The Ramgarh Community Health Centre (CHC) is roughly 4 km from Lalawandi, the village in Alwar where Rakbar alias Akbar was lynched on Friday night on suspicion of being a cow smuggler. Yet, it took the police over two and a half hours from the time they reached the lynching spot to get to the CHC, where Rakbar was brought dead.
The FIR simply mentions that on getting a call at 12.41 am on Saturday from Naval Kishore Sharma, chief of VHP’s Gau Raksha cell in Ramgarh, about a suspected case of cow smuggling, they took Sharma along to the spot, spotted an injured and muddied Rakbar, washed him, questioned him briefly on the spot, and then took him directly to the CHC, where he was declared dead on arrival.
Rakbar alias Akbar was transporting cows on foot along with an associate, Aslam Khan, when they were allegedly stopped by villagers in Lalawandi, under the jurisdiction of the Ramgarh police station. While Rakbar was attacked, Aslam managed to escape.
As The Indian Express spoke to Sharma, local eyewitnesses, the doctor at the CHC and a tea seller, among others, to stitch together the chain of events that night, it turns out that after they police got that call from Sharma, they took him along in their jeep and went to the spot, where they collected the victim Rakbar, washed him, stopped to have tea, got his clothes changed at the police station, before taking him to the Ramgarh CHC, where he was declared dead on arrival.
The FIR, lodged at 9.20 am on Saturday, says Assistant Sub Inspector Mohan Singh, who is posted at the Ramgarh police station, was on a routine patrol in a police jeep, along with two constables and a driver, when at 12.41 am, they received a call from Sharma that “some people are smuggling cows from Rajasthan to Haryana on foot”. The FIR says the ASI and others then met Sharma outside the Ramgarh police station and that they proceeded towards Lalawandi, about four kilometres away.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Sharma says, “Some local youths called me after midnight but my phone was on mute. So they called my nephew who woke me up and told me that villagers had caught a cow smuggler and asked me to call the police. So I called the police at 12.41 am. I live close to the police station and barely took five minutes to get there, and then I waited another 5-10 minutes for the police jeep to arrive. We were at the spot at 1.15 or 1.20 am.”
He says that in Lalawandi, they found Rakbar lying in mud, with two cows tied to a tree nearby. Some of the villagers had run away after seeing the police jeep. “However, some had stayed back. I don’t want to disclose their names. With their help, we carried Rakbar to the road from the fields,” he says. Police says they had found Dharmendra and Paramjeet on the spot – and they were later arrested.
Sharma says that they took Rakbar in the police jeep and headed to where the homes were in the village, about 2.2 kilometres away. There, the police arranged for a three-wheeler to load the two cows.
Sharma’s brother Dev Karan, who lives in the village, says, “I woke up on hearing some commotion. Police had brought a man covered in mud. Some of us brought water to wash him.”
His relative Maya, 61, says, “I woke up to hear a policeman shouting. He was abusing a man and kicking him.”
Kishore, who lives nearby, was asked to take his three-wheeler to the spot to load the cows. His wife Guddi says, “I don’t know what time it was, but I gave the man some water to drink. The police asked my husband Kishore to go and get the cows in his three wheeler.”
Sharma claims the police asked villagers Dharmendra and Paramjeet – who have since been arrested along with one Naresh Sharma – to get some water. “They also said Dharmendra’s build matches Rakbar’s and so asked him to get a pair of clothes since the man’s clothes had become wet after a wash,” he says.
Sharma says he then accompanied the police team to the Ramgarh police station, where the three-wheeler loaded with cows was to have come. On their way, they stopped at a tea shop in Govindgarh, roughly three kilometres away from Lalawandi.
Tea seller Lal Chand, 47, says, “The police jeep stopped, the driver came out and took four tea cups. The others in the car didn’t get out. I didn’t see who was in the jeep. They went off after drinking tea.” Chand says his shop is open 24×7 because he can’t fit the tables, counter and other paraphernalia inside his store room.
Sharma says Rakbar refused to have tea, and that they reached the police station around 1.45 am-2.00 am. By then, the three-wheeler with the cows had reached the police station. “Police helped Rakbar change his clothes. They assaulted him as they questioned him and I discussed with the police the role of some people I suspected in this smuggling. Since I am a gau rakshak, I know Ramgarh well,” he claims.
“I then left the police station around 3 am to accompany the cows to Sudha Sagar Gaushala on Alwar road,” he says. The FIR says a constable went to the gaushala in a police jeep.
Sudha Gaushala in charge Kapoor Jain, 40, says, “I got the first call at 3.12 am informing me about the cows. At 3.26 am, a police jeep, a three wheeler with two cows, and some youths, as well as Naval Sharma arrived at the gaushala.”
Subsequently, Sharma says he returned to the police station at 4 am. “When I had left for the gaushala, Rakbar was alive and breathing but by the time I got back, he had collapsed,” claims Sharma.
Police then took Rakbar to the Ramgarh CHC. Entry number 8,049 in the entry register at the CHC reads, “Unknown dead body brought by police 28 year/M at 4:00 am.”
CHC in-charge Dr Hasan Ali Khan says, “My staff called me at 4 am sharp, saying that a man had been brought in and that he looked dead. I came downstairs (from the staff quarters) and saw that the man was already dead. There were 4-5 policemen and two youths with them, including a Sikh man (Paramjeet, subsequently arrested by the police).”
“I asked if we should do a post-mortem but the police said it was a sensitive case and that the post-mortem should be conducted at Alwar itself,” says Khan. He says Rakbar’s clothes were dry, except for some wetness on his thigh.
Alwar Additional SP Anil Beniwal quoted the doctors who conducted the post-mortem as saying that “Rakbar’s ribs had fractured and that he died due to internal bleeding.”
Questioning the role of the police, local Ramgarh MLA Gyan Dev Ahuja has demanded a judicial inquiry to find out if Rakbar “was lynched by a mob or beaten to death by police”.
Responding to the contradictions in the FIR and claims made by villagers, Alwar SP Rajendra Singh says, “We will cover all aspects in the investigation. If there is any lapse — at any level and by anyone — we will certainly take strict action. We will take the investigation to its logical and correct conclusion.”
Following questions over the police’s version of events, late Sunday evening, the investigation was moved out of Alwar and handed over to Vandana Bhati, Additional SP, Crime and Vigilance, Jaipur Range.
IG, Jaipur Range, Hemant Priyadarshi, said, “The investigation will be carried out in a fair and transparent manner.”
Meanwhile, at village Kolgaon in Haryana, roughly 20 km from Lalawandi, Rakbar’s body was buried at 2 am on Sunday. The family had initially refused to carry out the funeral, but agreed after Haryana persuaded them.
On a request by Ramgarh police seeking past police records of the victim, Nauganwa police station, under whose jurisdiction falls Kolgaon village, informed them that they had registered a case against Rakbar on December 30, 2014, under Sections 5 (prohibits the export of bovine animals for slaughter) and 8 (penalty for contravention of Section 5) of the Rajasthan Bovine Animal Act, and retrieved two cows from him. Nauganwa police station SHO Mohan Singh said a challan has been filed in the 2014 case.