CITIZENS AGAINST HATE
JUSTICE FOR PEHLU KHAN
In the last three years, India has seen an unprecedented rise in the instances of hate crimes against Muslims and Dalits in the name of cow protection and acts of violence by cow vigilante groups. On 6th September, 2017 the Supreme Court passed an order directing every state to appoint a Nodal Officer in each District to monitor cow vigilante violence and enact concrete steps to address the violence. This was observed by a three judge bench which includes the Chief Justice of India on a PIL filed by Tushar Gandhi on the rising incidents of violence perpetrated by cow vigilante groups, since the present government has come to power.
Citizens Against Hate, a collective of concerned citizens, said that these acts of violence are necessarily hate crimes against minorities which are polarizing the country and creating an environment of terror.
On 14th September Rajasthan State CID-CB investigation into Pehlu Khan’s case has concluded that the six men – three of whom belong to right wing organisations – named by Khan before he succumbed to his injuries on 3rd April in Alwar were not present when Pehlu Khan was attacked. The police has based its conclusion on statements of staff from a cow shelter and phone records of the accused. In spite of Pehlu Khan’s statement and his son Irshad Khan identifying these men, the police investigation agency said that these six men cannot be identified through video or photo evidence from the crime, and their phone records place them 4 kms from the scene of the crime.
Following Pehlu Khan’s lynching these six men were named in an FIR on multiple IPC counts along with others, though they were not arrested as police wanted to record their statements before arresting them, but all six absconded and did not register their statements. After yesterday’s decision the names of all six – Om Yadav, Hukum Yadav, Sudhir Yadav, Jagmal Yadav, Naveen Sharma and Rahul Saini – will be dropped from the FIR. Of the seven arrested from video evidence in Pehlu Khan’s murder, five are out on bail already as the charges against them are weak. The investigating officers have changed multiple times. In April the investigation was transferred from SHO Behror to DSP Behror. In May it transferred to Superintendent of Police, Kotputli. In July it was transferred to CID-CB.
Citizens Against Hate also took serious note of Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria’s defense of the Rajasthan State CID-CB’s clean chit, where he went on record saying that the investigation agency must have concluded this on the basis of evidence and witnesses. On prior occasions Home Minister Kataria has implicitly condoned the crime against Pehlu Khan, his family and others, holding the victims guilty of the crime. In April, the month Pehlu was brutally lynched in Alwar, Kataria went on record stating that both parties were to be blamed for the attack, he also falsely accused Pehlu Khan and others of transporting cattle without a permit and accused Khan of having 3 pending cases against him. Such irresponsible acts by elected state representatives who are supposed to uphold the states commitment to the Indian constitution should be condemned.
Citizens Against Hate underscored the importance of delivering justice and observing due process. A recent fact finding conducted by the group, in 24 incidents of lynching and vigilante violence, resulting in the murder of 34 persons and rape of 2 women, has shown a trend of police registering counter FIRs against the victims and their families based on complaints by cow vigilante groups, as in the Akhlaq’s and Pehlu Khan’s case whereas the lynching accused have walked out on bail, in spite of evidence, as in the case of Junaid’s lynching.
- It is imperative that Rajasthan state government and police not cower under pressure from right wing cow vigilante groups and treat the victim and his family as guilty. Investigation should be transparent and swift.
- The statement given by Pehlu Khan before his death naming the six accused, should be treated as a relevant piece of evidence, in the nature of a dying declaration by the police. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has held in a catena of judgments that after making the statements before the police if the deceased succumbs to his injuries, the statement can be treated as a dying declaration, and is admissible under section 32(1) of the Evidence Act, if the statement relates to the cause of his death. Whether reliance can be placed on the statement is a matter for the Courts to decide. Nonetheless, the statement given by Pehlu Khan is a prima facie evidence for the arrest of the six named accused and for framing charges against them as per the provisions of the law.
- The six named accused should be immediately arrested and their involvement in the crime should be re-investigated.
- The two FIRs registered against Pehlu Khan, his sons and others for cow smuggling in Behror Police Station, filed by cow vigilante groups, should be quashed.
- The family of Pehlu Khan should be given compensation by the State Government and provided police protection.