PUCL Bulletin, January 2003

Lynching of Dalits at Jhajjar, Haryana

-- Two reports

(A) A Report by Academics
On hearing the reports of lynching of five dalits by a frenzied mob at police chowkie of Duleena near Jhajjar on Dussehra day, a group of University teachers, writers from Janvadi Lekhak Sangh and social activist visited Badshahpur on 20th November to meet the members of the bereaved families to share their grief. On hearing the details which emerged after talking to the members of the bereaved families and others present there, the group decided to visit the spot of the shocking incident to meet persons who could provide information on the ghastly event. The group visited the Duleena police chowkie, talked to the police officials, residents of some farm houses around, some press reporters, and other citizens present on the spot.

The group's assessment of the situation is as follows:

Flaws and weaknesses in the police version
The police version that these five dalits were killed by an uncontrollable mob of several thousand people from adjoining villages and the city on the suspicion of a cow having been slaughtered by them contains several flaws listed below:

  1. The police chowkie is situated in a deserted place at a distance of about 7 Kms. from Jhajjar and the possibility of a large crowd assembling spontaneously there is very low.

  2. The dalits were carrying animal hides in a tempo and it is unthinkable that they would skin a dead cow near the police chowkie at the time of sun set when they had to go a long distance to reach Karnal. It is unthinkable that they would stop for adding one raw skin to the tempo full of hides worth rupees 40000/- to be sold at Karnal. Treating and drying animal skin takes far more time than they had at their disposal.

  3. The police version that a dead cow was purchased at Farukh Nagar, which was skinned near the police chowkie is incredible as a dead cow could not be carried in a tempo already loaded with hides to its capacity.

  4. There was no mention in the police version of having recovered the instruments required for skinning from the dalits concerned.

  5. The police version of a crowd of several thousand persons was contradicted by some persons who were present on the spot. Their estimate of gathering varies from 50 at initial stage to a maximum of about 400 at the later stage around 10 P.M. when lynching took place.

  6. The group did not find any evidence of a large rampaging and uncontrollable mob having left any serious damage caused to the chowkie. So much so that a few flowerbeds in front of the small chowkie were intact and not a single flower plant was damaged. No door was broken, nor did walls carry any sign of damage caused by the mob. Only the iron grills of the windows of the room where dalits were detained were twisted a little which the group feels could have been done latter as the members of the families of the victim did not see any such thing when they had come to claim the dead bodies the very next day.

As per the version given by the members of the aggrieved families and several other persons, it is common practice of the police at Duleena chowkie to extort money from the licensed skin traders carrying hides passing by that road and they feel that police tortured them on not getting the amount of money demanded by them and as a consequence one of them was hit on a vital part and died. They suspect the police hand in spreading the rumour of a cow slaughter as a cover up. The poor dalits were quietly handed over to the infuriated crowd armed with irons bars, etc., which had gathered at the chowkie on hearing the rumour. This version cannot be dismissed off hand without a probe.

Even if the police version is correct, the conduct of the police is shocking beyond belief. They took no steps like lathi charge, using tear gas, or firing in the air to protect the dalits in their custody. The lynching took place when there were more than 100 police persons drawn from Jhajjar police lines and adjoining police stations alongwith DSP, SHO Sadar, Jhajjar and three executive magistrates - the City Magistrate, the BDO, and Naib Tehsildar. It is not an ordinary case of dereliction of duty but a total abdication of it, treating the life of detained dalits as dirt cheap. The police force and other officers present on the spot deserve stringent punishment.

A very disturbing aspect is the involvement of communal forces like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, etc., who have been continuously active in spreading the virus of communal hatred in the area. They often spread the false rumour of cow slaughter in order to inflame the sentiments of the people against Muslims of the adjoining area of Mewat. Even in this incident a rumour of cow slaughter was used to inflame the crowd. The crime was perpetrated by the frenzied mob armed with irons, rods, spears etc led by these communal forces who controlled the mob and directed their ire against the dalits. The intensity of the communal frenzy can be gauged by an attempt to erase the name of the SSP Jhajjar from the board at chowkie because the concerned officer happens to be a Muslim.

