Five persons, including a Bajrang Dal activist, have been arrested in connection with the killing of a cattle trader near Sathanur in Ramanagar district’s Kanakapur, 50 km from Bengaluru.
The Bajrang Dal activist, Puneeth Kerehalli, is the main accused in the lynching case. He allegedly lodged a case against the cattle trader at Sathanur police station to hush up the murder and went absconding later.
The police invited flak from citizens and civil rights organisations, including the Bahutva Karnataka, over its shoddy handling of the case. Opposition leaders have also slammed the police department for not handling the case properly. Finally, on Wednesday (April 5), the five men were arrested in Rajasthan.
Accused posted videos
Kerehalli is a right-wing activist who started an organisation called the Rashtra Rakshana Pade. He actively took part in campaigns over boycotting halal meat and asking Hindus not to do business with Muslims in Karnataka.
Even though the police could not trace him for five days, Kerehalli posted videos on social media saying he was ready for an investigation and was not “absconding”. He even “threatened” former chief ministers HD Kumaraswamy and Siddaramaiah for “supporting” cow slaughter.
On March 31, Kerehalli and his men allegedly stopped three persons transporting cows from Mandya in Karnataka to Tamil Nadu and assaulted them. On April 1, Idrees Pasha (35) was found dead near Sathanur police station. Pasha’s brother filed a complaint against Kerehalli and others at the same police station.
Also read: Cow vigilantes allegedly kill man for transporting cattle in Karnataka
What the police did
However, before registering the murder case, Sathanur police booked a case against the cattle transporters based on Kerehalli’s complaint. Only later did they register a counter-complaint against Kerehalli, who allegedly asked the victims for Rs 2 lakh before assaulting them.
The FIR states that Idreesh and two others were transporting cattle to be sold in neighbouring states, with their documents in place. Kerehalli and his goons intercepted them, demanded Rs 2 lakh to let them go, and finally chased them and killed one.
Kerehalli had earlier released a video saying he would fight the case legally. He claimed no law had been violated and no money had been demanded from anyone. He claimed that his movement was not one to make money and alleged that there was a constant movement of cattle from Mandya to Halaguru and Sathanur, as favoured by politicians.
Also read: Cops take bribe from cattle-smugglers and sleep like dogs: Karnataka home minister
Citizens’ group’s demands
Bahutva Karnataka, a citizens’ group in Bengaluru, asked why Kerehalli had not been arrested till Tuesday even though he was openly issuing video statements and who was protecting him. The organisation said the brutal murder of Pasha by Kerehalli, who is a known criminal and encouraged by the ruling dispensation, is evidence of a Karnataka where not only has law and order collapsed but society’s norms are changing as well.
The Bahutva Karnataka stated in a release that there have been several incidents, some known and many unknown, related to the transport of cattle. The Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act, 2021, by design is intended to facilitate these kinds of acts of brutality and violence.
The clause offering impunity to those acting out of “goodwill” can elevate a murderer such as Kerehalli to the status of a “gau rakshak” who acted in good faith. The Act, therefore, violates the essential principles of Rule of Law where the victim becomes the accused and the criminal becomes the “protector”. The law is mischievous in intent, and murders and attacks of this nature have been facilitated by a hastily passed and poorly thought-out law, the release said.
The organisation also demanded an inquiry by a sitting HC judge into how Bajrang Dal, Rashtra Rakshana Vedike, and others have been allowed to take the law into their hands, specifically looking at police inaction on these issues.
Also read: Anubrata Mondal arrest sheds light on multi-crore cow smuggling racket
The SC order
They also asked the Karnataka government to ensure strict compliance with the Supreme Court order in the Tehseen Poonawalla vs Union of India case to ensure that preventive, remedial, and punitive measures are taken to bring an end to hate crimes.
It includes, among others, appointing nodal officers in each district to prevent such incidents, registration of an FIR without delay, preventing harassment of the victim’s family members, ensuring that mob violence cases are tried by Fast-Track Courts daily, bringing out a victim compensation scheme, and holding policemen who fail their duties in preventing the violence accountable.
The organisation has also demanded action against the policemen, as mandated by the Supreme Court, for their failure to ensure the arrest of Kerehalli and his accomplices.