On 3 December, residents of some Uttar Pradesh villages, joined by some Hindu outfits, protested cow slaughter in their area. A police officer and a civilian died in the violence. Two weeks later, key accused are yet to be arrested and the “conspiracy” far from being solved.
The gory Bulandshahr episode in Uttar Pradesh two weeks ago that claimed the lives of a local boy and a police officer, is being called a "big conspiracy". At first glance, what seems to have happened is that enraged villagers, joined by some Hindu outfits, attacked a police booth after discovering carcasses of slaughtered cows that were provocatively displayed in a field. When the police opened fire to disperse the crowd, a local boy got shot and a furious mob charged at the cops in which Siyana station house officer (SHO) Subodh Kumar Singh was killed.
But conversations with residents of Mahaw, Chingrawathi and Nayabaans villages of Siyana tehsil of Bulandshahr district, statements by accused and witnesses, and revelations during the course of the ongoing investigation reveal a much more complicated tale. Details of what unfolded indeed suggests a "conspiracy", but by whom and for what purpose, remain a mystery.
A special investigation team (SIT) is probing why the violence happened and why the police personnel left Subodh Kumar alone, and arrests are being made. Three first information reports (FIRs) in the case have been filed.
Here’s the case so far:
Discovery Of The Cow Carcasses
Local media reported that when labourers went to a field owned by one Rajkumar Chaudhary — a resident and former pradhan of Mahaw village — on 3 December, they discovered remains of slaughtered cows hung from sugarcane stalks. This was said to be the trigger for the villagers' fury that escalated when police allegedly showed tardiness in taking action.
Siyana tehsildar Raj Kumar Bhaskar, one of the earliest cops to visit the site, told the media, “dead cow meat was hanging in a sugarcane field. Head and skin of a cow hung as if they [were] clothes on a hanger. It is strange because anybody who would indulge in cow slaughter would not put it out for display, knowing the situation in the state. It was visible from far away.”
While one would jump to the conclusion that it was likely an attempt by cow slaughterers to provoke, what makes the case sinister is the statement in the cow slaughter FIR by complainant Yogesh Raj. Raj is a 22-year-old law student, who is also Bulandshahr district convener of Bajrang Dal. His statement has raised a big question mark on the role of Hindu outfits in the case.
His statement says that when he was walking in a field in Mahaw village around 9 am with a group, he saw seven people from his Nayabaans village slaughtering cows who ran away after being spotted. The names of the accused are mentioned in the FIR.
This statement doesn’t add up. One, the police have found that the carcasses were at least 48 hours old and not freshly slaughtered as claimed. Two, statements by the family of Rajkumar reveal they found the carcasses as early as "7-8 am". Three, of the seven Muslim men named in the FIR, two have been found to be minors and other two reportedly shifted out of Bulandshahr 10 years ago. Four, statement by Yogesh's cousin, that Yogesh left for Mahaw after learning of the carcasses over the phone, too contradicts his version.
Both Yogesh Raj and Chaudhary are accused in the violence, and are absconding.
Some reports have even put the needle of suspicion on the Hindu outfits hinting that they had a role in planting of the carcasses and that the violence was pre-planned.
What Sparked The Violence?
As per tehsildar Bhaskar, members of Hindu outfits arrived around 9.30 am and loaded the carcasses on a trolley.
Members of the Hindu outfits have refuted the conspiracy charges against them. Accused Shikhar Agarwal, who is linked with Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) youth wing in Siyana and is an accused in the violence, has uploaded a video statement where he has blamed slain officer Subodh Kumar Singh for the villagers’ fury. He has said that it was Singh who stopped Agarwal and his aides from taking cow remains to Chingrawathi police booth to file an FIR. As per Agarwal, Singh even threatened to kill him and his aides. He also said that contrary to statements that Singh came in only later, the officer was present at the site of the incident throughout.
Accused Yogesh Raj also released a video statement last week, where he claimed innocence and said that Singh's and local boy Sumit's death happened at a spot that was different than the protests and that he had nothing to do with the former.
The state BJP has in turn blamed opposition parties for the “conspiracy”, and has suggested foul play in planting of the carcasses in order to disturb peace.
