Despite immense pressure from the Rajasthan police and cow vigilantes, Karwan-e-Mohabbat, a journey organised by activist Harsh Mander seeking justice for the survivors of mass violence and lynching, stopped at Jugaawaas Chowk, the place where dairy farmer Pehlu Khan was lynched to death by vigilantes. Alwar was the group’s first stop in Rajasthan. They have moved onward to Jaipur.
Mander’s Karwan, which was escorted by the police ever since they entered Rajasthan, had reached Alwar at 8.40 am. The cow vigilantes, led by the local Hindu Jagran Manch leader, were protesting the passage of the Karwan through the area. They pelted a few stones at the bus in which the Karawan participants were travelling. “The police ensured there was space between them and us. Mr Mander refused to move until he was allowed to pay a floral tribute at the Chowk. Eventually the police agreed and only Mr Mander went ahead to the Chowk. The rest of us stood near the bus as requested by the police. As we were leaving, some of the protesters pelted stones at the bus,” elaborated Suroor Mander, who has been travelling with the Karwan.
“We had been informed yesterday that the local groups supporting us had been heckled by right-wing groups. Tactically, our group was welcomed at Bardor, 4 kms ahead of Behror. The village sarpanch and the local trade union groups expressed solidarity and reiterated the need for such voices to grow,” said Komal Srivastav, who works on social equality and is part of the Karavan.
“We then went to the Behror police station because Harsh Mander had a few questions for them. He wanted to know how the police had given a clean chit to the killers of Pehlu Khan and why cases had been slapped on the family of Pehlu Khan,” pointed out Komal.
The police washed their hands off the issue stating that CID-CB had investigated the matter and they had nothing to do with it. The police then went on to state that they had filed cases against Pehlu Khan’s family because they did not have permission to slaughter the animal.
According to the Rajasthan Bovine Act, milch cows can be transported and “Pehlu Khan’s family bought the cow and its calf for around Rs 40,000. No one will spend so much money on an animal that is going to be slaughtered. An animal, which is going to be slaughtered is usually bought for less than Rs 10,000,” affirmed Mander. The police refused to acknowledge or give a reply on this matter.
A section of the media reported police saying that vigilantes had the right to stop the Karavan members from paying a tribute at the Chowk. Mander responded by saying that it was also his constitutional right to pay tribute at the spot.
At Kotputli, 20 kms away from Behror, the group was scheduled to stop for breakfast, but they weren’t allowed to get off the bus despite police protection. “There were less than seven people protesting yet they snatched away banners, garlands and bananas, we were carrying. The police stood watching,” added Komal.
On Thursday, the Karavan had been informed that right wing groups including Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Hindu Jagran Manch and the Bajrang Dal wouldn’t allow the procession to proceed to Behror and pay tribute at the lynching site. “We will not be dictated by persons who are responsible for the killing of innocent persons. The Karwan is a call for justice. We would like to continue with our programme as planned,” asserted Mander, a former IAS officer, who has worked with survivors of violence.
The group began their journey on September 4 from Nellie in Assam in memory of the Nellie Massacre of 1983. It then made their way to Jharkhand, Mangalore, Delhi, western UP, Haryana and they have reached Rajasthan. They hope to travel to Ajmer and Udaipur too and then onward to Gujarat. The Karavan journey will end in Porbandar, Gujarat, on October 2.