These communal forces had the audacity to take out a procession the next day in Jhajjar demanding that none should be arrested in the case.
This incident should be seen as a part of the larger design of the communal forces to inject hatred and irrationality in the minds of the common people against dalits, minorities, and other weaker sections in order to weaken the base of the democratic and secular values.

The group demands a high level CBI probe into the ghastly incident so that stringent punishment could be given to all the perpetrators of the crime. The group appeals to the public at large to realize the sinister implications of such incidents and come forward in active defence of dalits, minorities and women who are currently under attack from communal forces.

-- Prof. D. R. Chaudhry, Ex. Chairman, Haryana Public Service Commission; Prof. O.P. Grewal, Professor (Retd.) Deptt. of English, Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra and Vice President, Janvadi Lekhak Sangh; Prof. Suraj Bhan, Professor (Retd.) Deptt of Ancient History, Culture, and Archaeology, Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra

(B) Report by CPI (M), CPI, & AIDWA
(Village Duleena in Jhajjar, Haryana was the scene of a brutal killing of five Dalits between 9-10 in the evening who had taken shelter inside the police chowkie. A joint team of CPI (M), CPI, and AIDWA visited the area to find out the facts of the killing of Dayachand, Virender, Dataram, Raju, and Kailash. We given below excerpts from the report issued by the Committee - Chief Editor).
The investigating them consisted of Indrajit Singh (CPI(M) State Secretary), Raghbir Singh Chowdhary (CPI State Secretary), Vrindra Karat (CPI(M) Central Committee member and All India US of AIDWA), Dr. Harnam Singh (Ex. MLA CPI) Gagmati Sangwan (President Haryana DWA), and Balbir Dahia and Ram Chandra of CPI (M).

The facts of the case are that on October 15 one Kailash who deals in animal hides reached village Badshahpur of Gurgaon. He had come to pick up the hides of cows and buffalos from the license holder Devender. Some money for this consignment, as is the regular practice, had been paid in advance; the balance was to pay after the delivery of the consignment. Virender, brother of Devender, and his cousin Dayachand, who were professional skinners, hired a vehicle to transport the hides to Karnal. They loaded the hides and, along with the trader, set of for Karnal to deliver the consignment and to receive the balance. The driver of the vehicle was Tota Ram and Raju was the cleaner. They started at about 11 from the village. The vehicle stopped at Farukh Nagar. Here, another consignment was loaded in the vehicle. Duleena police chowkie was on the way.

The police says that the trader had purchased a dead cow at Farukh Nagar. After this they stopped, by chance, near the police chowkie and they skinned the cow on the main road. When some people of the nearby village saw this they got off from their vehicles and started beating these dalits saying that they had killed the cow. The crowd brought these injured people into the police Chowkie. By now it was about 5 or 5:30 in the evening. There were 5 or 6 police persons in the chowkie. In the meanwhile a rumour spread that a cow was killed. Now the crowd of people returning after witnessing Dussehra, some amongst whom were drunk, surrounded the police chowkie. They blocked the roads so that the police may not take the Dalits away from the police station. After this the people killed them by beating.

The police says that the crowd must have been 4-5 thousand strong. The sub-divisional Magistrate, Dy. SP, and about 60-70 police persons, who were rushed there after urgent wireless messages from the police chowkie were present on the spot. An investigation committee was formed after the murders consisting of police officers, including the officers who were present on the spot at the time of the murders.

The CPI (M) committee met a large number of people who had gathered at the residence of the victims. People belonging to all castes expressed their anger on the incidents and spoke about the victims appreciatively.

The contract for this work is given through a tender. Virender's brother Devender was awarded contract for one year for Rs. 35000/- for skinning the dead animals in 40 villages. The family members were very particular to show all the legal papers in this connection. They insisted that in view of such a contract there was no question for the victim to skin an animal outside the contract area. Duleena police chowkie is only one hour away from the area. The question of sitting down to skin the animal on the roadside does not arise.

Devender had the license of skinning the dead animals of the Gaushaalaa also. They had taken this contract on a very low rate because they felt that the money that Gaushaalaa saved will be a sort of their donation to it.
Their workers collect the dead animals. The bodies are placed on a piece of land allotted to them by the panchayat. After skinning the remains are buried on the land. The hides are cleaned with salts and are sold to the traders.

