With Dadri still tense following the lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq in Bisara over rumours that his family had consumed beef, a 26-year-old man was arrested Monday morning for allegedly attempting to incite people in a nearby village. Police said Deepak Sharma used his phone to film the skinning of a dead calf, circulated it widely and called the police thinking he had uncovered a cow-slaughter act.
By the time police reached Badalpur, 15 km from Bisara, a crowd had gathered around the dead calf and slogans were being chanted. However, police said their investigation showed that the calf died of a disease and its owner, a Hindu, had asked that it be skinned and buried. The calf owner even gave a statement to the effect, police said.
Police suspect Sharma is involved with a local gau raksha group. He has been booked under IPC sections dealing with incitement, extortion and promoting enmity between religions.
In fact, in Dadri tehsil alone, the district administration, police and political parties believe at least six different local groups have formed independent cow protection or gau raksha organisations.
They include the Gau Raksha Hindu Dal, Bajrang Dal, Hindu Yuva Vahini (run by BJP MP Yogi Adityanath), Arya Veer Dal, Hindu Mahasabha and Hindu Raksha Dal. And they all mirror the same traits — well funded, young local boys between 18 and 25 years and adept at using smartphones with messenger apps.
District Magistrate N P Singh said the administration and police were keeping an eye on “informal pressure groups”.
“We are watching such organisations that create trouble in the area, particularly after the Bisara incident. We are working with police intelligence and will act on them as soon we we get credible evidence,” Singh said.
Sources in the police said these gau raksha organisations operate in a radius 15 km around Bisara in Dadri tehsil. One of them even carried our a “cow slaughter survey” in Bisara after Akhlaq was lynched last week.
All the organisations rely on “local intelligence” for tip-offs on cow slaughter or cruelty to cows. “If a local gives us information about cow slaughter incident in his area, the informer’s name is kept secret and within ten minutes, a team reaches the spot. The same process of calling police and lodging a complaint is made,” said Ved Nagar who founded the Gau Raksha Hindu Dal three years ago.
A scrap dealer, Nagar claimed that people work for his organisation on a voluntary basis. “If a person is willing to spend some fuel and three hours a month, that is more than enough for our work,” he said and claimed that they had a network of more than 2,000 members in Noida and Ghaziabad alone.
Manish Tewatia, a third year law student in Sikandrabad and the Gautam Budh Nagar district coordinator for Bajrang Dal, said they held at least three or four meetings a month, with a workforce of around 60 people in each district.
“We are guided by members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad which has more experienced leaders. While one needs to be above 40 years old to become a VHP member, Bajrang Dal members are between 18-40 years. There are around 3-4 meetings of workers which are held every month,” Tewatia said.
The Hindu Yuva Vahini is more organised. They have state presidents and a three member district committee which leads a team of 51 members. The organisation has two district teams near Bisara — one for Noida and the other for Gautam Budh Nagar.
“We came to know about the incident only after it took place, on Tuesday morning. On the basis of what villagers have told us and the information we have received from the police, the details of the case are being sent to Yogi Adityanath. We are waiting for his assessment and directions,” said a local district committee member.
According to Meerut DIG Ashutosh Kumar, police were monitoring several organisations in the area. “There are several groups working in this area. We will not let anybody vitiate the atmosphere in the area. We are maintaining strict vigil on social media,” he said.