A week after the incident, Hindi daily Amar Ujala reported on the findings of UP police's intelligence team on what sparked the violence. It says that it was the failure of the local police to reach the site of the cow carcasses in time that violence of that scale took place.
As per the report, the circle officer (CO) and sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) reached the spot around 9.30 am but they could not stop angry villagers from loading the carcasses on a trolley and taking it to the police booth for demonstration. Had the police reached on time and prevented protesters from taking the carcasses, violence could have been prevented. Notably, the FIR in the cow slaughter case was filed only at 12.43 pm.
About the “conspiracy”, UP Director General of Police (DGP) O P Singh has a different take than what is being hinted at in the media. Speaking to The Times of India on why the police is focusing its probe on cow slaughter”, Singh said it’s because there has been a “pattern in the past which is disturbing”.
This pattern emerges from six incidents of cow slaughter from adjoining Gulawati, Arania, Khurja and Aurangabad involving 21 cows during Kanwar Yatra, he said. Singh has also told the media that the discovery of the carcasses three days ahead of the anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid suggests a conspiracy. He, however, did not say who or members of which group or community are suspected to have hatched the Bulandshahr conspiracy.
The Violence That Cost Two Lives
Videos recorded on mobile phone show that the trolley full of cow carcasses arrived at Chingrawathi police post some 7 kilometres away. Notably, it was around the same time when Muslims in large numbers were supposed to pass by this area on Bulandshahr-Garhmukteshwar State Highway while returning from Tablighi Ijtema, a three-day Islamic congregation. Videos also show the crowd pelting stones at the police booth. Several vehicles parked outside the booth were set on fire by the crowd.
As per various accounts, the first casualty was a Chingrawathi village resident named Sumit Choudhary, who died of a bullet injury in his chest. While newspapers have reported his age to be 20 or 22, his family told Swarajya that Sumit was just 17 and was preparing to join the army. His father Amarjeet Singh said that Sumit studied in Ghaziabad and was in Chingrawathi for a short vacation. He said that on 3 December, Sumit had gone to the bus stand right opposite the police booth to drop a friend when he got “embroiled in the violence”. The family says Sumit was killed by Subodh Kumar Singh and has accused the police of registering an FIR different from what he wanted. The FIR in Sumit’s death is third to be filed in the case after cow slaughter and inspector Subodh’s killing.
The state government has reportedly declared an ex gratia payment of Rs 10 lakh for his family. But the family has threatened to immolate themselves outside Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s residence demanding Sumit’s name be removed from the list of accused.
Videos, however, show Sumit carrying a brick and pelting stones at the police booth. The police have maintained that Sumit got caught in the retaliatory firing.
While mystery surrounds the death of Sumit, the killers of Subodh Kumar Singh have also not yet been identified. It has been found that both Sumit and Subodh were killed by a 0.32 bore pistol, which is a public bore and is not used by UP Police. Postmortem report of Subodh Kumar suggests that he died of a bullet injury to his head; doctor says he was “fired at from a distance of six-seven feet."
Last week, the police arrested an army soldier Jeetendra Malik aka Jeetu Fauji as a key suspect in the killing. However, investigators say they found no evidence of his involvement in the killing. So far, the police have neither arrested the real murderer(s) nor seized the .32 bore pistol used.
The Probe So Far
The police have reportedly arrested 17 accused in the violence so far. The investigators are depending heavily on the mobile-shot videos of the incident. On Saturday, the UP Police released posters with pictures of 23 accused, who are absconding. The list includes Yogesh Raj, Shikhar Agarwal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad activist, Upendra Raghav.
Bulandshahr’s Chief Judicial Magistrate Avdhesh Pandey has issued non-bailable warrants against them and ordered the police to initiate confiscation of their property. By Tuesday morning, two of the 23 accused had surrendered but key accused Yogesh Raj is still at large.
It’s quite evident from reports on the police probe that their emphasis is heavily on the trigger, that is the cow slaughter. The police have, in fact, launched raids in various parts of the state against illegal cow slaughter and smuggling. Moreover, teams of police personnel are holding meetings in villages that are known for these crimes and persuading villagers to not indulge in these activities.