Hundreds of anguished and agitated people gathered in an open space in Ghatmika village in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district before Friday prayers. The men —mostly Meo Muslims— huddled around the two charred skeletal remains of Junaid and Nasir, while women and children witnessed the uneasy sight from atop boundary walls surrounding the ground.
Junaid and Nasir, both hailing from Ghatmika, were allegedly abducted, assaulted, and burnt along with their car. Their remains were discovered in Haryana's Bhiwani district on Thursday. A day before, families had filed an FIR in the Gopalgarh Police Station in Bharatpur.
As police personnel hovered around the masses, trying to keep the situation under control, a man sporting a turban and beard held a huge tricolor throughout the meeting addressed by the Minister of State and Congress MLA Zahida Khan, who represents Kama constituency in Bharatpur.
Thirty-one-year-old Mohammad Jabir, a relative of both Junaid and Nasir, screamed amidst the gathering that it was not the first time such an incident had happened.
He said, “This is not the first time that such an incident has happened. We witnessed the brutal killings of Pehlu Khan, Rakbar Khan, and Ummar Mohammad in the Mewat region earlier, and now we have lost two more people. Everyone in this village is scared as this is the third such incident after the killing of Umar Mohammad, who was thrashed by cow vigilantes and his body was dumped on railway tracks in Alwar.”
Pehlu Khan, Umar Mohammad, and Rakbar Khan were Meo Muslims who were allegedly killed by cow vigilantes in the Mewat region of Rajasthan between 2017 and 2018.
Alleged involvement of Bajrang Dal
Jabir held Monu Manesar, one of the five accused named in the FIR, as being responsible for the deaths of Junaid and Nasir.
He said, “Why are the police not arresting the accused? If Monu Manesar, a member of Bajrang Dal, is named in the FIR, why are the police not arresting him?”
Minister of State and Congress MLA Zahida Khan consoled the gathering, saying, “I am with the Meo community. I want to assure that stringent actions will be taken against the accused and no one will be spared.”
Junaid's relative Ismail said the family learnt from the police in Ferozpur Jhirka in Haryana’s Nuh district about the abduction. Later the charred remains were found in Bhiwani’s Loharu area.
“We want justice. My cousin Junaid and his friend were abducted and burnt alive. The guilty should be given stringent punishment,” said Ismail, a 62-year-old resident of Ghatmika.
What does the FIR say?
The FIR filed by the Rajasthan Police on the complaint of the deceased’s family states that the witnesses said the attackers were from the Bajrang Dal.
The FIR mentions: “When enquired about the attackers, witnesses said that they were from the Bajrang Dal and named Anil, Shrikant, Rinku Saini, Lokesh Singla, and Monu, resident of Manesar.”
All six accused named by the grieving families are from Haryana, confirmed Bharatpur Inspector General Gaurav Srivastava.
Rajasthan Police has said that Junaid has five previous cases of cow smuggling registered against him. However, his relatives have denied any cow angle.
“If there were cow smuggling cases against him, why didn't the police arrest him earlier? After this brutal killing, the police are attempting to spin the story,” said Jabir, a teacher by profession.
The Rajasthan Police has said that one of the accused mentioned in the FIR —Rinku Saini— has been arrested so far in the case.
Families mourn losses as hopelessness dooms upon them
Amidst hundreds of mourning women, Junaid's wife Sajida, a mother of six, cradled her daughter.
She told Outlook, “He was the only breadwinner in our family and would take care of us and his brother's family. All I can see is darkness. There is no hope.”
Around 300 metres away, one could witness a similar commotion at Nasir's house where another huge group of women circled his wailing life Farmeena who lay unconscious.
“Nasir was friends with Junaid and two were going to the house of a relative from their in-laws’ side at the time of the attack,” said Nasir’s sister-in-law Rasula to Outlook.
As per the family, Nasir and his two brothers earned their livelihood by driving a taxi.
Before the last rites were performed on Friday afternoon, a committee was formed for talks with the administration. The committee raised four demands — the arrest of the accused, the safety of the families, a government job for the families, and compensation of Rs 50 lakh to each family.
Ismail asked, “If the government can provide jobs and huge compensations to children and family members of Kanahiya, a tailor brutally murdered in Udaipur, why can't they do the same for these two families?”
Rajasthan minister Zahida Khan announced a compensation of Rs. 15 lahks to the two families from the Rajasthan government. Besides this, he said he will also give Rs 5 lakh to each family, and that the Pradhan of Pahadi has also offered to give Rs 50,000 to the two families.
Khan told Outlook, “This will be a total of Rs 20.5 lahks to each family. Besides this, children of the two deceased will be enrolled free in the residential schools.”
MoS & Congress MLA from Kama in Bharatpur Zahida Khan announces compensation of 20.5 lakh for the two families.— Tabeenah Anjum (@TabeenahAnjum) February 17, 2023
"Police will take a stringent action against all accused. No one will be spared", said Khan while addressing hundreds of people in Ghatmika, village
of Nisar & Junaid pic.twitter.com/n0svnv0L5U
Residing close to Nasir and Junaid's house, nothing has changed for the family of 42-year-old Umar Mohammad, a dairy farmer who was shot dead in November 2017 while transporting cows in a truck with his two companions. His body was later found on the railway tracks near Govindgarh in Alwar.
Five years on, Umar's wife, 41-year-old Khurshidan, along with her nine children and ailing parents-in-laws, live in a thatched house without doors. The family still awaits justice.
Khurshidan told Outlook, “After my husband died, my eldest son and I have taken to look after our family. It is not an easy task to take care of a 13-member family. I pray that someday those who lynched my husband are put behind the bars.”
Besides working as a MGNREGA labourer, Khurshidan spends her day taking care of her youngest child Ibran Mohammad, who was born two days before the body of his father reached home.
Rajasthan CM Gehlot directs police to take strict action
Condemning the two murders, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said on Friday that he has directed the police to take strict action in the case.
“One accused has been taken into custody. Search is on for the remaining accused. Rajasthan and Haryana Police are coordinating and I have directed the Rajasthan Police to take strict action,” said Gehlot in a tweet in Hindi.
भरतपुर के घाटमीका निवासी दो लोगों की हरियाणा में हत्या निंदनीय है। राजस्थान एवं हरियाणा पुलिस समन्वय बनाकर कार्रवाई कर रही हैं। एक आरोपी को हिरासत में लिया गया है एवं शेष आरोपियों की तलाश जारी है। राजस्थान पुलिस को सख्त कार्रवाई हेतु निर्देशित किया है।— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) February 17, 2023