Budhram told the team that on the 16th early in the morning at 3:30 some police persons came and told them that Dayachand had had an accident. Similarly the family of Devender was also told that he had been admitted of the Civil hospital in Jhajjar. The families of the victims were provided no facility to reach the hospital. When they reached there somehow they had to take rounds of police chowkie, Thaanaa, and the hospital. Ultimately they were sent to the mortuary. Here also they were not provided with any facility to carry the brutally cut bodies. Jogender told the team that they were treated as the accused not as the families of the victims. They were handed over the naked bodies. "We are poor Dalits, therefore it was not considered necessary to cover the body of my brother with some old sheet."

There was widespread resentment that these "Dalits" were "used" for doing the "dirty work". One angry young man said, "if their animals are so dear to them, they should pick their bodies themselves and perform their last rights." Another person said, "we know this is the handiwork of VHP of Bajrangdal. Why doesn't the police arrest the people who had taken out a procession".

The team met the Superintendent of Police Jhajjar, Md. Aqeel. Because of the obstructions placed on the roads, he had not been able to reach the police chowkie at the time of the incident. His conjecture was that the Dalits "had been mistaken as Muslims" and that is the reason they were attacked. Actually, most of the police persons with whom the team talked were of this view.
Anyhow, they conceded that there had been no enquiry about the current information that a dead cow was purchased at Farukh Nagar.

The police had remained busy in finding out the facts from the Dalits and in convincing the people rounded up and brought to the police station, about the truthfulness of the version of Dalits. He also said that there was no prejudice against the Dalits at the Police Chowkie so much so that ASI Dharmendra was the first person to say that the Dalits had not committed any crime as they were only skinning a dead cow. But he had no answer to the question as to after being brought to the chowkie why the injured Dalits were not taken to the hospital.

He also said that the Dalits were beaten up by the villagers and it were the villagers who had brought them afterwards to the police chowkie. He said that he had received the information at about 7 in the evening when he was at the residence of Mahendra Singh, DC.

Ever since both of them were keeping an eye on the developments and it was he who had asked the SDM and other police officers to reach Duleena police chowkie.

Md. Aqeel said that sometimes after this he had received a phone from a leader of the VHP saying that "some cow killers" were caught and the police should not let them go.

The SP did not think that it was some sort of threat. Some "Shankaracharya" from Delhi had also sent a message but because of being occupied occupation with the deteriorating conditions he could not respond to that. When asked as to why fire arms were not used on the crowd in order to save the dalits he said that the crowd out numbered the police persons and firing could have worsened the situation.

He showed his concern on the demonstration held the next day in support of this dire event. When asked what were the instructions to them from the government, his answerer was "to maintain peace"; when asked what it meant, he said it meant not to make any arrests; he indicated that for the present his priority was to bring down the tension. Arrests will be made after proper investigations.

The team visited the Duleena police chowkie also. The chowkie consists of two brick rooms in an open area. There were two large bloodstains on the road running by the side of the building. This was the blood of the victims killed brutally at this spot. SHO Rajindra Singh, some constables and the proprietor of the petrol pump in the area, president of the Bar Association, and Naseeb Singh were also present at the Chowkie when the team went there. In the meanwhile Dy. SP Narendra Singh also reached the chowkie. All of them repeated the story that the SP had related. They also told the team that they had told the increasing crowd again and again, "these people (who were being attacked) were not Muslims but were Hindus".

This was emphasized many a time. The team was compelled to ask if it meant that "if Muslims were involved, the aggressive attitude of the crowd would have been justified?" There was no answer to this question. Asked if any of the person responsible for the crime were identified, the SHO replied "it was very dark". When asked that at least the police could have identified the people who had earlier beaten up the dalits and whether they had filed any FIR against them. The reply was in the negative. Asked that it was not a case of kill and run and that the crowd had stayed put for hours, how was it possible that no one was identified? There was no reply. Naseeb Singh interjected, "I was also here. I tell you that it was very difficult to control the crowd. The police was also attacked." It appeared that police had witnesses to support its version but there was no one to speak on behalf of the victims.

