Five cow smugglers were arrested by the Pilibhit police on Monday (29 August) on charges of shooting dead a local youth who tried to stop them from stealing stray cattle, The Times of India has reported.
The deceased, identified as 23-year-old Sonpal, hailed from Mohanpur Babura village. As per a Dainik Jagran report, Sonpal was sleeping at a shack near his house on 21 August when he heard noises coming from the vicinity. After investigating, he found the cattle smugglers trying to steal a calf.
He decided to confront the smugglers, following which he was shot multiple times. A grievously injured Sonpal was then rushed to a hospital but unfortunately died along the way.
The report claimed that the police initially took the matter lightly and only after the intervention of the local MLA did they began diligently searching for the culprits.
On Sunday (25 August) the police tried to flag down a car during a picket on Lelhar-Bamrauli road when its passengers opened fire on the authorities. After the three occupants were arrested, the police searched the vehicle to recover a live cattle, and revolvers.
During questioning the trio confessed to murdering Sonpal and also revealed the names of their two accomplices. The police later arrested them from Shahjahanpur district.
The accused have been identified as Raviulla, Ishtiaq, Mohammad Hasib, Farid and Menhadi Hassan. They are said to be repeat offenders and Hasib has 14 pending cases against him. As per an Amar Ujala report, he was released on bail just five days prior to Sonpal’s murder.
Another accused had attempted to run-over a sub-inspector using a cattle laden vehicle in Shahjahanpur district three years ago.
Swarajya has been compiling murders by cattle thieves since 2018 and with Sonpal, the toll has reached a staggering 22. It was found that 21 out of 22 victims have been Hindus while almost 100 percent of those arrested for the murders have been Muslims. This is crucial information, as it could explain communal tension following cattle thefts in various parts of the country.