A year after the lynching of dairy farmer Pehlu Khan sent shock waves across the country, Saturday saw yet another lynching by cow vigilantes in the same district of Alwar in Rajasthan. Rakbar Khan was beaten to death by a mob as he and his friend were herding two cows and their calves on foot near Lalwandi village in the district’s Ramgarh tehsil.
The attack came days after the Supreme Court strongly condemned the lawlessness perpetuated by lynch mobs across India under the guise of cow protection and urged Parliament to make a special law to curb such attacks. What is clear from the Saturday episode is that the Rajasthan government has not heeded the court’s advice seriously.
The attack demonstrates that law and order have broken down in the state. According to media reports, the mob that killed Khan was carrying firearms and other weapons when they confronted him and his friend Aslam after their cattle strayed into a farm. Aslam’s statement indicated that the mob had no intention to involve the police and were out to kill from the very start.
What is more shocking is the response of the police. According to NDTV, the police took almost four hours to take a bleeding Khan to hospital. Along the way, the officers allegedly stopped for tea and instead decided to first arrange for a vehicle to take the seized cows to a cattle shelter.
When asked about the attack, Union Minister Arjun Meghwal mooted a conspiracy theory. He said that the number of lynchings would rise as the popularity of Narendra Modi grew, suggesting that these brutal crimes were being orchestrated to tarnish the image of the prime minister. Meanwhile, the local BJP MLA, Gyan Dev Ahuja, accused the police of assaulting and killing Khan to give Hindu villagers a bad name.
This has now become the predictable cycle every time a mob attack occurs against Muslims involved in the dairy business. While the victims are accused of cow smuggling, BJP leaders underplay the incident and even stand in support of mobs. Earlier this month, Union Minister Jayant Sinha was criticised by Opposition parties for garlanding eight men convicted for lynching a Muslim meat trader when they were released on bail.
As the Supreme Court noted, such lynchings undermine the very concept of rule of law on which democracies are founded. The court had specifically ordered state governments to increase patrolling in areas that have witnessed lynching incidents, a direction that has clearly fallen on deaf ears in Alwar.
It is important that all those who were involved in lynching Khan are brought before the law. Equally, the police officers who responded to attack in an inhuman manner and delayed medical help to the victim should also be punished. While Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has promised stringent action against cow vigilantes, unless the BJP reins in leaders who rationalise such attacks, India has little hope of ending mob violence.