Days after a mob took law into their own hands and stripped one man and roughed up three people who were allegedly ferrying bullocks in a truck in Pratapgarh district of south Rajasthan, the district police gave in to their demands late Monday night and transferred the station house officer (SHO) who had arrested five of the ‘vigilantes’.
SHO Kailash Chand of Chhoti Sadri police station of the district was transferred past midnight after nearly 400 people, led by Gau Raksha (cow protection) Dal national president Kamal Didi, blocked National Highway 113 in Pratapgarh for nearly eight hours on Monday, demanding release of five of their men arrested and the SHO’s transfer.
Inspector Kailash Chand, now Awaiting Posting Order (APO), said the police had created a makeshift route to make way for vehicles but traffic remained affected until 12.20 am Tuesday, when “they finally called off the strike”.
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Stressing that the NH-113 stretch was blocked since 4.30 pm Monday, Pratapgarh Superintendent of Police (SP) Kalu Ram Rawat said Chand was transferred to carry on the talks since the protesters “didn’t get along” with him.
“As for the five (vigilantes) in jail, it is a matter for the courts, and we told them (Gau Raksha Dal) that we can’t do anything about it. There is a legal recourse, and they may take that route.” He added that the alleged smugglers are “already in jail”.
Monday’s impasse had its roots in an incident of May 31, when Dholapani police in the district intercepted a truck carrying 44 buffaloes and took four people in it — Azad, Jabir, Farooq and Shaukat — in for questioning. According to police, the four “confessed” that the buffaloes were being taken to Gujarat for slaughter and informed about another truck on its way.
Bajrang Dal members and the police set up a watch near Chhoti Sadri police station, to the north of Dholapani. Seeing a mob, the truck driver reportedly tried to speed off but the vehicle was eventually caught. According to the FIR, one person on the vehicle fled while three others were beaten up by the Bajrang Dal members, with at least one of the three stripped.
Led by SHO Kailash Chand, the police had to “rescue” the trio from the vigilantes.
“They (the mob) protested when we tried to take the three persons into custody,” the SHO said, adding that stones were thrown, and one policeman was injured as a result. “They also tried to set the truck on fire after the buffaloes were brought down.”
Subsequently, while FIRs were registered at both police stations against the alleged smugglers, another FIR was registered at Chhoti Sadri against nine people named and 100-150 anonymous people involved in roughing up Mukhtiyar, Nabinur and Ajju, who were on the second truck.
The five vigilantes were thereafter arrested and locked up. The Gau Raksha Dal was demanding their release, and seeking withdrawal of the FIR. Their other demands were removal of SHO Chand and strict action against “cattle smugglers.”
Earlier in the day, Gau Raksha Dal chief Kamal Didi had taken part in a sit-in protest at Chhoti Sadri police station, and a general strike had been called which saw the markets closed. Led by ADSP Ratan Singh, the police held talks with Kamal, but a stalemate meant Kamal led a protest on NH-113 in the evening.