At the heart of the violence in Bulandshahr was the claim that cow carcasses were found in a field, and the police were tardy in taking action. Interviews with eyewitnesses, officials and villages, however, highlight conflicting claims on who discovered the “carcasses” — and the nature of what was found in the first place.
While Bajrang Dal member Yogesh Raj, on whose complaint an FIR was lodged, claimed he and his associates saw “seven people slaughtering cows”, the neighbour of the man on whose field the “carcasses” were found said farm workers had first flagged them.
Rajkumar, a former pradhan on whose land the “carcasses” were found, is among 27 people named in the FIR in connection with the death of the inspector, and is currently missing. Prem Jeet Singh (45), also a former pradhan, said: “My land is next to Rajkumar’s (piece of plot) and he was informed by labourers working on the field about the incident. I went with him to the spot. It started with four or five villagers expressing their anger but later the crowd burgeoned.”
The first responder from the administration’s side was Siyana tehsildar Raj Kumar Bhaskar. He told The Indian Express: “I went to the area where they claimed cow carcasses were found. It looked like a carcass which was several days old, displayed for all to see.”
The FIR on the alleged cow slaughter was lodged by Yogesh Raj, a Bajrang Dal member whose home is 3 km away. In the FIR, Yogesh claimed that he and two associates were roaming in the fields when they saw seven people allegedly slaughtering cows around 9 am. Raj is also accused number 1 in another FIR filed later in the day — in connection with the killing of inspector Subodh Kumar Singh.
His family claimed on Tuesday that Yogesh was attending a Law exam in his college and had only gone to the spot in the afternoon.
College officials said no exam was scheduled on Monday.
Yogesh’s FIR on alleged cow slaughter states: “When we saw the cows being slaughtered, we raised an alarm. When they saw us, they ran away. Our Hindu sentiments have been hurt.”
The FIR was lodged against seven people, including two minors, under IPC section 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class) at Siyana police station. Police also invoked Uttar Pradesh Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act. All seven named in the FIR are Muslim, police said.
“On Tuesday, a police team reached Nayabas village and found that one of the seven named is a 10-year-old. We have come to know that some people named in the FIR are employed in Delhi,” Kiran Pal Singh, the new SHO of Siyana, said. No arrest has been made yet.
The police are trying to ascertain whether Yogesh Raj had enmity with any of the people named in the FIR. According to Balraj Dongar, state convenor (Meerut prant) Bajrang Dal, Yogesh is Bulandshar’s district convenor of Bajrang Dal. Bulandshahr comes under the group’s Meerut region.
Farmers in the area told The Indian Express that while tempers were running high, “outsiders from surrounding villages escalated the situation after some of them decided to parade carcasses in tractor trolleys”.
According to Prem Jeet Singh, the former pradhan, Yogesh and his accomplices refused to back down despite police assurance of action. “The village was satisfied with the police response. In fact, prior to the rioting, the SHO (Subodh) had come to negotiate. He initially asked us to bury the carcasses and file an FIR. That didn’t go down well with some in the crowd, and next we saw a group of people parading carcasses in a trolley through the village towards the police booth, 2 km away, to form a blockade,” said Prem Jeet.
The mangled carcasses found in the trolleys have been sent for forensic examination, investigators said.
Since many households do not own smartphones, crowds were mobilised from nearby villages using phone calls and word of mouth, the police said. A senior officer said, “Our teams are working to find how the information spread. Many local outfits used phones to coordinate. They came from villages 5 km away.” An SIT member, Srikand, said, “The probe report should be ready tomorrow. It it difficult to say whether this was a planned conspiracy.”
On Tuesday, messages were found inscribed on walls of some houses in Mahewa which read: “Phaansi do gau hatya karne vaalon ko (hang those who kill cows).” Villagers claimed these were handiwork of “outsiders”.
District Magistrate Anuj Jha said, “We have never encountered a complaint of cow slaughter from the villages mentioned. We have been strict in implementing cow protection.”