The Gujarat CID (Crime), probing the July 11 flogging of a Dalit family by gau rakshaks for skinning a dead cow, has established on the basis of an eyewitness account that the cow was killed by a lion, and that it was not a case of cow slaughter as was claimed by gau rakshaks.
But investigators are still not clear who informed the gau rakshaks about the cow being skinned by Vasarambhai Balubhai Sarvaiya outside Mota Samadhiyala village in Una taluka.
An entry made at 1.30 pm on July 11 in the Una police station records is attributed to “state control room, Ahmedabad” (the state control room is in Gandhinagar), saying one Naranbhai tipped off an alleged cow slaughter incident in Mota Samadhiyala. But according to the FIR, the attack by gau rakshaks took place at 10 am.
Vasaram’s father Balu Sarvaiya told The Indian Express that he got a call around 8 am from Najabhai Ahir of Bediya village — it is 5 km from Mota Samadhiyala — who said a lion had killed his cow and he needed someone to dispose the carcass.
Balu said he sent Vasaram and others to collect the carcass. On their return, Vasaram, his brother Ramesh, cousin Ashok and relative Becharbhai began skinning the dead cow at a place around 2 km from their village. Balu said it was then that a white vehicle passed by. A few minutes later, the white vehicle returned, with another vehicle and 30-35 men on motorcycles.
Balu said the men, who were carrying sticks, asked them why was the cow being killed. “They abused and started beating them (Vasaram and the others). Someone called me, and I rushed with my wife Kunwar to the spot, only to be beaten up. They refused to listen to us,” he said, adding that the men also took away their phones.
On Monday, the CID (Crime), which took over the case on July 20, sought fresh custody of the first five accused held on July 12.
The remand application before a magisterial court in Una states that investigators want to find out who recorded the video (of the flogging) and circulated it on social media, and “whose orders were they following”.
The Gir Somnath police, who were investigating the case earlier, had also sought remand of the accused to trace the phones that were allegedly snatched by the gau rakshaks, and to track down the other vehicle, motorcycles used during the attack. The police also wanted to identify others who joined the attack.
Keshavji Saradava, Deputy Superintendent of Police, CID (Crime), who is investigating the case, said it was being probed from all angles. He said on the basis of an eyewitness account, it was established that Ahir’s cow was killed by a lion.
“We are probing the policemen on duty and the role of the accused. While police papers of the investigation do not mention any post-mortem examination of the cow, they do record that samples have been taken for forensic examination. We are also investigating what happened to an input from the state police control room about beef being transported in Una,” Saradava told The Indian Express.
The role of the policemen at Una has been found to be flawed though no criminal proceedings have been initiated against them so far. An internal inquiry by DSP Ketan Patel indicated dereliction of duty, especially in dealing with a case involving Dalits. Four policemen were suspended on July 18 and a departmental inquiry ordered.
Police sources said the state control room message was conveyed to Kanchan Parmar, Assistant Sub-Inspector in charge of the Sanakhada outpost which has jurisdiction over Mota Samadhiyala. She is the officer who is said to have met the gau rakshaks when they brought the Sarvaiya men to the police station. She was “suspended for being ignorant about the goings-on in the area” under her charge and for letting the gau rakshaks take the Sarvaiyas to the police station on their own.
Before abandoning the Sarvaiyas, the gau rakshaks told police station officer (PSO) Kanjibhai Chudasama that they would return to file a complaint about cow slaughter. According to Balu, some 1.5 km from the Una police station, the gau rakshaks stripped and tied the four men to their vehicle and began to beat them up while some of them made videotapes.
When police reached the site where the carcass was kept, they found Balu unconscious and called an ambulance to take him to a clinic.
Chudasama, police sources said, was suspended for “allowing the gau rakshaks to go, after they abandoned the Dalit men outside the Una police station”. A video grab also shows the four men asking for mercy outside the police station.
Hardevsinh Parmar, head constable of D staff which is responsible for intelligence gathering, was suspended for his failure to report the goings-on. The fourth officer placed under suspension was Una police station Inspector N U Jhala.
Sixteen people, including a Muslim, have so far been arrested. All are currently in judicial custody.