Muslim Youth Lynched By Mob And Forest Department Officials In Rajasthan On Suspicion Of Smuggling Wood


By Our Correspondent

NEW DELHI – A 27-year-old Muslim youth was lynched and his two associates were injured when a mob, accompanied by the Forest Department officials, attacked them on the suspicion that they were illegally chopping and smuggling wood in a forest in eastern Rajasthan on August 17 night. The incident happened in Rampur area of Bansur tehsil in Rajasthan’s Kotputli-Behror district.

The deceased, identified as Wasim, was driving a pick-up truck, in which his cousin, Asif, and a friend, Azharuddin, were travelling with him. A crowd stopped their empty truck near the Narol village with the help of a JCB excavator, took them out of their vehicle forcibly and attacked them, charging that they were roaming in the area to illegally fell the trees and chop their wood.

Seven to eight Forest Department officials, who were chasing the youths in their jeep, joined the group of villagers and all of them brutally thrashed them. The crowd was carrying sharp edged weapons, wooden sticks and iron rods. Wasim, who was seriously injured in the attack, was taken to the B.D.M. Government Hospital in Kotputli, where he succumbed to his injuries. The injuries caused to the two other youths were not life-threatening.

Following the registration of a first information report at Harsora police station, the police detained 10 persons, including four officials of the Forest Department, for interrogation the next day. The jeep in which the forest officials were travelling was also seized. However, none of the accused has been formally arrested so far and the investigation is stated to be in progress.

The policemen from Harsora reached the spot on getting the information about a fight between some people. The assailants fled from the scene when the policemen arrived and found the three persons lying in a pool of blood on the road. The police took Wasim and others to a Primary Health Centre situated nearby in Bansur and later took Wasim to the Kotputli hospital in view of his critical condition, where he succumbed to injuries during his treatment.

While Wasim’s post-mortem report is awaited, the police have stated that prima facie, the fatal injury was caused from a sharp edged weapon on his torso or front region. In his complaint filed with the police, Wasim’s father Tayyab Khan said his son had purchased the wood from a local dealer during the day and had taken the pick-up truck to Rampur to load it in the night. The villagers blocked the road with the help of a JCB excavator and forced the youths to get down from their vehicle.

A jeep of Forest Department, which was trailing them, also reached there and the officials travelling in it joined the crowd in beating the three youths. The accused continued to thrash them even after the police arrived at the spot, according to the FIR.

The police have registered the FIR under Sections 302 (murder), 147 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 323 (causing hurt) and 341 (wrongful restraint) of Indian Penal Code. Incidents of mob lynching, starting from the murder of a Muslim dairy farmer from Haryana, Pehlu Khan, on the Jaipur-Delhi national highway in 2017, have been reported with regularity in eastern Rajasthan in the past and the latest instance has occurred amidst a general atmosphere against Muslims prevailing in the region.

The cow vigilantes in the region, which borders Haryana, have often targeted the cattle rearers carrying the animals several times, but this was the first instance of an attack on suspicion of felling of trees and smuggling of wood. More significantly, this was also the first case of government officials joining the crowd in thrashing the Muslim youths.

Wasim belonged to Tapukara village in Khairthal-Tijara district and was one of the 10 children of his parents. He was married to Zahida and had three sons aged seven, six and five, and a two-year-old daughter. Wasim’s brother, Taufiq, said the crowd had stopped them by putting a JCB excavator on their way and assaulted them after a rumour spread in the area that they were cattle smugglers.

Zubair Khan, a cousin of Wasim, claimed that he was attacked just because of his Muslim identity and the brutal lynching was clearly a communal incident. He said Wasim was working as a wood merchant for more than a decade and procuring timber and trees from local farmers and landowners. On the day he was lynched, Wasim had venture into the forest to gather the wood which he had purchased and left the place without loading it when he got a tip-off that the forest officials, who were inspecting the area, could harass him despite his lawful transaction.

Wasim’s family members, accompanied by a large number of villagers from Tapukara, staged a demonstration at Harsora police station with the demand for prompt arrest of all the accused and strict punishment to them. The family members also handed over a memorandum, addressed to the Chief Minister, in which they demanded financial assistance to the next of kin of the deceased and the government job to a family member.

In his reaction, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot merely said that it was a “sad incident”. Asked by journalists when he was emerging out of a meeting of the Congress’ State Election Committee in Jaipur on August 19, Mr. Gehlot said the incidents of violence were being reported because of the state government’s policy for compulsory registration of FIRs at the police stations.

“People are not afraid of approaching the police when a crime takes place. They expect prompt action, which is ensured by our police force. Even the rape cases, which were not reported earlier because of the fear of social stigma, are promptly brought to the notice of the police now,” Gehlot said, without addressing the real issue of communal attacks on Muslims and the government officials joining the violent mob in lynching an innocent person.

On the other hand, the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party in Rajasthan has alleged that the incident was an indication of the complete collapse of law and order situation in the state. BJP National Executive member and former State Minister Arun Chaturvedi said the Alwar district, from which the Kotputli-Behror district was carved out recently, had emerged as a “crime capital” and an unbiased investigation should be carried out in the incident.


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