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What happened on the evening of 15 October 2002?

What happened on the evening of 15 October 2002?

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(An excerpt from ‘Dalit Lynching at Dulina: Cow – Protection, Caste and Communalism’, a report on the lynching of Dalits in Jhajjar, Haryana, published by People’s Union for Democratic Rights in February 2003)

The accounts of the incident narrated by the family and the police varied from each other on significant points.

According to the families of the victims, the 5 men left Badshahpur village at 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 15 October 2002 by a hired Tata 407 truck. On board were – the driver Totaram, of Aklimpur village (belonging to the Julaha caste); Raju, the ‘helper’, of Tikli village (Balmiki); Kailash from Karnal (Balmiki); in addition to Dayachand and Virender of Badshahpur village (Jatavs who had the official contract to skin cattle in this area). Kailash, the leather trader from Karnal had come to Badshahpur to purchase raw hides from Virender and Dayachand. The 5 men were transporting the hides to Karnal to be sold the next day in the ‘mandi’ held there every Wednesday.

According to the DSP Jhajjar Narender Singh the victims were transporting 238 hides to Karnal. They apparently reached the Dulina police post on Gurgaon-Jhajjar road at about 6 p.m. They stopped at a deserted spot near it to skin a dead cow, as they would be able to sell the hide for Rs. 1500 at the mandi. About 15-20 people were returning from Dussehra celebrations in Jhajjar town by jeep, along the same road. They saw the men skinning the cow and assumed that they had first killed it. They started abusing the 5 men and then took them to the nearby Dulina police post. They put pressure on the police officer in-charge, SHO Hoshiar Singh to book them under the Act against cow slaughter. An FIR was filed against the victims accusing them of gaukashi (cow-slaughter). The FIR was registered on behalf of the police as the accusers allegedly refused to put their names to the complaint.

The families of the victims find it strange that they were supposed to have been skinning a cow late in the evening for there are strict conventions forbidding them from skinning after sundown and it was very close to that hour of the day when the group returning from Jhajjar allegedly found them. They would have also been in a hurry as they were supposed to reach the Karnal hide mandi, a considerable distance away.

According to the DSP the victims denied the accusation of cow-slaughter. They claimed to have bought the cow for Rs. 200 from one Fakir Chand of Farukhnagar (Gurgaon) having heard that he had reported a dead cow on his premises. The 5 men loaded it on their truck with the hides as they were on their way.

However the families of the victims are certain that Virender and Dayachand would hardly have picked up a dead cow from Farukhnagar – it did not fall in the zone officially allocated to them in their contract to skin cattle.

The police claim that in order to investigate whether the cow had been alive or dead when purchased by the victim, they sent one policeman and 4 of the complainants to Farukhnagar to verify the victims’ story. They were accompanied by Totaram, the driver of the truck. At Farukhnagar they were informed that the cow was already dead when the 5 men took it.

Meanwhile at Dulina the rumours of ‘cow slaughter by Muslims’ had been building up. People returning from the Dussehra celebrations in Jhajjar started collecting at the police post in large numbers. According to the DSP, when the group that had gone to Farukhnagar returned to Dulina at about 7.45 p.m., the SHO Hoshiar Singh informed the crowd that the victims were not Muslims and nor had they slaughtered a cow. However, as per the police version, the angry crowd refused to believe the police and the victims’ claims. The DSP stated that those of the complainants who had gone to Farukhnagar did not state their findings to the crowd. They mingled back with the crowd upon their return to Dulina.

However, the families of the victims understand the presence of the 5 men at the Dulina police post, and subsequently that of the crowd differently. They stated that the Dulina police routinely extorted bribes from all tempos and trucks carrying skins and hides along this route, even when they were regularly accompanied by those who had official licences to skin cattle. The last time Kailash had passed the Dulina police post in September, he had had to pay a bribe of Rs. 5000/-, even though he was accompanied by the official licence holders Virender and Dayachand. The families think it likely that this time the police demanded a larger sum and were refused. Thereupon the victims were probably beaten and tortured and it is possible that one among them died in the course of torture. Then in order to create an alibi the police, by telephone or otherwise, spread the rumour of 5 men having been caught skinning a live cow. They also think that the police contacted the Jhajjar Gurukul. As the news spread people from the neighbouring villages, the Gurukul and those on their way home from the Dussehra celebrations began to collect at Dulina police post.

According to the DSP, he was summoned and reached the spot at around 8.45 p.m. By that time the policemen, according to the DSP, were outnumbered by “1 to 100” and the mob was demanding that the 5 men be immediately handed over to them. The DSP however refused to commit himself as to where the 5 men (who were in the custody of the police) were actually kept all this while. The City Magistrate, the BDO and the tehsildar also reached the Dulina police post. The DSP ordered a lathi-charge to disperse the mob but it was too large and violent for the handful of policemen present. Even when reinforcements arrived the police were still vastly outnumbered as the crowd kept growing, “easily approximating 2000 while the police numbered about 15 to 20.” As per the DSP the police were rendered helpless as the crowd snatched away the police weapons.

The police stated that the uncontrollable mob then attacked the Dulina police post, surrounded the 5 men and beat them to death on the main road, even as officials looked on ‘helplessly’. The mob also set the tempo loaded with skins on fire.

[Courtesy: PUDR, February 26, 2003]