Court verdict in lynching case leaves bishop of Ajmer in shock

Published 20 August 2019  |  

Bishop Pius Thomas D'Souza of Ajmer is unhappy with the court's decision of setting free the six people accused of beating Pehlu Khan, a 55-year-old Muslim man, to death in a cow protection case two years ago.

On August 14, the court in Alwar district of Rajasthan gave the benefit of doubt to the six accused, who were granted bail and released at different stages of the trial.

Bishop Thomas said the verdict is shocking and has pained him greatly. "It is very sad as it comes when video footage was available of the mob lynching incident."

On April 1, 2017, a group of people attacked Khan when he was transporting cattle and accused him of smuggling cows for slaughter. The attack was filmed but according to defence lawyer Hukum Chand Sharma, the person who filmed the video did not appear in the court and there was no forensic examination to prove the authenticity of the video.

Sharma told the media that the accused were not identified in the witnesses produced by the prosecution. He said there were different views on the cause of death as Khan was a heart patient.

Rights activist Anant Bhantnagar said the verdict has come to symbolize the lowest point in a system that allowed mobs to kill in the name of protecting cows and get away with it, either because of political links or shoddy investigation.

In 20 of 29 states in India, law prohibits the sale or transport of cows, bans cow slaughter and trade of beef. In several Indian states, vigilante groups that protect cows are active since the BJP came into power in 2014. The country's government is often accused of supporting Hindu radicals that take law into their hands.

Since 2015, at least 44 people have died as a result of vigilante attacks, which included tribal Christians and socially poor Dalit Hindus, published reports say.

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