“You have too many questions. Let the murder trial start in the court, we will respond to each of them to judges, and not journalists. It will take 20 years for this case to get over. You will get your responses by then.” That is what an irked police officer told this correspondent, when asked questions about the loopholes in the police’s version of how Akbar Khan alias Rakbar Khan died.
He seemed sure his colleagues would not be held accountable—despite concrete evidence pointing towards gross professional misconduct, working in coordination with gau rakshaks, and the circumstances under which 28-year-old Khan died. His statements also show what value the Supreme Court’s verdict carries on ground zero.
There are alarming similarities between the alleged professional misconduct by the police in the Pehlu Khan case, and Akbar Khan’s lynching. Both happened in Rajasthan’s Alwar district. The police failed to justify how it took them at least two-and-a-half hours to cover six kilometres, and why Akbar’s alleged murderers accompanied the police that night.
On the night of July 20-21, Akbar and his associate Aslam were waylaid by gau rakshaks in Alwar district’s Lalawandi village in Rajasthan. It’s a village with a mixed population in Alwar’s Ramgarh block. While Aslam managed to flee, Akbar was thrashed with sticks and mercilessly beaten up in a farm owned by Dharmendra Yadav. However, his body didn’t sustain any external bleeding. When the police arrived, the group of assailants ran away and two youths—Yadav, 24, and Paramjeet Singh, 28—were found on the spot, holding the two cows.
Newslaundry found disturbing facts on the ground, which raises serious questions on the story that the police want us to believe.
The police, in its press statement, said it got a tip-off from Ramgarh resident Naval Kishor Sharma, that cow smugglers were taking cows from Rajasthan to Haryana. When the police reached the spot, a group of people ran away. Yadav and Singh were seen holding the cows. Akbar was lying in the mud, and narrated the entire story of how he was assaulted. He later fell unconscious. The police rushed him to the hospital (CHC, Ramgarh), where he was declared brought dead.
Who is this resident, Naval Kishor Sharma? Sharma, alias Naval Kishor Mishra, is head of the gau raksha wing of the Vishva Hindu Parishad in Ramgarh. He was alerted by Dharmendra Yadav that they had caught a cattle smuggler. Yadav and Singh are part of a cow vigilante group active in the village. Sharma not only alerted the police, but also accompanied them to the village and to the spot.
The first information report (FIR) says the police received a call from Sharma at 12.41 am. Sub Inspector Mohan Singh, two constables, and a driver along with Sharma rushed to the location. Akbar gave his statement to the police. The police van rushed him to CHC, Ramgarh. A constable was left behind to bring back the cows. The police dropped the cows off at Sudha Sagar Gaushala at Bagar Tiraha in Alwar. Akbar was declared brought dead at CHC.
The record of CHC, Ramgarh, accessed by Newslaundry shows that an unknown dead body was brought by the police at 4 am. Dr Hasan Ali Khan said, “The police brought Khan at 4 am. He was brought dead. It appeared that he had internal injuries.”
He further added, “Mohan Singh, a few constables, and three persons in civil dress—Naval Kishor and two youth who are now accused in the case, Dharmendra and Paramjeet—had brought Khan to the hospital.”
A copy of the Ramgarh CHC entry register which shows that an unknown body (Khan) was brought in at 4.00 am
The post-mortem was to be done at Alwar’s government hospital, as CHC didn’t have enough doctors to fulfill the criteria of a medical board.
The police took nearly three hours to take Khan to CHC from the time they reached Lalawandi. CHC is barely metres away from the Ramgarh police station. Lalawandi village is roughly six kilometres from the police station—a distance that was covered in about 20 minutes by the police when they acted on the tip-off.
The question is: why did the police take three hours to take an injured victim to the hospital? Where did they spend these hours? Where was Khan during this period, and what transpired in between?
Sub Inspector Mohan Singh, who was leading the police team in Lalawandi, has no responses for these questions. He told this correspondent, “I didn’t keep track of the time. I am not in a position to speak about the time taken but we had taken him [Akbar] directly to the hospital.” He said the police had been busy finishing formalities, and they had not stopped anywhere in between Lalawandi village and CHC. Yet it took them nearly two-and-a-half hours to take Khan to the hospital.
Another crack showed when Singh claimed that Akbar was speaking on the way to the hospital. But according to the press statement released by the police on July 21, he fell unconscious after giving his statement in Lalawandi and was declared brought dead at CHC. So who is lying here?
The photographs taken by Sharma shows that Khan was alive in the police jeep. So when exactly did he die? Singh fails to respond to this question too.
Akbar Khan in the police jeep
There are only two possibilities. Either something happened between 1.10 am and 4 am, or Khan died because of police negligence, as he was not provided medical assistance immediately.
This correspondent has seen a police document giving a brief detail of Akbar’s injuries. His left leg was broken at two places, both forearms had injury marks, his palms had injury marks, there were marks of injury on his nose, ears and on his back.
The investigative officer in the case, Subhash Chand Sharma— while responding to questions about the incident and the accused—suddenly froze when asked about this delay. However, he said, “Akbar was not brought to the police station.” Notably, when asked about the CCTV cameras installed in the police station, he said, “They are not in working condition.”
The gaushala delivery
The handing over of the cows to the gaushala seems to have been the police’s priority. Akbar was brought to the hospital at 4 am but the cows were handed over to the Sudha Sagar Gaushala at Bagar Tiraha in Alwar at 3.26 am —half an hour before Akbar’s body reached CHC.
