Activists and journalists slam state patronage to brutal gangs of cow vigilantes and flay secular parties for not raising the issue effectively
Mumtaz Alam | Caravan Daily
NEW DELHI — Families of victims of the recent attacks and lynchings by the so-called gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes) spoke to the national press here on Monday and sought their help for justice. In solidarity, some senior journalists and community leaders shared stage with the families of victims and asked the society and secular parties to take notice of the gravity of the situation.
Family members of 16-year old Hafiz Junaid Khan (who was murdered by cow vigilantes on a train in Haryana), Umar Khan (who was shot dead in Alwar) and Tahir Khan (who survived bullet injuries in the Alwar attack) addressed the press conference organised by the ‘United Against Hate’ group at the Press Club of India.
Ilyas Khan, uncle of Umar Khan, narrated the harrowing details of the Alwar attack in which Umar was killed and his two comrades Tahir and Javed escaped with bullet injuries on November 10th. He criticised the Vasundhara Raje government of Rajasthan for cold-shouldering the victim’s family. Umar’s body lay in the morgue for four days but it didn’t announce any compensation for his family which includes 8 children, wife and elderly parents. Umar demanded justice and urged the press to help the victims.
Brother of Tahir who mange to escape the Alwar attack with bullet wounds and has since been in police custody said Umar and Tahir their driver Javed were not “cow smugglers.”
“Cow is our livelihood. In our village, everyone has at least one buffalo and two cows, some have even 100 cows. We are dairy farmers. They (Umar, Tahir and Javed) had gone to purchase cows because they are less expensive these days.”
He further said: “These attackers (cow vigilantes) work in collaboration with Police. They attack, throw stones, capture cows and send them to gaushala (cow shelter) and police lodge case against us for cow smuggling.”
“Both Tahir and Javed are in police custody. Two or three attackers have been arrested. We demand arrest of all the accused. We want justice,” he said.
‘No Compromise on Justice Till We Are Alive’
Hafiz Junaid Khan’s elder brother Qasim said: “Junaid was killed inside a train and in the presence of over 70 people. This is the biggest weakness of our society. If one is killed in an isolated place, family lives with the tragedy thinking that there was no one to help him. But here, there were so many people, but none came forward to save him.”
He remains however confident about eventually receiving justice: “We have faith in judiciary. We are hopeful we will get justice, Insha Allah.”
On the talk of restoring normal relations with the accused, Qasim said: “They ask us to restore brotherhood and harmony. What is the point of brotherhood when we had no fight with them? There always was and is brotherhood. All we want is justice for my brother. We appeal to all to help us get justice.”
He dismisses the rumours of arriving at a compromise with the accused: “They had offered money but my mother has clearly rejected compromise. She has said that as long as she is alive she will continue the fight for justice for her son. He was my brother. I will continue the fight till my last breath.”
Veteran journalists Urmilesh, Hartosh Singh Bal and Anil Chamadia, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind’s Secretary General Mohammad Salim Engineer and social activist and member of United Against Hate Banojyotsna Lahiri also spoke on the occasion.
‘All Attacks Planned’
In her opening remarks, Banojyotsna Lahiri said that attacks of cow terror are not spontaneous, rather planned. “When IT engineer Mohsin Shaikh was lynched by a mob in Pune soon after the BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi came to power at the centre, it was said that first wicket has fallen but it was not taken seriously by the civil society and now the chain has become so long.”
“If these attacks are organised, then our protest should also be organized and so here is United Against Hate. We are holding programmes in cities and colonies to counter hatred. Attack in the name of cow is nothing but cow terror,” she said.
Veteran journalist and author Urmilesh Singh said that such attacks took place before 2014 also but they had no state patronage.
“Why are such attacks recurring in Rajasthan? What direction is the central government giving to it,” he asked. He also blasted the meek response of the Opposition on such cow terror attacks.
“Opposition is scared to be identified with minorities and so it is not raising the issue boldly. They stand exposed naked today. They see everything from the angle of vote politics,” said Urmilesh, former Executive Director of Rajya Sabha TV.
He also expressed concern on the apathy of human rights movements.
“Not only minorities are under attack, Dalits are also under attack. Rajasthan is No. in cow attacks and Dalit attacks. However, human rights movements seem to have died.”
Addressing the general society he said: “If you think it is Junaid, Pahlu and Umar and so you need not to speak. You are in illusion. You will also be under attack soon. Then there will be no one to speak for you.”
‘Media Must Not Be Neutral’
Senior journalist Urmilesh came down heavily on the media for trying to be neutral in such cases.
“Media can’t be neutral, yes, it can be objective and factual. How can one be neutral between human and evil, between rapist and the raped, between murderer and the murdered. This is indeed cow terror. Why should we call them gau rakshaks? Media is exposed today by using such terms.”
Hartosh Singh Bal, Editor of Caravan magazine, said: “Terror in the name of cow is part of a long chain. Cow terrorists are aligned with police and administration, so it is part of a big conspiracy.”
Mohammad Salim Engineer, Secretary General of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, said: “It is not just the issue of Pahlu, Junaid or Umar. The chain can be linked to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The communal forces could not finish their agenda at the time of partition, so they have continued working on it in the form of riots, Babri Masjid demolition, Nellie massacre, Kandhamal killings of Christians, killing of Sikhs in 1984, then riots of 2002 in Gujarat and 2013 in Muzaffarnagar. Now a new series started after 2014. These forces have been working continuously. They have been spreading hatred.”
The Jamaat leader strongly criticised the so-called secular parties for not dealing with hate mongers with iron hand.
“Secular parties that ruled the country for 50 years could not crush hatred, rather nurtured them and now today they have become a big threat for the existence of these parties themselves,” he said and urged for unity in the society to save the country.
“Unity of society is a powerful weapon to tackle with the hatred. The communal forces, therefore, want to hit the unity. Attackers are emboldened because they believe they would not be punished, rather would be awarded. They are unleashing violence against one section today but they will do the same with others tomorrow. Today we are fighting to save Bharat — to save it from shackles of communalism and fascism,” said Salim Engineer.