On April 1 2017, dairy farmer Pehlu Khan was dragged out of the truck in which he was transporting cattle bought from a fair and assaulted by a mob of cow vigilantes on the Jaipur-Delhi highway. The 55-year-old died in hospital. Two years on, the men seen yanking Pehlu Khan by the neck, throwing him to the ground and kicking him repeatedly, have been acquitted by a court in Rajasthan on the benefit of doubt. All six accused were caught on cellphone camera but a trial court in Alwar said the video was not clear enough to establish their presence. Moments after the judge's "not guilty" ruling, slogans of "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" erupted from supporters of the accused waiting outside the courtroom.
Almost two years after Pehlu Khan was lynched by a mob of cow vigilantes, the Alwar sessions court on Wednesday acquitted all six accused in the case, giving them the benefit of the doubt.
The judgement was announced in the court of Alwar additional district and session judge number-1, Dr Sarita Swami.
The hearing of the case ended on August 7 and nine people were held accused in the case which also included three minors who were out on bail.
The family of the victim produced 44 witnesses.
Khan’s advocate Kasim Khan said the case has not been investigated properly and that the police produced a charge sheet under political pressure. “We shall study the judgement and will chalk out our strategy,” he said.
Pehlu Kahn (55) was a resident of Nuh (Haryana). On April 1, 2017, he was thrashed by a mob when he was transporting cattle in a pickup van on suspicion of smuggling cows from Rajasthan to Haryana, which led to his death on April 3, 2017, in a government hospital.
The incident was recorded on camera too. It showed Pehlu Khan being beaten by an aggressive crowd.
The court was apparently not satisfied with the video evidence.
In 2017, the Rajasthan police had given a clean chit to the six people named by Pehlu Khan in his dying statement.
The remaining three accused are minors and are being tried in a juvenile court.
The man who recorded the video of the savage attack on his mobile phone did not testify in court and a second man who made a video turned hostile.
Two FIRs had been filed in the case, the first against the attackers and the other charging Pehlu Khan and his sons with transporting cattle from Rajasthan to another state reportedly without requisite permissions. Pehlu Khan had bought the cattle from a fair in Jaipur and was returning to his village in Haryana.
Of the nine people accused of his murder, three were underage. They have been out on bail.
In 2017, the Rajasthan police had given a clean chit to six people named by Pehlu Khan in his statement before dying, saying they were not at the spot of the attack but a few km from it.
Among those who have been freed of charges is 19-year-old Vipin Yadav, who, in an NDTV sting, had boasted about how he had led the mob in beating Pehlu Khan.
The high court rejected the Rajasthan police request that his bail is cancelled. Pehlu Khan’s lawyer’s request to submit a sting video as evidence was also denied by the trial court.
Pehlu Khan’s lynching came to symbolize the lowest point in a system that allowed mobs to kill in the name of protecting cows and get away with it, either because of political links or shoddy investigation.
A senior Rajasthan government official said that the state government will appeal against Wednesday’s order.
Former Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria, who oversaw the case when the BJP was in power in the state, said: “The Congress politicized the issue. Those who took the law in their hands, we drafted a case against them. The court today acquitted all of them. We accept the verdict.” The Congress came to power in Rajasthan in the December state elections.
According to data, 110 such incidents have taken place since 2015, leading to the loss of 43 lives. (IANS)