BEFORE CALLING the police to report cow slaughter at a Dalit family’s house a fortnight ago in Chikamagalur district of Karnataka, seven Bajrang Dal members had carried out a vigilante attack, according to a preliminary police probe. The incident took place at Kondur village of the district on July 10.
Additional Superintendent of Police (Chikamagalur) K Annappa Naik, who conducted the investigation, said: “Bajrang Dal activists in this region usually pass on information to police about illegal transportation of cattle to slaughterhouses. On July 10, they attacked a Dalit house before they informed the police. A rivalry between a Dalit youth, Dhanush, and a Bajrang Dal activist (named) Manjusree may have been a factor.”
Although there is no blanket ban on cow slaughter in Karnataka, they can be killed legally only with a fitness certificate — if they are old or diseased.
“Almost a year ago, we (Manjusree and he) had clashed in a bus, and, three months ago, he and his friends attacked me and my friend Sandeep,” Dhanush, 23, a driver by profession and one of the Dalit men who slaughtered the animal at friend Muthappa’s house on July 10, claimed outside Koppa DSP’s office in Chikamagalur.
Dhanush alleged that he had filed a case of atrocity against Manjusree and the others. “To avenge that, they plotted this attack on July 10 on the pretext of detecting a cow slaughter case.”
An official at Jayapura police station, which has jurisdiction over Kondur village, confirmed a long-standing feud between Dhanush and Sandeep on one side and youths with links to Bajrang Dal on the other, and said that cases and counter-cases have been filed by both groups in the past.
The police had registered a case of illegal cow slaughter against the Dalit family and arrested Dhanush, Muthappa and Sandeep. The following day, Muthappa’s mother Sunanda, in her counter-complaint, accused the cow vigilantes of raiding her house and attacking the men.
Rajesh, one of the seven Bajrang Dal youths named in the counter-FIR, denied attacking anyone. He said that a neighbour had informed Manjusree that Dhanush and a few other Dalits from the village were going to slaughter a stolen ox. “Manjusree relayed this information to police, and together with the police we raided the house and seized the head and legs of the animal. The remaining parts were buried,” Rajesh said.
He also said that the arrested trio “later alleged that we had attacked them”.
But sticking to her complaint, Sunanda told The Indian Express: “When they entered our house…I thought my son and the others would be murdered…. After some time the police came and arrested three people, including Muthappa.”
The Bajrang Dal activists had also claimed that the ox that was slaughtered was stolen. ASP Naik said the preliminary probe corroborates Dalit villagers’ claim that it was bought from a local, named Nagappa Gowda.
Santosh Arnur, a local BJP leader, meanwhile, claimed that Dhanush sold beef to workers at plantations in the region. But Balraj, one of the elder Dalit men present at the scene on July 10 and who claimed to have suffered a broken arm in the attack, said eating beef is part of Dalit culture and that people in the village normally buy beef from surrounding areas such as Hassan and Belur. “July 10 was the first time we slaughtered an ox (in village),” he said.