For The Cow
05 August, 2004
On July 10, a young man was done to death
in full public view in a crowded weekly market of Barghat, in Seoni
district of Madhya Pradesh.The
incident went largely unnoticed, as it took place soon after the Bhomatola
gang rape. But the one aspect common to the murder of 32-year-old Abdul
Waaris Khan and the gang rape of the three Dalit women was that both
were carried out publicly. Had there been any intervention by either
the administration or the community, both the incidents could have been
prevented. It was also the fear of reprisal that seems to have dissuaded
bystanders from intervening in both the cases, though in the Barghat
incident the fear appears to be more palpable.
July 10 was the
day of the weekly market at Barghat. Waaris, a resident of Khari village,
had come to sell his bull. Waaris was also unaware of the presence of
the "flying squads" of the Shiv Sena, the Bajrang Dal and
the Sewa Bharati. The main aim of these squads is to prevent the sale
of cattle that they assume are being sold to slaughterhouses. As part
of their cattle protection and rescue activities, the squads often "persuade"
farmers and traders to part with their old and infirm animals, on the
plea that the animals would be settled in a gaushala (cattle home).
Barghat has a sizable
Muslim population. Soon after the Bharatiya Janata Party government
led by Uma Bharati assumed office, one of the first pieces of legislation
to be passed banned cow slaughter (this covers the entire bovine species).
Ever since the government passed the law early this year, "cow
rescue" activities have been on the rise. Barghat, a BJP stronghold,
is represented in the Assembly by Transport and Forest Minister Dhal
Singh Bhisen who has been winning from there since 1990. The Assembly
constituency is sharply polarised in the communal sense.
According to a report
compiled by a fact-finding team of the Jabalpur district committee of
the Communist Party of India (Marxist), at the market Abdul Waaris was
accosted by several persons who accused him of trying to sell his bull
to butchers. An argument ensued, after which the group, mainly comprising
eight persons, beat him to death with sticks. According to the post
mortem report, his spleen was ruptured in the beating.
The Seoni administration
was cautious about revealing the identity and political affiliations
of the persons involved in the murder. "The intention was not to
kill," said a senior police officer, almost defensively. The police
registered a case of murder against the eight persons. According to
the Superintendent of Police, D. Sreenivasa Rao, while four of them
have been arrested, four are absconding.
A senior official
in the administration confided that the dispute that led to the murder
was communally motivated. It was learnt that all the eight persons involved
were members of the Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and the Sewa Bharati. According
to the CPI(M) fact-finding team's report, the accused persons were often
spotted moving in a jeep with "Udan Dasta Sewa Bharati (Flying
Squad of the Sewa Bharati)" inscribed on the vehicle. On July 10
too, they arrived at the marketplace in a similar vehicle.
It appeared that
the administration was under great pressure over the Barghat episode.
Officials appeared to be reluctant to crack down on the groups whose
activities had the potential to fuel communal tensions. In fact, a senior
official in Jabalpur threw up his hands and said: "What can we
do? After all, are not these people supposed to bring about Ram Rajya?"
Waaris, who was
the sole earning member in his family, leaves his wife, a two-year-old
daughter, five unmarried sisters and old parents. It is significant
that members of the minority community acted with great restraint. According
to District Magistrate Faiz Kidwai members of the community did put
up a protest, which delayed the post mortem. But the accused were arrested
only because of the protest.