It is interesting to note that the SHO and the other people present there made caustic remarks about the Gau Rakshaa manch. They said that there are at least 2000 cows in this area. Who have been left uncared for. They roam about like vagabonds "munching polythene bags... Why don't the people shouting about Gau Rakshaa come forward to look after them?"

The team also saw the marks on the walls made by the stones thrown by the crowd. Iron grills on the windows were also damaged. All told, the team felt that if the crowd has been as large as it was been described and had it been aggressive, the police chowkie would have been damaged much more. The Dy. SP who has been decorated recently gave exaggerated descriptions of the crowd. He said that if the police had fired all the people would have been killed by the retaliation of the crowd. They also showed injuries to 8 police persons. But the team could not see an injury marks on their bodies.

Tentative Conclusions

1. The role of the police and its version is doubtful cases of demands of bribes by the police peoples from those engaged in skinning the animals had come to light before also. Such extortions were done in the garb of the laws against cow slaughter in the state. Actually the family members of the victims made this charge on the basis of their experience and they said that the victims were mercilessly beaten by the police persons in the chowkie because they had not agreed to pay the desired bribe.

2. There are many questions relating to the alleged incident of skinning the cow which ignited violence to which no one has any answers. The police version is that the hides trader Kailash had purchased a dead cow at Farukh Nagar and the cow was been skinned in the open by the road side. This looks utterly impossible. The hides trader would have being interested to deliver the hides purchased for 40 thousand rupees and his cousin who skin animals would have been interested in taking the balance amount and to reach home early. All of a sudden during all this, purchasing a dead cow for Rs. 2000/- and sitting down to skin it by the roadside and that too in front of the police chowkie sounds incongruous. The police has not yet been able to name the person who had allegedly sold the dead cow to Kailash.

3. It is possible that the truck laden with animal hides attracted the attention of the passers by. VHP and allied groups were openly involved in spreading the rumours that Muslims have killed a cow and are skinning it. It is to be kept in mind that a Gau Rakshaa movement of the type that notorious Dara Singh and his compatriots were organising in Orissa was going on here also - blatantly communal, targetting the Muslims. Inciting the people for violence and collecting its activist at the police chowkie was also done by the VHP. The members of the VHP had also tried to erase the name of the Muslim officer from the board outside the police chowkie. They had phoned the police chowkie as mentioned earlier and there was also a call from Delhi calling himself "Shankaracharya" giving the same type of warning. The procession that was taken out the next day was also clearly done by the VHP. This procession had justified the killing and had demanded that none should be arrested.

4. There should be further investigation into the claims of the estimate of numbers of the crowd gathered round the police chowkie. It is not impossible to imagine that the police is exaggerating the size of the crowd in order to explain away its lack of action. The police chowkie is very small and all round it there is open area. Therefore, faced with a large crowd a small police force could not have defended it. Otherwise also the police has not been able to explain as to why it let the crowd gather for 4 hours and permitted the tension to increase and did not carry the dalits away before the matter got out of hand.

5. The point that worries and baffles most is that the State Government has not shown any signs of actions Before the visit of this team no minister had paid a visit to the place of the tragedy. Also no compensation had been announced for the families of those who were brutally killed.

6. It is amply clear that under instructions from the government the police has devoted all its attention to pacify the situation, not to take any action against those who were responsible for the tragedy as this could have created a law and order problem. Thus a new code is being created; but maintaining law and order does not mean that those accused of the barbaric killings should not be arrested and the authority should surrender before the communal forces.

7. We are of the opinion that the law of the country has been set assided. In spite of sufficient evidence, those responsible for the crime have not been arrested. One reason is that the government and the administration is soft towards the communalists. The other one is that the police itself is a guilty party.

Afterword: The one member Commission of enquiry set up by the Haryana Government comprising the Rohtak Divisional Commissioner R.R. Banswal submitted its report and the government accepted it on 8th December. It indicted six police persons, the executive magistrate, DEP Narendra Singh, SHO Rajendar Singh, Incharge Duleena police post Dharambir, BDPO SP Singh, Naib Tehsildar Shyam Lal and two ASIs - Chief Editor.

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