THE lone eyewitness, whose testimony helped Gujarat CID (Crime) establish that the dead cow skinned by members of a Dalit family in Una was killed by a lion, has told The Indian Express that he watched lions feasting on the cow for around two hours on the night of July 10. On July 11, the Dalits were flogged by gau rakshaks who alleged that the cow had been slaughtered.
Dhimant Rathod, a 40-year-old farmer from Bediya village, said that he saw lions kill the cow of Naja Shyora Ahir, which Balu Sarvaiya and his family later carried away for disposal.
Shyora has told the police that his cow went missing on July 10. When contacted, forest officials confirmed the presence of lions in the area that falls within the Jasadhar range.
Rathod said: “At around 11:30 pm on July 10, I heard a noise outside my house. I rushed up to the terrace and found that a lioness with three cubs had killed a cow. I watched the lions eat the cow till 1.30 am and went to sleep. The next morning, I found the partially eaten carcass of the cow lying on the street in front of my home. I did not know that the cow belonged to Shyora.”
Rathod said that his family members — wife Meena and their four children — were asleep at the time. “The next morning, I asked my neighbour Dahya Kavad, who was going to the locality of Dalits, to inform them about the dead cow and help dispose of the carcass. Kavad informed Devshi Babariya, who in turn contacted Balu Sarvaiya, as the Dalits of our village were no longer disposing of carcasses,” he said.
However, Rathod said he did not have any photographs or videos of the kill by the lions. “I don’t keep a smartphone and lions are commonplace for residents of Bediya. We don’t shoot videos,” he said.
Inspector general of CID (crime), Shashikant Trivedi told The Indian Express: “Rathod told us that he saw a lioness killing Naja Shyora’s cow in front of his home in Bediya village on the night of July 10. While this is statement of an eyewitness, we have taken samples of remains of the cow for forensic analysis. We are also taking help of veterinarians for scientific evidence. Shyora had also informed Una police the following day that his cow had been missing. A non-cognisable offence was registered in that regard and that is also now a part of our overall investigation of the case on attack on Dalits.”
On Friday, the CID, which is investigating the alleged assault on the seven Dalits of Mota Samadhiyala by gau rakshaks, arrested two more accused Kiransinh Rathod (28) from Kanek village in Una and Shiva Sankhat (25) of Una, taking the total number of arrests in the case to 25.
The gau rakshaks had attacked Balu Sarvaiya, his wife Kunvar, sons Vashram and Ramesh, nephew Ashok and relatives Bechar Sarvaiya and Devshi Babariya on July 11 alleging they were slaughtering Shyora’s cow in their village, Mota Samadhiyala.
CID officers said that the Dalits were skinning not only Shyora’s cow but two other carcasses, including one of a cow from nearby Motisar village belonging to Mukesh Makwana, an agricultural labourer. Makwana said that his cow had taken ill two weeks before she eventually died on July 11. The other carcass was of a bullock brought from Dadli village of neighbouring Khambha taluka of Amreli district.
According to CID officers, only the death of the cow from Bediya was under dispute. “The cow from Motisar and the bullock from Dadli had died naturally. But now, there is an eye-witness statement saying Shyora’s cow was killed by lions,” Trivedi said.
Shyora said that he doen’t know what happened to his cow. “Late evening of July 10, my wife Daya let loose our cow for allowing it to drink water. The main gate of our house was open. I was away at our farm to protect our crop from wild animals. When I returned home the next morning, my wife told me that the cow was missing,” he said.
The 58-year-old farmer says he learnt of his cow’s death only after the Dalits were attacked by the gau rakshaks.
“There is no record of wireless message or entry in our register of any cow having been killed by wild animals in Bediya village on July 11. The last case of cattle-lifting in that village was recorded on July 5,” said Jayantilal Pandya, range forest officer of Jasadhar in Gir East division.
Pandya confirmed the presence of the lioness with three cubs in areas near Bediya.