A day after a 21-year-old alleged cattle smuggler was killed in what they claimed was an encounter, the Meerut police on Wednesday alleged they fired a single bullet in retaliation after a 30-minute chase, during which they were pelted with stones and shot at.
The bullet hit Mohammad Irshaad in the head, said Sardhana police station SO Prashant Kapil.
Police also claimed that the Bolero pick-up truck that was driven by Irshaad was owned by someone else, who they are yet to identify.
Meanwhile, at Irshaad’s village in Nangla Riawali, Muzaffarnagar, his family and neighbours cried foul over his killing. “We own five bigha of land where we grow wheat and sugarcane. Irshaad worked on these fields and had nothing to do with cattle trade. He was the only person working on our fields with me. At 10 pm, villagers saw him sitting in a tea shop near our house, after which he left for our field on the Meerut-Muzaffarnagar border to draw water as the power came back.
Police must have picked him up from the field,” claimed Irshaad’s father Mohammad Dilshaad (50).
Irshaad lived in a two-room house with his parents and five younger siblings. His elder brother Shahzad had died six years ago in an accident in Haryana where he was working as contractual labour.
According to SO Kapil, police had found four bulls tranquilised with cuts on their legs packed into the vehicle’s trolley on which four-five men, including Irshaad, were standing while firing at them.
However, residents of Nangla Riawali claimed that no men, who could have been the accomplices, or bulls are missing from their village.
An FIR was registered at Saroorpur police station charging Irshaad and five-six unidentified others with an attempt to murder, animal cruelty, cow slaughter, rioting and assaulting a public servant.
“The firing was initiated by the group in the Bolero pick-up after it stopped. Sub-Inspector Om Prakash Arya fired a shot after he was injured in the arm.
Irshaad’s accomplices jumped out of the vehicle and ran into the sugarcane fields along the road. We found two .315 bore country-made revolvers, four empty cartridges, three live rounds and a sack of stones in the truck,” said Kapil, adding that it cannot be confirmed whether Arya’s right arm was grazed by a bullet or something else.
Saroorpur SO Ravindra Singh Kamboj said they are yet to trace the other accused, and so far have no leads on who the Bolero pick-up — which has a Haryana number plate — belongs to. “The investigating officer has written to the RTO in Haryana and we are trying to work out who the owner is and to what extent he is involved in the smuggling exercise,” he said.
Police also said that they do not know the starting point or the destination of the “smuggling exercise” yet.
“He was a young man with no criminal record, there was nothing to be gained by staging an encounter with him. These smugglers usually pick up cattle from the roads and jungles and resort to desperate means to avoid checking as they know that the consequences will be dire,” SO Kapil said.