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Three men who were assaulted by vigilantes who intercepted their vehicle transporting buffaloes on a main South Delhi road on Saturday night, have claimed that they had all relevant documents, and were beaten in the presence of police. The men said their attackers were travelling in vehicles with stickers of a prominent animal welfare NGO, People for Animals (PFA), on them.
Police said they were called to the spot by a PFA officebearer named Gaurav Gupta. Gaurav Gupta, however, said the three men had been beaten up by people who had claimed to be from a “gau raksha group”, and not by his colleagues at the NGO.
PFA trustee Gauri Maulekhi said the NGO did not issue stickers for vehicles, and could not be held responsible for the actions of “lakhs of people” who were its members.
Later on Sunday, PFA disabled its web site, on which Gaurav Gupta and his brother Saurabh Gupta were identified as members of its Delhi unit.
The incident took place around 11.30 pm on Saturday, less than 100 metres from the local police station at Kalkaji in South Delhi. The vehicle that was intercepted was transporting buffaloes from Haryana’s Pataudi to Ghazipur in east Delhi. Police said two FIRs have been filed — one against the men transporting the animals; the other against unknown persons for assaulting them.
The men transporting the animals had been identified as Pataudi residents Rizwan (25) and Kamil (25), and Ashu (28) from Mathura, DCP (southeast) Romil Baaniya said. They were arrested under IPC section 429 (mischief by killing or maiming cattle) and provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act on the basis of a complaint by PFA members, Baaniya said. The men were released on bail on Sunday evening.
A case under IPC sections 323 (causing hurt) and 341 (wrongful restraint) was registered against unknown persons on the basis of a complaint filed by the driver, police said, adding that the animals and the vehicle have been seized.
“We received a call around 11.45 pm from one Gaurav Gupta, an animal rights activist and a PFA office bearer. Police reached the spot and found a tempo loaded with buffaloes parked on the road. Three occupants were taken to AIIMS Trauma Centre. We have conducted a medical examination and found that they received simple injuries on the face and lips. They have not been able to produce any legal documents. We will call Gupta and his associates for questioning,” Baaniya said.
The men, however, claimed they had all requisite documents. One of them, Ashu, told The Indian Express that they were taking the animals to a slaughterhouse in Ghazipur mandi when four cars intercepted them.
“We had just crossed the Nehru Place traffic signal when we saw some people in cars abusing us and asking us to stop. We were scared… they intercepted our tempo about 10 metres from Kalkaji temple. The cars had PFA stickers on them. About 12-15 people came out and started abusing us, asking us to get out of our vehicle. They started beating us; they didn’t want to hear anything we had to say. They punched and kicked us for about 10 minutes.”
Ashu, who has four daughters and two sons, added, “I have been working for the last six years, but this is the first time people have stopped and assaulted me. I have all documents; I do this job for my family.” Ashu, who suffered injuries to his face, broke down while narrating the incident.
Rizwan, who started working a month ago, said, “They alleged we were taking cows to slaughter. We tried to tell them we were transporting buffaloes but they didn’t want to listen. It was only when some passersby intervened that they stopped assaulting us. Later, two police personnel reached the spot but the men assaulted us in front of them as well. Eventually, they left the spot, and police took us away,” he alleged.
When contacted, Gaurav Gupta claimed he had been working with PFA for the past 15 years, but denied being involved in the assault.
“We received a call from our colleague, who told us she had come across a truck carrying cattle in poor condition, and that she was chasing the vehicle near Kalkaji. She later told us she had managed to intercept their vehicle. We reached within 20 minutes, but the three occupants had already been beaten up by some passersby who had claimed to be from a gau raksha group. Our colleague had made several PCR calls and we, too, informed police about the men being beaten up. We have asked police to go through CCTV footage to identify those who assaulted the men,” he said.
Later that same night, the PFA activists intercepted another truck carrying 14 buffaloes at another location in South Delhi. Additional DCP (South) Chinmoy Biswal told The Indian Express that Gaurav Gupta along with other members of the NGO had informed police around 3.30 am that they had intercepted a truck in the Kotla Mubarakpur area. No case was registered, however, Biswal said.
PFA trustee Maulekhi said, “The PFA does not issue any vehicle sticker and we can’t be moral guardians of lakhs of people who pay Rs 100 and become members of PFA. If they have done anything illegal they should be penalised.”
Maulekhi also released two separate letters she had issued to Gaurav Gupta and Saurabh Gupta, sons of Ashok Kumar Gupta, on February 6, 2016, warning them against taking the law in their hands. “You are not authorised to… seize any animal/goods from any individual”, says the letter to Gaurav Gupta. It warns that “any acts committed by you in contravention of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act… will be deemed to have been done in your personal capacity… People for Animals will not be liable for any actions that you commit in your personal capacity.”