Continuing lynching of cattle traders cause for serious concern
When will the law take action against vigilantes operating with impunity
People’s Union for Democratic Rights condemns the killing of Idris Pasha on Friday, 31st March 2023. News reports and social media posts by credible sources testify to the horrifying incident in Sathanur in the Ramanagara district of Karnataka, when self-proclaimed “cow vigilantes” led by Puneeth Kerehalli, attacked Idris Pasha, a Muslim cattle trader, in his truck on that day. Kerehalli, a self-styled Hindutva leader and his men are said to have demanded a fine from Pasha for allegedly ‘smuggling’ cattle for slaughter. When Pasha refused to pay, saying he had legitimate documents for transportation, he was lynched to death. His body was found on a roadside in Sathanur, about 150 km from Bangalore.
There were two witnesses to the mob lynching, Pasha’s driver, Syed Zaheer and Irfan, a helper. Zaheer said five men stopped the truck at Santemala Circle and assaulted all three occupants. When Pasha showed his papers, the trio was allegedly told to “go to Pakistan” and reportedly asked for a ‘fine’ of rupees two lakhs.
Three FIRs have been lodged: one by Pasha’s relatives, one by Zaheer and a third one by Kerehalli against Zaheer and others under the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Prevention Act. Kerehalli and his associates have been booked in the first two FIRs, and Zaheer and others have been booked under the third. No arrests have been made so far.
Puneeth Kerehalli, according to his Facebook profile, runs a right-wing organisation called Rashtra Rakshana Pade (National Protection Army) and has been accused in multiple cases of hate incidents. He has been at the forefront of demanding a ban on halal meat and evicting Muslim traders from Hindu fairs.
Reports suggest that Puneeth Kerehalli and his lynch mob have been allowed a free run against Muslims by officials and political patrons. It is also known that Karehalli and his supporters have grown under the incendiary speeches that Hindu organisers and leaders have routinely made.
It bears remembering that shortly after the communal clashes following the recent provocative Ram Navami processions in Bihar and West Bengal, the Home Minister sought updates from the governors of the respective states. He has made his ‘worry’ known about the prevailing law and order situation in both states. But, so far, the Ministry has not sought an update on the escalating communal attacks by right-wing goons.
That vigilante groups operate with impunity, and perhaps tacit support of law enforcing authorities is cause for great concern. For instance, in this case, despite carrying legitimate papers, the police has chosen to lodge an FIR on the complaint made by Kerehalli against the deceased Pasha, Zaheer and Irfan. It suggests an ease with which cow vigilantes invoke laws against their victims.
A few weeks ago, on 16 February 2023, two men, Junaid and Nasir, were set ablaze in their car after being attacked and abducted by a cow vigilante mob led by Mohit Yadav, alias Monu Manesar. Again, the murderous attack happened after the deceased were accused of smuggling. The charred bodies of the victims were found in Loharu in Bhiwani district, Haryana. So far none of the eight accused have been arrested. Instead, there is heavy police surveillance in Ghatmeeka village, where the deceased resided.
The criminal justice system must protect all law-abiding citizens and deal with lawbreakers impartially and as per the processes, which in no circumstances allow for punitive violence.
- Immediate arrest of Puneeth Kerehalli and his associates for brazenly carrying out the murder of Idris Pasha and for destroying the livelihood of his family.
- Strict action to ensure the immediate end to the criminal activities of vigilante groups.
- Compensation for the killing of Idris Pasha and the trauma visited on the other occupants of the truck.
- Withdrawal of FIR against Zaheer, Irfan and deceased Pasha under Cow Protection Act.
Joseph Mathai and Paramjeet Singh