Subhash Chand Sharma confirmed that the police had gone to hand over the cows to the gaushala. Kapoor Jain, the caretaker of the gaushala, said he had received two phone calls from VHP’s Sharma that night. “I received the first call around 3.10 am, and Navalji told me they are bringing two cows seized from cow smugglers. I received another call at 3.26 am asking us to open the gate of the gaushala as they had reached.”
His staff opened the gate and Naval Kishor Sharma, along with the police, handed over the cows to the gaushala. The entry in the gaushala register says, “Two cows from Thana Ramgarh”. Jain said it is the cow shelter’s policy that they do not accept cows seized during raids conducted by cow vigilantes, unless the police hand them over.
Yet again this question remains unanswered: why did the police prioritise handing over the cows first?
Cows seized from Akbar Khan Sudha Sagar Gaushala
Is the police working in coordination with cow vigilante groups?
The most important part of the entire story is Naval Kishor Sharma, alias Mishra. The head of the VHP cow protection wing gets a call from cow vigilantes from Lalawandi. Sharma, a native of Lalawandi, calls Mohan Singh. The duo leave for the village with two constables and a driver.
Dharmendra Yadav and Paramjeet Singh are waiting at the spot for them. Akbar is bathed, and a shirt and a pair of pants are arranged for him by one of the vigilantes, said VHP’s Sharma. While Singh and Sharma take Akbar into the police van, Yadav and Paramjeet Singh are asked to come with the cows in a tempo carrier. Yadav, Paramjeet and Sharma were present at the cow shelter when the police handed over the cows. Later, Yadav and Paramjeet Singh were also present at CHC—testified by Dr Hasan Ali Khan, too.
This means that at least till 4 am, those accused of murdering Akbar were not only roaming around freely, but were also working with the police. Even in his last hours, while Akbar was in pain and agony, his assaulters were acting like a parallel police—confident and carrying out their “duties”.
It was only hours after Akbar’s death that both Yadav and Paramjeet Singh were arrested in the morning. On July 22, another accused, Naresh Rajput, was arrested by the police. The fourth suspect, Vijay, a resident of Lalawandi village, was at large, and the police detained his father and younger brother at the Ramgarh police station. The police imposed Sections 34, 143, 341, 323 and 302 of the Indian Penal Code against them.
The number of hours that Sharma, Yadav and Paramjeet spent with the police that night, and their movement, indicates their proximity to the police and the work culture of the Ramgarh police. Sharma claimed that even in the past, he has given the police tip-offs about “cattle smugglers”, and the police acted on it.
It is not surprising that the Ramgarh police has not named Sharma—even as a suspect.
Alwar Superintendent of Police, Rajendra Singh, told this correspondent, “Definitely, we will investigate Naval Kishor’s role in the case.” When asked how the police can ignore the fact that he was not only the first one to inform, but he himself leads a cow vigilante group, SP Singh said, “We will act against Naval Kishore if we get a clue against him. All we can say right now is that we are investigating the case in a free and fair manner.”
Sharma himself told this correspondent that Yadav and Paramjeet stayed back at the crime spot on his instructions, so it would not be difficult for the police to find Akbar.
A parallel investigation against Khan
The Ramgarh police has an FIR registered against Akbar under Sections 5 and 8 of the Rajasthan Bovine Animal Act on December 24, 2014. The FIR (number 355/14) was lodged at the Navgaon police station, a few kilometres from the Haryana-Rajasthan Border.
When Rajendra Singh, SP Alwar, was asked why the police was planning to start a parallel investigation against Akbar and Aslam, he said, “Who is saying that such an investigation is being planned?” When we gave him the details, he responded, “It is a standard procedure of the investigation. We even keep such things on record for the witnesses.” However, he declined to comment on whether the police would officially lodge a parallel FIR against Khan and his associate Aslam.
Khan died in police custody, claims VHP’s cow vigilante group
A 43-year-old resident of Ramgarh, Sharma had called SI Mohan Singh to inform him about the incident. He showed Newslaundry call records from the night of July 20-21, claiming he, Yadav, Paramjeet Singh, and the police worked together to bring Khan from Lalawandi.
“Akbar was alive in the police’s jeep. At around 1.30 am, we stopped at Govindgarh mor to drink tea, as we were waiting for the tempo carrier in which Dharmendra and Paramjeet were bringing the cows,” Sharma said. He said Singh wanted to write the details of the cows at the crossing itself, as there wouldn’t be enough light at the cow shelter.
Sharma has made sensational allegations against the police. “The driver of the police jeep was abusing Akbar and beating him. They brought Akbar to the police station and he was assaulted inside,” he said. Sharma claimed, “Akbar was asking the constable not to hit him on the leg. Despite this, he [the constable] kept assaulting him.” This claim has been outrightly rejected by SI Mohan Singh and IO Subhash Chandra Sharma.
Sharma said that at about 3 am, they left for the Sudha Sagar Gaushala, and handed over the cows at 3.30 am. “When we returned to the police station at nearly 4 am, Akbar was unconscious. He was dead,” Sharma said. He is accusing the police of framing Yadav and Paramjeet in the case. He said, “Had these kids murdered Akbar, why would they spend time in the police station and work to help the police? In fact, they were standing near Akbar’s dead body for at least for an hour when the police were still figuring out ways to tackle this case.”