morning?
Now, at the bottom of Pehlu Khan’s statement, the police wrote a case will be registered after reaching the police station.
Question-3: If the Kailash Hospital is only 2.9 kms away from the Behror Police Station, why did it take more than four hours before even an entry could be made in the general diary?
As per Khan’s dying declaration, policemen were present at the crime scene. However, neither their names not their statements have been included in the FIR.
Relevant and harsher IPC sections ignored
The police charged the Gau Rakshaks under section 147 (rioting), 143 (unlawful assembly), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 308 (culpable homicide) and 379 (theft). These are mild sections and amount to nothing more than a rap on the wrists. If the police really wanted to build a strong case against the perpetrators, they would have charged them under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy). The men were already present at the crime scene when Khan and his companions reached the spot. This shows prior knowledge and planning.
The police should have charged the Gau Rakshaks with 307 (attempt to murder) instead of 308. In fact, it was only when Pehlu Khan died that the police were forced to add a serious section 302 (murder) to the list. Given how the Gau Rakshaks tore up the documents proving the cattle were being transported for dairy farming section 204 (destruction of evidence) should also have been applied. It is implicit that Khan’s religion made him a soft target. Thus setion 153-A (promoting enmity on grounds of religion) should have also been applied.
Question-4: Did the police purposely ignore the IPC sections that were most appropriate in the case?
Main accused not arrested
The police first claimed that the six men named by Pehlu Khan in his dying declaration were untraceable. The police did not freeze their bank accounts or seize their properties, but instead offered a reward of Rs 5,000/-. Then five months after the attack the police exonerated the accused of all charges. The police claimed they came to the conclusion after summoning the accused and questioning them.
Question-5: If contacting the accused was so easy why did the police claim that they were ‘untraceable’ and why did it go through the drama of announcing a reward for information about their whereabouts?
Moreover, their exoneration was based on statements from workers at a cowshed. What the police failed to highlight was that Jagmal Yadav, one of the accused, was also the manager of the cowshed whose employees testified that he and the other accused were present at the cowshed at the time of the crime.
Non-examination of right wing links
Khan had claimed in his statement that they belonged to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal. Moreover, the police did not investigate their links with either of the two right wing organizations. In fact, had the police charged the men under 120-B they would have been forced to investigate their links with these two organizations.
Question-6: Did the police purposely ignore and not investigate the accused’s links with the VHP and the Bajrang Dal?
Manipulation of Medical Records
Pehlu Khan’s autopsy was conducted by three government doctors from the Community Health Center, Behror. The post mortem report says, “After careful examination of dead body by medical board, the fact[s] reveal that cause of death is shock brought as a result of antemortem thoraco-abdominal injuries mention[ed] in PMR [post-mortem] report sufficient to cause of death as ordinary course of nature.”
However, the police ignored these findings and are trying to negate these finding by using statements from doctors at Kailash Hospital. General Surgeon V.D Sharma, under whose care Khan was placed gave a statement to the police claiming that Khan was absolutely fine on April 2 and died after suffering a heart attack on April 3. He further claimed that Pehlu could not have died due to his injuries.
Here, it is interesting to note that Kailash Hospital is owned by Kailash Healthcare Ltd., a company said to be founded and owned by Dr. Mahesh Sharma, who is the Union Minister of State for Culture, Environment, Forests and Climate Change. A BJP leader, Dr Sharma has been a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) since the age of 14 years according to his own website www.drmaheshsharma.com He is also a known sympathizer of cow vigilantes and even attended the funeral of one of the accused in the Dadri Lynching Case, where Mohd Akhlaq was killed by a mob for allegedly consuming beef.
All these things point to the willful, deliberate and gross mismanagement of the case and suggest that a miscarriage of justice is possible in this matter.
Feature Image: Amir Rizvi
This report is the result of an independent investigation by senior journalist Ajit Sahi for Citizens for Justice and Peace, in association with other civil society groups namely, Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA), New York, Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), New Delhi, Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Washington D.C., Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, New Delhi and South Asian Solidarity Group (SASG), London and South Asian Solidarity Initiative, New York.
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