Sunday, August 24, 2003

Want a Cow Bill? Go tell it to this child

Dalits were beaten, set ablaze on false charges of cow slaughter. All 32 accused are out on bail

NIRMALA GANAPATHY

JHAJJAR, HARYANA, AUG 23: This week they passionately debated the rights of the cow in Parliament. Less than two hours away, in Dulina village, where five Dalits were beaten to death and set ablaze on the false charge of killing a cow, all the 32 men accused are out on bail. Some of them bragged to The Sunday Express that they wouldn't mind doing it again.

As for the families of those killed, the compensation is of little comfort. Each family got Rs 5 lakh from the Haryana government, Rs 1 lakh from Sonia Gandhi, Rs 3 lakh from the Uttar Pradesh government. But ask Ramvati, mother of Virender, one of those killed. ''I want my son back,'' she says, ''I am ready to give the money back, just give me justice.'' Next month, the court is expected to frame charges but for Ramvati, it's not going to be easy.

On October 15 last year, her son Virender; their friends Kailash, Dayachand, Tota Ram and Raju were on their way to Karnal carrying hides and the carcass of a cow in a truck. They stopped in front of the police station in Dulina where they met some villagers coming back from a Dussehra fair.

Soon word spread that a cow had been ''slaughtered and was being skinned.'' A mob gathered and right under the nose of the police watching, the five men were beaten to death and then set on fire.

The police, instead of acting against the lynching, registered a case against the victims under the Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act! And even sent the cow carcass for a post mortem. Once the results came in that the cow had been dead 24 hrs before the lynching, the case was withdrawn and two cases of murder and attempted murder were registered against 32 villagers.

Surprisingly, although the incident took place with police watching, the initial FIR, filed by Rajinder Singh, the SHO at Jhajjar police station, did not name anybody. Over the next month, 32 residents were identified and their names filed. One of them was Rajbir Kumar, sarpanch of neighbouring Sura village. When The Sunday Express met him, he said he was willing to ''give money'' for the Cow Bill. Although he denied being involved in the lynching, he said: ''If somebody does this to a cow we will do the same thing.'' Five from his family are co-accused.

All of them were out on bail by January despite being booked under stringent sections: murder, rioting with deadly weapon, mischief by fire and explosive substances (435) and under the SCs and STs Act. District Attorney S K Chopra said the court granted bail because none of the 32 figure in the initial FIR. ''There were no specifics like who hit who. We have 43 witnesses, the case is based on cirumstantial evidence,'' he said. That's why there is no case, says A P Kadyan, defence counsel.

The delay in the case occurred, both sides said, after the judge hearing the case took voluntary retirement and the case got transferred to the court of SDM Inderjeet Mehta.

Meanwhile, Buddhu Ram, relative of victim Dayachand, said, ''We don't go to the court, nobody listens to us and we are scared of going there.'' The families want the case to be transferred to another court.

The accused walk free. ''They killed the cow while it was roaming around,'' said Sri Bhagwan, another accused. Both the victims' families and the accused blame police: one side for not saving lives, the other for not saving an imaginary cow. This was never part of the debate on the Cow Bill.

Source: The Indian Express, August 24, 2003

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