Saturday, October 19, 2002

Dalits lynching: Parties rush in as VHP puts cow before hearse

NEW DELHI/CHANDIGARH, OCT 18: The lynching of five Dalits in Jhajjar in Haryana is fast acquiring a political hue with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), under fire from the Left parties for ''celebrating'' the killings, ruling out its involvement but quoting the scriptures to point out that ''the life of a cow is more precious than that of a human being.''

''We have to ascertain whether the cow was killed by the five men or was already dead. This is why the state Government has also reserved its comment. Reports said the Dalits were lynched by a mob. But can anyone discipline a mob?'' VHP senior vice-president Acharya Giriraj Kishore said at a press conference in New Delhi.

He then quoted the scriptures to say that ''the life of a cow is more precious than that of a human being.'' In Chandigarh, VHP Haryana unit chief Ram Pal Gaur maintained that a cow had been slaughtered in Jhajjar.''The area has a history of such incidents,'' he said.

The Congress, in the meantime, is dispatching a team to Jhajjar to obtain first hand information. Party president Sonia Gandhi today asked R K Dhawan to visit the site. He will be accompanied by Haryana PCC chief Bhajan Lal, CLP chief Bhoopinder Singh Hooda and two AICC secretaries Krishna Tirath and Selja.

Condemning the incident, Congress sought a thorough judicial probe. ''It is inconceivable that the lynching took place in the presence of a magistrate and large number of policemen. We also demand action against all officials guilty of dereliction of duty. It is abundantly evident that these officials were partially paralytic in their approach,'' Congress spokesman S Jaipal Reddy told mediapersons.

He also pointed a finger at the VHP for allegedly mounting pressure on the state Government to go soft on the culprits.

The Haryana Government, on its part, has ordered a fresh inquiry. Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala announced that the second inquiry, to be conducted by Rohtak Commissioner R R Banswal, will supersede the special investigative team set up two days ago, said Muhammed Akil, Superintendent of Police, Jhajjar.

''The orders have come today and we will try and get to the bottom of the truth. Though in a mob-like situation, it is difficult to identify the guilty, the need is to get to know the truth,'' Banswal, who hasn't started the inquiry yet, said. The government will also award Rs one lakh as compensation to the next of kin of those murdered.

While Chautala said some culprits had already been identified, the VHP denied its cadres' involvement in the incident. Kishore said organisation secretary Surendra Jain had been sent to Jhajjar for an on-the-spot inquiry.

The BJP, on the other hand, played it cautious today. In New Delhi, BJP spokesman Sunil Shastri, while condemning ''any kind of killing,'' said, ''We hope the Haryana Government goes into the depth of the matter.'' In Chandigarh, BJP legislature party leader Krishan Pal Gujjar criticised the Haryana government for heaping the blame on the RSS and VHP.

''They have this fickle mentality of shifting the blame on the VHP for all such activities,'' he said.

But the CPI and CPI-M state secretaries, who returned to New Delhi from Jhajjar after a fact-finding trip, said that VHP activists not only incited the mob to kill the five Dalits but also took out a procession to ''celebrate'' the gruesome incident.

Raghuvir Singh (CPI) and Inderjit Singh (CPI-M) said that the police were putting out ''a dubious and false version'' of the killings. ''They are yet to identify the person who sold the dead cow or find the instrument that could have been used for skinning the cow,'' they said.

''The involvement of VHP is further corroborated by the congratulatory procession organised the following day in Jhajjar in defence of the killings and the demand that no arrest be made,'' they said.

Source: Indian Express, October 19, 2002

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