June 6, 2021 2:32:26 am
POLICE are probing the role played by a group of self-proclaimed cow vigilantes, led by 70-year-old Chandrashekhar Basu, in the Mathura incident in which a group of villagers clashed with alleged cattle smugglers, leaving one dead and six injured.
The group admits sending out an alert regarding seven men “smuggling” cattle in the early hours. The attack happened around 3 am at Tumaula village in Mathura, with the seven men in the white pick-up reportedly chased for several kilometres before they rammed into a wooden cart.
Several villagers, who were part of the mob, claimed the seven fired at them too, before they shot back, killing Sher Khan alias Shera and leaving others injured.
The Gau Rakshak Dal headed by Basu, or ‘Baba Chandrashekhar as he is popularly known, is based in Ajnaukh, located 10 km from Tumaula.
Basu said he was on a motorcycle with a driver “doing the rounds” when he spotted the white truck on Friday morning. “Our main purpose was to rescue the calves with them, which we did. The locals gathered and began attacking the men. We also informed police once we caught the men.”
Basu said that they “always work in coordination with police and administration”.
SP, Rural Mathura, Shrish Chandra said they were trying to piece together the sequence of events through eyewitness statements. “We haven’t confirmed yet if they were chased for a long time but their vehicle did crash into a cart. After this the crowd gathered and there was firing. We are presuming it was from both sides since we found empty shells in the pick-up truck as well,” Chandra said.
An FIR has been filed by Shera’s family, based in Bulandshahr, against unknown locals. Police said he died of a bullet wound to the stomach and of injuries sustained during the assault.
Police believe the men were “smuggling” six cows from Hathras to Mewat in Haryana, enroute Mathura.
About Basu, Chandra said they were investigating if he played a role and “as per findings, appropriate action will be taken”. The SP added, “Basu is a popular figure in the area and locals say he is active when it comes to cases of cow smuggling. They try and check suspicious activity. ”
Tumaula village resident Kushal Pal admitted word had come to them of some men travelling with cows. “A lot of crowd gathered. Some gau rakshaks were chasing them. We heard gunshots, the cow smugglers opened fire and the locals retaliated,” Pal said.
The Ajnaukh premises of the Gau Rakshak Dal, which was founded nearly 15 years ago, has hundreds of cows and calves and claims to collect information on “cow smuggling and slaughtering”. The organisation claims to have 60 members spread across six villages of Mathura. The group members admit a “tip-off” regarding the seven men “smuggling” cows had been received by them over their WhatsApp group.
Basu told The Sunday Express that more than a vigilante group, the Dal was “basically a collective of aware villagers”. “When I venture out, the locals know they have to be on the lookout. Many a times they are injured as well and we do everything to get them treatment. When it comes to smuggling, we just try to help police.”
One of the members, Arjun, said anyone can join the Dal. “Our job is protect cows from being butchered by a certain community. We have 10-15 members in nearby villages who keep an eye on any suspicious activity. Most of these activities take place between midnight and 3 am, and we are more alert at night. We take turns patrolling and checking vehicles based on tip-offs.”
Locals claim the area around Ajnaukh is “sensitive” because of its proximity to Haryana, where most of the smuggled cows are headed to.
The Gau Rakshak Dal also owns two pick-up trucks and says it uses them to rescue injured cows and calves, apart from for following “suspicious” people.
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