“Papa ki body lene jaa rahi hu. Idhar hi rukna (I am going to get your father’s body. You stay here),” Jhaso Devi told her children – as she left the farmhouse in Dwarka’s Chawla village where her husband was killed less than 48 hours ago – on Wednesday.
Rajaram, a 40-year-old caretaker of the farmhouse, died in hospital on Monday night after being beaten by a group, who accused him and the others present with him at the time of the incident, of cow slaughter. Two FIRs were subsequently filed over the attack and alleged cow slaughter, but five days after the death, there has been no arrest in the murder case while five have been arrested in the other.
Police sources told Newslaundry that the investigation is not looking at it as lynching as the number of assailants – as compared to the other side which included Rajaram and the others – on the night of the assault was “not disproportionate”. Sticks and stones are used in lynching, which was not the case here, they said.
It is the alleged cow slaughter, and not the death, that is now the primary focus for even the locals – caretakers of nearby farmhouses, shopkeepers, and Rajaram’s neighbours.
The farmhouse in Dwarka’s Chawla village.
Rajaram, the caretaker, was killed after being accused of cow slaughter.
‘Didn't know he did all this’
“We came to know that it’s a matter of cow slaughter when the police came. I didn’t go meet the family even though there was love between us and the children,” said Gunaur Paswan, the caretaker of a neighbouring farmhouse. “Because, what if the police start questioning us about who we are and why we are here.”
Paswan said that Rajaram, who also drove an e-rickshaw, would meet him every morning. “I used to know Rajaram but didn't know he did all this,” he said, adding that he never heard of cow slaughter despite having worked in the area for over 15 years. “Sometimes, we don’t know what is going on inside somebody’s head. He would always be the one to initiate Ram Ram.”
“His (Rajaram’s 18-year-old) son used to come to our shop, but we never knew they were involved in all this,” said a shopkeeper of a nearby establishment. “I have never heard of such an incident around here. Everyone keeps cows.”
‘We have cows, used to sell milk’
In the lane leading to the farmhouse, Jyoti, Rajaram’s elder daughter, walks with biscuits and a small bottle of coke, for her younger siblings – Neha and Harsh – who she says haven’t been eating ever since their father passed away.
“We’ve been here for two years but nothing like this has happened. We have cows and we also used to sell milk. We didn’t do the work they are accusing us of doing. If we had wanted to, we would have done it earlier too,” Jyoti said, adding that she, like the rest of the family, was asleep when the incident took place. “We had no idea about who came…For three days, dad had been sleeping outside. He used to say not to open the lock no matter what.”
Her phone, along with Rajaram’s, was taken by the police to investigate the case, according to her. She only had her school and tution teachers numbers saved on her phone, she said, and now had no way to contact anyone.
After receiving a call about cow slaughter, police had reached the farmhouse after 2 am on Monday. “By the time the police went there, they found there were 10-12 people and two were seriously injured so the police took them to the hospital to save their lives,” DCP (Dwarka) Shankar Chaudhary told Newslaundry. “There were onlookers as well, so we will have to establish who has actually done it.”
Police said they are tracing the SIM cards active around the time of the incident in the area to identify the suspects. Two such cards have been identified but the role of their owners is yet to be established, police said.
The first case filed was linked to cow slaughter, under IPC sections 429 (mischief by killing or maiming cattle, etc, or any animal of the value of fifty rupees), 120 (concealing the design to commit offense punishable with imprisonment), 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 34 (common intention) and provisions of the Delhi Agriculture Prevention Act and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
The second FIR, lodged on the complaint of one of the injured persons, mentions IPC sections 302 (murder), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 341 (wrongful restraint), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 34.
Police sources told Newslaundry that the investigation is not looking at it as a lynching. “Lynching is when there is one or two persons on one side and are outnumbered by a lot of people. Another factor is that sticks and stones are used in lynching…There were six people from one side and six to eight people from the other…it was a valid fight, although one side was beaten more. One side was Jatts, who are heavy build, and the other were of weak build. But if you see the numbers, it was not disproportionate,” said an official working closely on the case.
Meanwhile, Jhaso Devi, Rajaram’s wife, was distraught while coordinating how to pick up his body. “So many journalists have come and gone but I’ve not got my husband’s body till now. I don’t know anything. Police came and woke us up that night,” she said. “I have four children to look after. But now, people aren't even giving us water,” she said.
Newslaundry Events: From The Media Rumble to NL Chats and webinars, updates and details on latest Newslaundry events